Over the past few weeks I’ve witnessed a wide range of TV emotions from the outside as a friend of mine finally caught up on the most recent season of Sons of Anarchy. She started out fairly neutral, not really sure what all the yelling had been about all those months ago. Then there were a few “oh holy shit” type texts, followed by some confusion about WTF was going on. Then a few days ago, knowing she only had 2 episodes left, I waited. At 10:30 that night I got the text I knew was coming. She was devastated, and then extremely pissed that she cared so much about a TV show. I have since been informed that she is marathoning Sabrina the Teenage Witch in an attempt to recover.
I reassured her that I get it. Whatever the reason, a really good TV show (or sometimes even a kind of ok one) can inspire emotions in me that real life doesn’t seem to. I’m often described as dead on the inside and I wouldn’t even try to argue that point. But sit with me while I watch the Spartacus finale again and you might be shocked to discover that I do actually have functioning tear ducts. Additionally I have already informed Ash that I will not be joining her to see The Fault in Our Stars in a theater. Considering the number of tissues I went through when reading the book, that’s something I should tackle in the privacy of my own home.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I feel actual emotions when I watch TV. I get angry when a show doesn’t end the way I think it should. I get sad when a beloved character dies, and even sadder when that character is half of a beloved couple. I get annoyed when a storyline takes a detour that I wouldn’t have chosen. And I get REALLY pissed when a show ends abruptly and I don’t get an ending. All the while I’m trying to remind myself that none of this is real. Doesn’t help. The recent finale of How I Met Your Mother managed to hit almost every single one of these pet peeves in the course of an hour. I was not pleased. Given the chance I would happily travel back in time to a few months ago and take my own advice to JUST STOP WATCHING. Ugh.
So why does TV often affect us so much? For me at least the answer is pretty obvious. I spend an hour a week with these characters. (Or when an obsession takes hold, hours and hours a week.) In many cases this is more time than I spend with people that I actually know. I see them at work, doing a job that is a minimum of 23 times as cool as mine. I see them at home, living in a cool city in an awesome apartment and not worrying about whether they need a cheaper cell phone plan. In an argument they always manage the clever comeback I usually can only come up with 15 minutes later. I watch them get their hearts broken.
Eventually I feel like I really know them. And even better (or worse?), sometimes I feel like I could be them. This is probably why I can’t seem to stop taking those “Which Firefly character are you?” quizzes online. (For the record internet, I am soooo not Jayne. Something is wrong with your algorithm.) So when something terrible happens to character X, in a way I will always feel like it’s happening to me.
While I know deep down TV shouldn’t affect me this much, the sad reality is it does. And as long as this so-called “golden age” of TV continues and the incredible stories and characters are a part of my life, my emotional attachment will continue. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m finally emotionally ready to dive into the season premiere of Mad Men.