Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Thousand and One TV Nights

Re-discovered : The origins of today's TV soap serials.

I think I've just located where this cancerous curse on today's women and men has originated.
Looking through publishers notes on a children's storybook of Sinbad the sailor, I re-stumbled across the 1001 Arabian Nights. Here is the premise:

About the Thousand and One Nights
The premise for the stories is that a cruel Sultan has threatened to kill his newly-married wife, Scheherazade.
To save herself, that evening she starts telling a wonderful story. She doesn’t finish it, but keeps the Sultan in suspense and he postpones her execution in order to find out what happens next.

As soon as she finishes one story, she quickly begins another before her husband can act on his threat. Finally, one thousand and one nights and hundreds of stories later, the Sultan decides to let his wife go free.

So, imagine that you're the cruel Sultan. And your newly-wed wife isn't a real woman, but your TV. Heck, not even your TV - just one TV channel. The smart ones can get the analogy right now and move on to another post. But still let's explain things, and after that of course there is the big-picture perspective to check out....

To stay "alive" during your evening and night waking hours, the only thing our modern-day Scheherazade can do is to tell you a story but not complete it; to dream up unexpected and dramatc events to keep you hooked so you make it a point to get back to her the next night. That aspect of human psychology - the tendency to get trapped inside a figment of somebody else's imagination - hasn't changed in all these centuries. And once one sordid saga gets over, they immediately start another one before you can even switch channels. This tactic has now gone inter-seriallar... I now see on channels like Star TV (oh, such a far cry from Star Trek, I hope no historian in the future ever confuses the two) one serial ending with a resounding slap or whatever and immediately at the next frame the next show's recap starting. No ads also (alas, but they do come along eventually) They just play the credits of the last one along the bottom, like the people who did all the real work are the least important. They don't even play the starting song until a few minutes into the show - defeats the whole purpose, eh? - at least that used to be something you could enjoy and refresh your mind with - now you're literally being hurtled from one soap to the other.

In this context they should stop calling these serials as "soaps" - soaps are supposed to be slippery. Maybe "sponge" or "fevicol" or "velcrow" would be more apt terms.

While Scheherazade did this to keep herself alive, the TV channels today are doing it all for the purpose of keeping fickle people hooked. The ignored casualty in all this, as always, is the big picture. We have here a nation full of children as well as adults who haven't benefited from education or haven't been able to complete their education because they're busy earning their meals in the daytime.

At the same time we have a nation full of women and men who had the spare time and the mental capacity after the regular day's routine to impart valuable skills to others. Or, they could have done ANYTHING that would have greatly contributed to society as well as honed them as human beings, as intellectuals, as citizens - volunteering their time for any cause. Or even earned additional income for the household in the process. The concept of evening or night schools was started to address this - it was an excellent idea, an all-brainer and the only thing that could have dampened this awesome idea would be the lack of (wo)manpower.

But instead of utilizing this enormous resource of time and brains, both potential learners and potential educators are today trapped inside the figments of other people's imaginations day after day. Even low-income households have TV and they use it all the way into the night - such is the gripping power of the soaps. The TV channel's private gain is humanity's public loss and the consequences of that are evident all around the world today. I respect people's individual choices, but we have only 24 hours in a day and so much still to do before our civilization can truly be called civilized - it's unfortunate.
Addendum: this also applies to all my savvy friends who buzz between downloaded or streaming episodes of their fav Western shows all the time : You're just as trapped in somebody else's imagination as your moms and aunties are! Scheherazade rules you all!

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