Posts Tagged ‘Hoshino Aki’

TV Told Me How to Be a Kid

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

OK Fred
Column: Fight This Generation
Vol. 3 – TV Told Me How to Be a Kid
(unpublished English original text)

I hate Brussels sprouts. And I hate liver and lima beans.

But I have never once eaten Brussels sprouts, nor liver and lima beans. Nor did my parents ever make these dishes for our family dinners or force me to eat them.

Yet I have a deep-seated, unflinching conviction that I despise these foods. Why do I hate a food I have never eaten or seen with my own eyes? I blame hours and hours of watching children’s television programming as a kid. On my favorite Nickelodeon show “You Can’t Do That on Television,” the young actors always discussed how much they thought Brussels sprouts were disgusting. For some reason, I readily agreed then, and I still agree now — even after twenty years of expanding my culinary palette and reclaiming many foods I used to despise, like broccoli and cauliflower.

This irrational dislike of vegetables is a small example of the way children-focused television and other media teaches us how to be “adolescents” – in a cultural, rather than a biological sense. Perhaps the scripts to these programs are written so that older adolescents can relate to their own problems, but young kids pick up on the message before they actually have first-hand knowledge of bad stuff like bullies, cliques, authoritarian teachers, and inedible cafeteria food. Looking back on my own youth, I find it hard to separate what I decided to dislike after a bad experience and what I learned to dislike from the media’s second-hand information.

So media teaches us how to be kids, but even weirder, the media teaches us how to create a larger dramatic narrative for our adolescence. I used to watch a show from the early 1990s called “The Wonder Years.” The show was a fictional retelling of an American junior high student in 1969 – right in the middle of the “Flower Power” era. I was a few years younger than protagonist Kevin Arnold, but I couldn’t help but project myself onto his character. The story is told in flashback with an unseen narrator who explains what Kevin thinks in his daily life and also inserts his own perspectives as a middle-aged man. From this, I not only learned how to be a teenager and the challenges that lie ahead of me, but I understood how I would look back on my own “wonder years” when I was older. I felt nostalgia for my own youth while I was living it. The show was clearly targeted towards Baby Boomers looking back on their own lives, but I got sucked into the media time warp. As a weird side-effect, I am now nostalgic for a 1960s past I never experienced myself.

Althought it seems paranoid, television also clearly influences us on a subconscious level. On one episode of “The Wonder Years,” Kevin gets two hamsters for a science experiment named Puffy and Weezer – too bands I grew to love in my teenage years. The seeds were planted early.