My First Television Set

heteronormative-crapI broke down and bought a television set and a Roku box. I feel like a traitor. It is as if I joined the Republican Party. I haven’t watched television since I was seventeen. I think of it as mindless heteronormative entertainment.

In theory, I bought the TV for Donna. She is housebound, nursing a broken ankle. In February, when she was recuperating from open heart surgery, we curled up together on the couch and watched movies on my iPad mini. It was cozy, but the iPad mini screen is tiny. The new TV is a 32″ diagonal. It looks big to me, even from the couch. By American standards, 32″ is small.

I have to reconcile myself with owning a television set, even if I am not signing up for 500 reality channels. I already have Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus on my iPad; I will probably sign up for 30 free days of Netflix. I keep telling myself I traded up from the 7.9″ iPad mini screen to a 32″ monitor. I’m still watching only what I choose to watch. I’m not watching the Kardashians.

I’m not a TV person. I’m a recovering stereophile (music equipment geek). My distaste for TV was made obsolete by streaming. Streaming blurred the line between computers, stereos, radios, televisions, cameras, and phones.  Digital media corrupted my identity. Another victory for the binary.

My idealized self is a serious reader. In my fantasies, I read The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Nation – cover to cover. I read while sitting at my kitchen table or on a bench in the sun drinking a thermos of coffee with a well-behaved dog laying at my feet. I am always in the middle of an interesting book, and I remember minute details of books I read 10 years ago.

The trite reality is that these publications pile up, collect dust, and get thrown out, sometimes without me even leafing through them. I get annoyed that most of the articles are written by white guys who are barely alive. Their stories don’t hold my interest. I don’t even have a kitchen table to read at. I have a window ledge and a stool to perch on. I can balance my coffee but I can’t spread out the paper. I get my news from NPR. When I try to sit outside and read, Gracie nudges me for attention or barks at the pigeons. I can’t concentrate.

I have an ever-growing stack of books I want to read. I no longer remember the names of the books I read last year or who authored them. I have some serious reading sweaters with well-worn elbows and suede patches. I can master the tweedy look, but I’m only fooling myself. It just looks like I’m reading.

caitlyn-and-kyle-2It took less than an hour to set up the TV, hook up the Roku box, and link my internet accounts to it. I tested it by clicking on the first icon that came up on Hulu.  I ended up watching a short segment of South Park. The episode with Caitlyn Jenner. This is why I hate TV. I didn’t want to laugh at it, but it was simultaneously funny and offensive. I turned it off. I’d rather be bored. I don’t want to be a party to making fun of what another trans person’s body looks like.

Well meaning friends have suggested movies, PBS shows, and BBC mini-series for us to watch. I have a list and a queue set up. I’m in charge of the remote.

Donna is fine as long as she is sitting still. She can’t transfer from the wheelchair to the couch, bed, or commode without help. Gracie and I will be mostly housebound with her. We are going to snuggle up and watch TV. I still hope to sneak in some reading.

25 thoughts on “My First Television Set

  1. Lesboi

    I was anti TV for a long time but when I was single, before the internet was around, I started watching more and more of it. Now we watch tv pretty much every evening or it’s at least on in the background. When I’m flying solo I rarely put it on except to watch a movie or a game. It’s pretty funny that South Park was your first TV experience.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It was random, the way that you click on icons when you are testing something – except that it isn’t really random, Hulu puts it there so you see it. What I think is strange is that in my first two minutes of watching I saw Caitlyn Jenner, or more accurately South Park’s bizarre cartoon version of Caitlyn Jenner – which was a perfect storm of transphobia, misogyny, and humor.

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  2. janitorqueer

    I watched way too much TV as a teenager, and now I’ll never turn it on. I watch shows and movies with my partner, but never alone. And we only see each other on weekends (because of work schedules), so I really don’t watch much at all…

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV a day. I don’t think I ever watched that much; as a teenager I was into music and I’m certain that I listened to the radio for more than 4 hours a day. Donna and I sometimes listen to music together, which is sweet.

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  3. Mrs Fever

    I have a 19″ box TV with built-in VHS (yes, I said VHS), that is attached by some kind of complicated wiring to the world’s cheapest DVD player. It is the only TV we have had for the past ten years and its sole purpose is for providing an outlet through which I can watch the many movies I purchase from garage sales and used book stores’ clearance racks. I refuse to subscribe to cable, and have zero interest in commercial television. To say I find it horribly offensive is an understatement. I have no wish to feed my mind with repetitive negative images and messages of “you’re not good enough.”

    People think this is strange.

    But, strangely, I am a fairly well adjusted person. Fancy that.

    .

    I am a reader of books. Of plays and poetry and manifestos. Of facts and fiction. Of truths and legends. I am fascinated by the images conjured through words, by the power of story, by the record of humanity that’s been left in scribbles and scratches, in diaries and dialogue, down through the centuries.

    I read for escape, for enjoyment, for education, for entertainment. But it is books. Always books.

    For me, magazines and newspapers and internet publications of the same have become the print version of commercial television. It’s 90% ads and 9% fluff. Call me crazy, but I don’t like to pay full price to read 1%. I suppose I am a content snob. 😉

    .

    Anywhoo…

    This was a long way of saying, “I grok.”

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m a total content snob, and I like going out (so we will see if I still prefer to go out once I get used to the new system). The last thing I was an early adapter to was compact discs – I missed VHS, Beta, and DVDs – I held off until streaming made everything way too easily available. I was a second wave adapter for iPhones and iPads, but then I got hooked.
      I also buy books and CDs at flea markets and used book stores – I hate how difficult it is to browse on line – and I prefer to read real books (not e-books) because I like to dog ear, underline, and look at footnotes. I’m turning into a crank.

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  4. The Final Rinse

    The biggest problem that I have with television is the commercials. I don’t watch enough of it to ever get used to them. So, I turn on the TV and see that women are still scrubbing toilets with big smiles, and that you save money by spending it at a certain place, and that I would be much happier and healthier and more rested if I just took some pills. And skinnier if I ate more food.
    Within ten minutes I just get all mad and turn the TV off.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Uh-oh, I hadn’t thought about the commercials. I’m hoping that what we will be watching will have limited commercials (or as NPR likes to call it – corporate underwriting). I’ll be looking for the “low energy, have you had your testosterone levels checked yet” adds…

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  5. anexactinglife

    Wow, you are hardcore, waiting until now! I haven’t watched network/cable TV in years but I have watched a grand total of 3 TV series on DVD. But I like a TV monitor for watching the occasional movie. I had to laugh about the remembering of books. I insist on reading them, but forget a shocking amount of what I read. The only thing that helps me retain what I’ve read is reviewing them on Goodreads! If not for that, paugh! Forget about it.

    I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re a stereophile, given your vinyl habit. I have leanings that way too, which helped me justify an expensive “home theatre system” a few years back.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think one of the many things that sets me apart from younger listeners is that I like to hear my music come out of stereo speakers, rather than ear buds. I’ll use headphones/earphones at the gym but it always feels to me like I’m zapping my brain.
      I like to have music on in the background while I’m doing other things, but I can only do that with speakers.

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  6. Mara Migraineur

    My heteronormative parents bought their first in 2000. My geeky spouse has set up a projector connected to our computer (so it’s Netflix, Hulu…). I feel you on the TV vibe, though if I say “I don’t have a television”, my friends just laugh at me. “Suuuure, you don’t!” I am grateful we don’t have access to a lot of stuff, commercials are reduced and it takes effort to turn it on (so the kids can’t just sit down and flip it on, either).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You are brave to raise your kids without conventional TV – I was raised in an apartment with three televisions (one in the living room and one in each bedroom) – and at least one of them was always on. I have friends who tried to raise their kids without a TV, and had to get one because their kids were routinely assigned programs to watch as part of their studies!

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  7. afish25

    I think that we managed to retire by not having cable and owning an old box TV that we bought in a pawn shop 18 years ago. Mostly I find it boring. Lisa got a new TV when we left the country. Her hobby is pirating off the net which is legal in MX, things I’ll watch with her. No small task. I read aloud at bedtime and we’ve probably read a gazillion books in 21 years. Wish I wrote the names down.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Having a television was never a big priority for either of us – getting the TV set should not increase our monthly bills unless we decide to keep Netflix streaming, which is pretty cheap. Fortunately we don’t have any free access to sports, because I could easily slip into watching the baseball playoffs…

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  8. Fredrication

    I developed some kind of reading-disability as a teenager when I suddenly couldn’t remember what I’d read a minute ago, so I went from reading at least one book a week to almost nothing in a couple of months. I managed university by having audiobooks, but I haven’t read anything on my own for almost 15 years. I’ve been thinking of reading Harry Potter as my first. I know the story from the films and I’ve heard it on audiobook a few years ago. I’m longing to be able to read again but at the same time I’m afraid to start and find out that nothing has changed and that I still can’t remember the beginning of the sentence.
    One of my majors at university was art/media/communication. I really like to watch movies and tv-series, but after analyzing so many movies I find it increasingly difficult to find movies that I enjoy watching. Hollywood movies are so predictable that I often know the ending ten minutes into the movie.
    End of rant.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      That is interesting about your reading disability. I imagine you as a Dad reading to your kid; reading with/to kids is so lovely.
      I don’t watch any Hollywood films (slight exaggeration I watch one a year and always regret it) – I mostly watch independent or foreign films and lots of documentaries. I am fortunate to live near an independent movie theater that has a good curator – they get a lot of good new movies and also show some classics.

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  9. Jamie Ray Post author

    A 27″ computer monitor is enormous. We’ve watched on my 20″ mac, which is pretty good if you are sitting close by, but not good from the bed or couch. The TV was also astonishingly cheap (compared to Apple products).

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  10. RS

    I grew up without a TV until age 12, and haven’t had a TV since I moved out at age 20. I think my quality of life is higher this way, but then again, I spend the time I might be watching TV if I had one, on my smartphone instead! At least that way I can filter the media I expose myself to, most of the time. I prefer to watch shows or movies. Although, I do think with the higher visibility and better roles for queer and trans folk on TV that it could be great in some ways, especially for young folks who are coming out to themselves. But books are just as important in that respect.

    This line made me chuckle: “I only look like I’m reading.”

    First time comment, been reading your blog for a bit and really enjoy your perspective, good for me to hear as a 26 year old nonbinary person.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for reading and for adding to the comment mix! I don’t have access to anything you can’t get on you smart phone, just a bigger screen. So no live FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, or similar networks. I watched a lot of junk as a kid and it felt revolutionary to give it up when I left home. I have no intention to resume watching Sitcoms or Game shows.
      I did watch Transparent in the spring and found it “interesting” to see how the different trans characters were handled. But like much TV the volume of crises and plot turns and bad behavior turned me off. Still, I’ll probably watch season two when it becomes available.

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