Loud Silence and other Oxymorons!

I am having a pain day, yet emotionally I feel fairly good. I am watching my cat’s bathe, and just found a friend’s keys. That means they have to come back. I already called them too, because of course they must be hunting for them. It makes the writing jarring at times as I like the flow on the dance of the words. I have been so busy lately, finding the means to all the scattered ends that make up a life, that I finally am having a moment of peace and solitude. It sure is noisy in my head today.

I am amused by some random things, curse words, the way that the pillows on my bed look, the sound of my neighbor’s existence being so quiet here after a year of so much noise. There is a quiet in this apartment that I have longed for and it dwarfs everything. At this moment as the sun streams through the window brightening my home, the cats too are between their moments of gleeful play. Here they play, not just a little but a lot. They wake me at times, crashing and thudding, yowling and howling, and being free. Sometimes they wake me up just so I will roll over and wrap my arms around them both using them as pillows. Even with music my house feels quiet.

The quiet won’t shatter here, though I find the adventures of life are leading me to some odd discoveries. I am going through the process of getting reassessed for more caregiver hours, I am exploring Second Life at long last, and I find that second life is actually satisfying. To me the virtual world has never really satiated the needs for communication I have, but to see the other person’s online self has given me something I was lacking. It is not a perfect match for social interaction but, it does fill in part of the void.

The Oxymorons however, abound with Second Life. There is less chat speak present than I expected, and more dysmorphia of the body. You can see people who have made their avatars look anorexic, no one that I have met so far appears to weigh as much as they really do. I am not even human in this virtual world. I donned the form of a cat, so that I can run and jump and play. It cuts down on my jealousy with Sprite and William. Some of the males suffer from a body image issue as well. They are so bulky that it is frightening to behold, their bodies twisted into caricatures of humanoid.

I know if I spent more time out of the house I would see the same body image issues, and I know too the media perpetuates a large portion of this mental disease. Our culture is ill. The more we watch movies with actresses who happen to make a broomstick look like it is obese, the more we make these movies, the more pressure our minds are under. Children suffer most especially. When I was diagnosed with Bulimia at the age of eight, it was rare and almost unheard of for someone so young to have an eating disorder. Now? Eating disorders are common at any age.

I didn’t notice until two years ago how men are also effected by the movies. They too have the unattainable body type. The people who twist themselves into these forms, perfectly thin, without figure, without health in many cases, give up their free time, the ability to go out and do things with friends, and those who use starvation or an extreme diet put their mental health at risk. Dieting can kill. You hear about it with diet pills but the restrictions and extremes that are persistent and present right now are the most shocking, cutting your stomach apart so that you can’t fit as much into your body is not going to work if you do not pay attention to how much you eat.

Now I am not saying everyone who diets doesn’t need to. Some people have eating disorders or disordered eating that effects their health. Exercise and proper diet are what matters. Proper diet doesn’t mean a spoonful of tomato soup a day. It means three squares. It means the balance you can achieve with a mixture of foods that are safe for you to eat. It means too listening to your doctor even if it means giving up food you may like.

I noticed too, by no longer watching television I no longer feel as worried about my weight. I rarely did before, but at times the old messages about my value and my body came up. The recent activities that I have dealt with made that much harder. Improper diet can trigger improper behaviors. It is harder to reign in my anger, which can be at times misplaced. I can be harder, but, when I look in the mirror I see me the way I am. I feel more beautiful today than I did when I was belly dancing. I think I may be healthier. That last sentence could be another oxymoron, or merely disguised as one.

The world we live in prizes ability, appearance, and supposed beauty over health, happiness, and the ability to live. To fit into this world in the way that they wanted I was living in a private hell, I was so tired, I was also living in pain that would never be treated because of course the pain had to be in my head. Our society is sick.

I challenge my readers today to leave the TV off for one week. You can get your news online, but at the very least try going one week without a sitcom, action or adventure. Spend some time with your books, family, or in the roaring silence of peace. Document the ways that you feel before and after, and see if there is a difference between your perceptions. How toxic can our current media system be?

Some other questions you might ask yourself?

1. How often do I see people like me (ability, race, gender, sexuality etc) represented on the news? In TV shows? Broadcast network shows? Cable shows?

2. How often do I see people like me represented as broad stereotypes (the angry guy in the wheelchair, the ugly woman in the wheelchair, the lesbian for a week, etc)?

3. How often do I see people like me represented as the villain?

4. How often do I see people like me represented as the victim?

5. How often do I see people like me as the hero?

6. How often do I see a person of a moderately healthy weight or a person who is plus sized ?

7. How often do I see a plus sized person as the lead, hero, villain etc?

There are dozens of other questions you can ask, but, the most important:

How does the lack/plethora of people like me in the media make me feel and effect the perceptions I have of myself/others?

I look forward to reading a few responses, and I think I may go and read a book.

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7 Comments

  1. Deaf people are almost never portrayed as villians in television, movies, etc. If we were, even just every once in a while, I almost think it would be a welcome break from seeing deaf people as the perpetual child-like helpless victim who needs a hearing man to take charge to fix her problems for her, or rescue them, etc. (There is sometimes a gender dimension going on also.)

    Deaf people are pretty much never the hero. Except, I guess you could say that Marlee Matlin in her role in West Wing (I can’t remember the character’s name … I can almost never remember her character’s names because as soon as I see her face I just think, “ok, there’s Marlee, finally we’ll see some decent deaf characterization) … anyway, Marlee in West Wing I guess could be interpreted as a hero in a sort of geeky way–she really knows her stuff when it comes to polling and analyzing statistics and helps president Bartlett that way.

    I am told (via my father, who was told by my sister who actually watches the television show) that there is apparently a new deaf character in the TV series, “Heroes” who is deaf. His super power is … wait for it:

    He can hear.

    Oh, no, wait, that’s *not* his super power. His power is that he now perceives sounds as colors. Which as we all know is *entirely different*.

    Okay, maybe I’m being a tad unfair in judging this character without actually watching the program. But frankly it comes across to me as a kind of a rip off of the Daredevil, the blind super hero whose super power is … wait for it:

    He can see.

    Oh, no, wait, that’s *not* his super power. His power is that apparently he can hear things so well that it serves exactly the same purpose as seeing. Which is, of course, not the same thing at all. Of course not.

    (Just in case it wasn’t obvious, this is me: sarcasm mode = on )

    Both of these super heroes come across as if someone sat down one day and said, “Okay, we need to diversify our cast by adding a person with a disability. Except, we don’t want the fans to have to, *gasp*, *shock*, *shudder* actually have to, you know, deal with the idea of a character having a real disability with real consequences for how they live their daily life and stuff. Because, then, you know, they might have to actually start learning all sorts of really horrid things. For example, the fact that disability is not actually automatically as bad as people think. So, instead, let’s just say they have a disability and then give then a super power that cancels it out. That way we can pretend we’re embracing real diversity when, really, we’re, you know, not.”

  2. I no longer watch Heroes because heroes basically rips off every comic book with a super hero ever made, and they somehow make them more ridiculous. How can seeing or hearing colors work to replace sound? That’s… so… wrong… My mind goes there and then falls apart with laughter.

    How does never being portrayed in media actually effect you? Actually with your deafness, how does the rarely readable closed captioning effect your media experience? Since I can hear I don’t have to deal with misspellings, entire sentences missing, sentences added etc. What about media that is not captioned?

  3. I’d recommend people give this a try. I began a few years ago by stopping reading weekend newspapers. I found the exhortations to buy newer, better, dearer, cooler stuff exhausting and undermining. it wasn’t just that I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough to do any of it but that because I couldn’t afford to do it, I wasn’t quite human or normal or valid.

    I have found myself watching less and less television over the past 5 months or so. Like you, I realised that I was not represented nor were many people I know. I also noticed people defining themselves and others in terms of media categories, concepts etc. I like to learn about people, places, situations outside my experience but I don’t get that in the mainstream media.

    When people like me (mentally ill, poor, on welfare, fat, queer, etc) are portrayed in the media, it is with pity and/or contempt and always very simplistically.

    I suggest that even if you do see yourself in the media but you don’t see a diversity of people, you should try to understand why and go elsewhere.

  4. You know what shows are for? Ask yourself, what are advertisers paying for? An audience. People are the product that TV shows sell to advertisers. Like all traded commodities, advertisers pay for two things: quantity and purity. Quantity is easy to understand. One superbowl minute cost millions. Purity is harder to get.

    A corporation, by law, has no responsibility whatsoever to do anything but follow the law and profit the owners. Purity refers to return on investment. An audience of 100% buyers would very pure and the cost to buy such people would be exquisite.

    The problem is, rational and kind people make lousy consumers. Who would pay for $150 dollars for a name brand athletic shoe that cost the company $1.89 worth of broken Malaysian dreams? Let’s say a show attracts a lot of really rational, really kind people. To people buyers, thats like hotdog: a tiny bit of meat and the rest is filler.

    To increase the purity, advertisers use the content to filter the audience for sale with two approaches (1.) If the show glorifies depth, true beauty, and anti-materialism, it would attract people who valued such things. Those people, refusing to base their self worth on the things they purchase, make truly terrible consumers. Thus, all the shows are pretty much the same orgies of syrupy nothingness to attract people who above all base self value on things bought. (2.) Use advertising which subverts rationality and imitates kindness. Rationality is subverted by using icons representing our deepest fears and longings: Makeup isn’t sold to make you look pretty, but YOUNGER, because younger means farther from death. Buy product X and you will be accepted by a loving, caring group of other product X buyers. Kindness is imitated by visually suggesting that owning the product will make you a better friend, parent, lover, or citizen (big screen TVs are always show improving relationships, drinking beer surrounds you with good buddies, etc.)

    As you say Kat TV makes you unhappy. But let me clarify: BY DESIGN, because happy, content people don’t spend money they don’t have, to buy shit they don’t need, made by people that don’t have rights, to impress people they don’t like. Only people desperately clutching any pathetic chance to change their misery would do that. If you are watching a lot of entertainment and it doesn’t make you ache, the writers and advertisers aren’t earning the stockholders money.

    The greatest decision that Becky and I ever made was not to own a TV or computer for the first year we were married. We ate, talked, walked, made love, argued, read aloud to each other, colored in coloring books in all night restaurants, crocheted, and drove cars. At the end of year we were so different from other couples we never went back.

    I realized that the purpose of shows (content) is to sell something to advertisers. I mean really, what are advertisers paying for by the minute.

  5. …us

  6. Thank you for this response. Those feelings are a part of why when people talk about TV I don’t feel left out anymore. I just don’t see the draw. It’s a mind control device, and although the computer could be called the same thing, at least here I get some freedom. With TV there is no real input into my personal wants and desires. Instead just as you said, we are supposed to want and desire.

  7. Thank you, as always you elucidate and illuminate that idea that is just out of reach. I actually have several TVs but they are never plugged in. I disliked that ache. The yearn for things also is bad for a tight budget. I’d rather snuggle up to my cats and read books when it is raining than listen to some underfed brat mention how her boyfriend (oh mah gawd) is sleeping with that skinnier somehow supposedly prettier chick and she must be so like ugly!


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