This SaturdayDreaming installment just so happens to be my very first post on this blog, penned waaaaay back in 2009. It’s been a fun ride. Hope you enjoy, and happy Saturday!
You heard it here first; I’m a massive film fan. When I was a kid, my older brothers and I would literally watch the same crop of movies pretty much every single day after school. We would craftily rotate between current and old stuff, based on the mood. For the hidden singer in us, we had classics like “Grease” and “Westside Story” on standby; for the action hero side of our imagination, we watched “Excalibur”, and “Total Recall”. We didn’t merely watch these films; we became a part of them. I can recall many serious discussions/light hearted arguments involving which characters we wanted to be in the movies that we saw (we each wanted to be the coolest character, of course). We didn’t just watch Bruce Lee annihilate Chuck Norris in the Colosseum; we were Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris duking it out kung-fu style that day. We didn’t just watch the suave Ludlow brothers of “Legends of the Fall”; we were the brothers (and of course, I was the coolest). So much of our childhood developed around the TV that we can, to this day, readily quote lines from films that clinically intertwine with our day to day conversations.
Movies and television became our way of self expression. Our lives unfolded watching “A Different World”, “Yo MTv Raps”, and “The Cosby Show”. Our lives were lived through these larger than life characters, doing larger than life activities. Sure, we created our own characters, and re-enacted our own daring adventures, but the television was the catalyst that thrust us into that imaginative void; that realm where dreams become reality, and thoughts and deeds transcend what’s perceived to be real. We were not couch potatoes, I might add; our heroic deeds spilled into the backyard, where we became mighty sporting heroes and dauntless explorers. In short, movies and TV helped to mold and shape me into the man I am today. My artistic endeavors can all somehow be traced back to those days, huddled in front of the TV, dreaming about the tales and characters that were being projected into my psyche (and of course, I was the coolest one).
When The History Channel launched in 1995, I thought I was in heaven. I remember seeing an advertisement for the channel some months before it first aired, and I just about shit my pants out of pure joy; an entire channel devoted solely to history? It sounded like a dream! And for a long time, it was. At any given time, you could flip that bad boy on and spend hours watching specials on WWII, the Civil War, and all sorts of historically relevant goodness. The network even launched History International, which focused more on world events. It was a great time to be a history fan, no doubt, with all of those gems tucked neatly into one amazing channel.
Then the reality TV boom hit, and just like that, the fabled joy of historical television went the way of the passenger pigeon. I was flipping channels this morning and happened to see a WWII documentary on- and I did a double take. The History Channel was actually showing history? Was my brain playing a trick on me? What’s the world coming to? The channel has gone the way of MTV (and seemingly every other channel, for that matter), and almost exclusively airs reality programming. It’s all day Appalachian Outlaws (you’ve gotta be be kidding me on that one), Mountain Men, Ax Men, Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People (c’mon now), Pawn Stars, and a slew of absolute junk that has zero to do with anybody’s history. It makes me wonder why the hell I don’t have a show…I couldn’t do any worse than The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, right? Why even call it the History Channel, then?
I do think that it’s an absolute crime that kids today (and the majority of adults for that matter) know more about Snookie and the Housewives, Bieber, and the Kardashians than they do about the events that have shaped the climate of the world they live in. And a channel like the History Channel, the ultimate platform for promoting the genre, only showing shock value garbage like Cajun Pawn Stars, is pure blasphemy. It’s a testament to the consistent dumbing down of the American public at the hands of mainstream media. As long as folks keep watching Duck Dynasty, networks will keep putting that meal onto our plates. I’m not insulting anyone for their viewing tastes, mind you, but rather the lack of variety or intellectual fare available. As in, what are we really learning from Storage Wars? As it stands, no channel really shows much of anything anymore- it’s pretty much a steady stream of reality TV; channels like the History Channel (or Discovery, A&E, and other channels that have abandoned any attempt at real life relevance) have the power to fill a great void, but manage to maintain a viewer base with shows created purely for the wow factor (Honey Boo Boo, anyone?). It says a lot when the American public knows more about who won American Idol than they do about who won the Civil War. That’s just my take on it.