Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November: Why Television is Evil.

I was just watching the film V for Vendetta. In the futuristic universe of V, Britain is under the control of a Fascist, Fundamentalist Christian regime that rules through a mixture of brutal police tactics and their control of network television. I found the films jabs at television to be amusing. So let me get this straight, watching television is supposed to leave the individual open to propaganda from organized religion. Those who watch television are mindless drowns imbibing what ever they are told.… Wait I have heard this story before. Except that in the version of the story that I am familiar with, television is part of a conspiracy hatched by those atheistic materialists to spread their heresies. Those who watch are mindless drowns whose sole purpose in life is now to buy the products and nihilism being sold on screen.
One could go for the cheap shot of hypocrisy by pointing out that we are dealing with an action film, as smart and as witty as it may be, that bashes its own medium and questions the intelligence and worth of the film's audience for having watched it. I think though that there is a more important point to be made here; the weakness that lies at the heart of the entire humanities project and what makes us who deal in the humanities vulnerable to attack. The humanities have no utilitarian value nor do they deal with any universal Truths. We, who deal in the humanities, cannot offer a cure for cancer, we cannot reveal the nature of the universe, we cannot make people moral, good or just, we cannot show people what is the best possible life to lead, we cannot show the way into heaven. All we do is examine the arbitrary and subjective world of human beings.
I do not have any bullet proof defense for the value of bad films nor do I have any way to give any intrinsic worth to good films, like this one, and for that matter I have no way of defending the great classics of art such as Homer or Shakespeare. Is television simply a matter of a human being sitting dumbly before a screen? For that matter is reading the mere glancing at a page? Are we listening to the voice of the revolution, the government’s loudspeaker, a siren’s song to materialism or the drumbeat toward fanaticism. As with all the humanities there is no true or false answer. All answers are subjective and arbitrary.

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