A couple of says back, Junican wrote:
There is something seriously, seriously wrong when TV dramas dare not show someone committing the criminal act of smoking in ‘an enclosed public place’ but can show the criminal act of stabbing someone, or shooting someone, or beating someone.
I wouldn’t know whether TV dramas do or don’t show people smoking, for the simple reason that I don’t watch TV. And I have a very powerful incentive not to watch TV, because if I do, I’ll be liable to pay a TV licence fee of £155 or maybe more.
Why don’t I watch TV? Because TV no longer shows people smoking. It hasn’t done for a very long time, in fact. People stopped smoking on TV long before they were forced to stop smoking in the real world.
I think that the idea is that if you don’t see people smoking on TV, you won’t do it yourself. And in this manner TV can be used to shape people’s behaviour, and gradually make them behave like the people on TV do.
But it doesn’t seem to work with me. I just stop watching TV. And I stop watching because TV no longer reflects my reality. It becomes a fictional world.
For example, for all I know, nobody on TV eats meat any more. And in TV dramas when they’re all sitting around a table having dinner, they’ll say things like “Pass the parsley please,” and “May I have another glass of your wonderful sparkling water,” and “Do you have any more dry bread crusts?”
And maybe, in those same TV drama dinners where everyone is eating bread and water, they only ever talk about Global Warming and what a terrible threat it is. And maybe all the women wear trousers, and all the men wear skirts.
But who cares? TV is essentially always a fictional construct. It’s an imaginary world. All the TV dramas are fictions. And these days all the news and current affairs programmes are fictions as well.
Is it possible to change the real world using a fictional one? If you construct an imaginary world on TV, is it likely that the real world will gradually come to resemble it? If nobody smokes on TV, will the result be that nobody will smoke in the real world?
The Monty Python TV comedy had a Ministry of Silly Walks. If everyone on TV walked in silly ways, would ordinary people start walking that way too? If everyone on TV only hopped around on one leg, would real people start hopping around on one leg too?
No, of course they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t because hopping around on one leg is a very slow and difficult way to move around. It’s much easier to walk, using both legs rather than just one. So even if some people started hopping around on one leg, most people wouldn’t. And when the hoppers found themselves facing an emergency – for example, being hunted by wolves – they’d pretty soon remember how to use both legs. They’d learn how to run.
It’s the same with smoking. The smoking life is an easier, more relaxed life than the non-smoking life. It’s easier in the exact same way that it’s easier to walk than to hop. And in the same way as it’s also easier to walk than to run. Sometimes – as when pursued by wolves – it’s necessary to run. And sometimes it’s necessary to hop. But for the most part it’s easier to walk.
Smoking may have been “de-normalised” on TV, but TV isn’t normality. TV is fiction. And in fiction, absolutely anything is possible. But in the real world, not everything is possible. A fictional Superman can fly and lift mountains unaided, but real people can’t fly or lift mountains.
But back to Junican. He’s pointing out that while smoking has been de-normalised on TV, assault and murder are not being de-normalised. But once again, this reflects the fictional nature of TV. In the real world, assault and murder isn’t normal behaviour. And no amount of attempts to normalise assault and murder will ever succeed in making it normal behaviour. Why? Because assault and murder are hard work. It’s easier to not engage in such activities. Peace is easier than war.
What’s seriously wrong is that there are people who believe that if they show fictional people doing things and saying things on TV, this will somehow get real people to do and say the same things in real life. Theirs is the belief that the tail can wag the dog.
But in fact, the tail can’t wag the dog. And what’s much more likely to happen is that, rather than fiction invading reality, real life will eventually invade the fictional world of TV. And smoking will re-appear on TV. And people on TV will stop hopping around on one leg, attacking and killing each other.
TV reflects reality. Reality doesn’t reflect TV. The real world doesn’t change place with the mirror.
And speaking of silly walks:
Why do the palace guards all look down their noses at Putin as he walks past?