Terrible TV

Statue of Zeus in Greece
Statue of Zeus in Greece

“A moment of anger can destroy a lifetime of work, whereas a moment of love can break barriers that took a lifetime to build.” ~ Leon Brown

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The other night I had a rare evening to myself and I thought I’d watch something on television. I’m pretty picky about what I watch. The series, movie, or educational program has to be informative, positive, and/or shed some light on the human condition. I couldn’t find anything to watch that I thought was worthwhile, or that I thought was interesting.

Ever since the first episode of Survivor aired, I’ve watched television decline into competitions, name calling, with a dog-eat-dog kind of mentality as a major part of the program. TV, like all visual/emotional story telling, is a powerful tool for impacting the viewer. We are often unaware of how deeply our thinking and feeling has been influenced by what we watch. I believe these divisive kind of shows have contributed to the change in our society from kind to mean.

I know that TV is entertainment and people have the choice to watch what they want. But I wonder if this kind of dumbed down programming has also contributed to other declines in our society. The masses get one kind of entertainment, while the more well-to-do get another. If that’s the case it makes me sad.

Yet there may be hope. Great programming has emerged in unlikely places. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other networks outside the traditional stations are offering interesting documentaries, and fictional shows that people are talking about. PBS is enjoying a resurgence in popularity since Downton Abbey aired. They, of course, have always offered great programs of all kinds. Choosing our entertainment is just a matter of deciding what kind of energy we want to put into our brains, mindless bickering, or something enriching.

Not all modern programs and movies are bad. For example, I have heard people lament the proliferation of superhero movies. Some people think that we should watch nothing but classic movies and television. But I disagree. Entertainment reflects what’s happening in our society. So to me, the abundance of fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes in our entertainment is a clue to what is going on in our collective unconsciousness at this juncture in history.

I think it was Joseph Campbell who said about the popularity of the Star Wars movies, that we modern humans hunger for our own myths. These new kinds of stories strike a cord with people who want their own kinds of heroes to look up to and emulate. These modern mythological characters deal with their inner and outer demons much like in ancient myths, however, they do it differently.

One of the ways heroes in modern mythological stories are different than those of old, is that they band together to face the common foe. Like Harry says to the villain in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, “I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.” It is only in working together that wrongs can be righted, or a problem solved. It is tempting to think that we are fighting the big battles alone, but we don’t have to. It’s harder to break ten sticks bound together than it is one lone stick. That’s a good thing to teach our young people.

Okay enough ranting about television for today. Maybe I shouldn’t care since I have reduced the amount of TV I watch over the years. However, I do want to see good stories being told in all kinds of mediums. I want to see stories where the characters learn something valuable, and are able to make themselves and their world a better place in which to live. Those are the kinds of stories that inspire me.

I will most likely address this issue again in my upcoming YouTube series, “Loving Literature.” Stay tuned for the launch date.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Movies As Art – The Creative Life

“I always felt like a book is a friend that does what no friend can do; stay quiet when you wanna think.” Charlotte O’Neil, played by Virginia Madson, in The Magic of Belle Isle.

“Most times real life doesn’t measure up to what’s in our heads, but every now and then it comes pretty close.” Monte Wildhorn, played by Morgan Freeman in The Magic of Belle Isle.

Turquoise Water

I love movies where a lost person finds his or her way because they meet a person, or a family who help them see their life in a new way. Maybe I like those kind of movies, because as a child my parents took in people who needed looking after. When I was five, or maybe six, my parents took in an elderly gentleman from our church who was in that situation. He wasn’t senile, but he did need regular meals and companionship, until his children, who lived far away, could decide how to best take care of him. I remember that time as a wonderful rich sojourn. He was kind to my younger brother and me. He told us stories and bought us ice cream. He became a part of our family.

In a way, The Magic of Belle Isle, 2012, directed by Rob Reiner, is very much like that. It’s summer, and Virginia Madsen, who plays Charlotte has brought her three daughters to the small town of Belle Isle Village to live year round. She and her husband are getting a divorce. Morgan Freeman, who plays Monte, a washed up writer and alcoholic, comes to live next door.

Monte hopes to drink the summer away, but little by little he’s drawn into the life of the town and particularly the family next door. He begins to heal from the death of his wife, and he begins to write again.

That in itself would make for a great movie, but what sets this one apart is the dialogue. It’s elevated somehow. The characters sound like regular everyday people in one way, but in another way they construct their sentences to make them sound like poetry. Or maybe it’s more like music. Which is interesting, because music does play a big part in the movie. Charlotte plays her piano nightly, and in Monte’s mind, she’s talking to him through her music. For his part he talks to her through the children’s stories he writes for her youngest daughter. It’s a love story between Charlotte and Monte, but it’s also a love story between Monte and his life.

Finn, the second daughter, asks Monte to be her writing mentor. That helps Monte remember that imagination is, as he tells her, “…The most powerful force ever made available to human kind.” And what is an artist without their muse, and their work? They’re like Monte at the beginning of the movie, a broken down shell of a person who has closed up his imagination.

One of the reasons I love this movie, is because I could relate to Monte’s desire to shut off his feelings. I’m a very sensitive person, and sometimes when bad things happen, the flood of emotions are almost too much. At those times I’m tempted to shut down, and indulge in binge watching TV, or eating, or any number of other, acceptable addictions. Then a movie like this comes along, and I’m reminded that the cure for a wounded heart is to create something beautiful out of the pain.

I highly recommend The Magic of Belle Isle to anyone who has felt overwhelmed by life. I imagine that would be all of us living on this planet.

Butterfly Close up

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014