How many times do you see some status posted or image shared that dismisses television as a waste of time or a killer of brain cells? I disagree with that assessment.
While I prefer reading books, this is not to suggest that certain programming doesn’t expand the mind. There is certain value to many programs, if for no other reason than the escapism that certain ones, like Dexter, The Following, or Revolution, can bring to those of us who find our lives consumed by political work. The aforementioned shows not only function as a means of escapism, but also raise some important points. Dexter is a show that reminds me how superficial I can sometimes be, especially in regards to my interactions around those who lack interest or aren’t involved in the same things I am – whether it be hunting, fishing, shooting, or politics. The Following takes the viewer into the mind of a megalomaniac cult leader and showcases the interpersonal relationships of those he lives with and those who are in pursuit of him. Revolution is a Dystopian show that takes place in post-collapse United States.
These shows provoke my mind and conscience, and clearly are not created with the goals of leeching my mind or making me subservient. These shows also touch us on the human level- with Dexter, as libertarians, we’re almost given satisfaction with the actions he takes against the murderers, child molesters, and rapists the state has let slip through the cracks. With The Following, we’re reminded how easily the human mind can be manipulated- whether they be a cult leader or politician. With Revolution, we’re reminded of what is possible in the event of a collapse and must reflect on the levels of our preparedness or the moral decisions we would make to defend or feed or families in that case.
Programs like these ask moral questions of us with their content. They are not meaningless. In Dexter, Dexter Morgan struggles with his nature, knowing that no one else would accept his affinity for killing. In some episodes, he is seen as a folk hero, very similar to the sentiments held by Agent Smecker towards the McManus brothers in The Boondock Saints. We find ourselves asking if his extralegal actions are justified. As a libertarian who understands that the state-enforced monopoly on courts lets many violent criminals free and incarcerates too many nonviolent offenders, I find his actions justifiable, even if theatrical in nature. The Following can be seen as questioning how powerful the cult of personality is and hopefully lead even those of a non-libertarian persuasion to evaluate who they follow or the actions they take for another person or entity. In Revolution, we are shown what would actually happen if only one group had modern firearms; this can be seen as a question to society as to how much they want the government (or any other singular group) to have a monopoly on certain types of weapons.
They have also been accepted by the public as shown by the fact that they are still on air. Millions of individuals – myself included – have made the rational decision to set aside an hour of our weeks to view these shows and the advertising that comes along with them. It is not as if they have been subsidized or created by bureaucrats; they have risen from the ground up. Given the point of views held therein or even those that are implied, they’re by no means a conspiracy to make us dumber.
For being an idiot box, I’ve certainly learned a lot from my time spent viewing these shows. These shows have given me time to get bound up in a story that doesn’t have to do with budgets, taxes, social issues, or the daily political grind. These shows have made my mind tick and consider various things. Last but not least, these shows have made me question things- whether it be the law, leadership, or the monopoly of force. Granted, all of these things part and parcel have something to do with politics yet these shows let me effectively consider these concepts in a fictional world with no external implications – a sort of run-through to speak. While some programming can dumb us down, we must emphasize shows that can effectively expand the mind, like the ones contained herein.