I should have known better than to introduce my wife to Fringe. When it was ‘my show’ I could watch it at my pace. Nice and slow, catching an episode every couple days. It gave me time to accept the new developments and move along with the show more quickly than if I was watching it in broadcast, but still enjoy some of that cliffhanger tension. Paying attention is important to me. That’s why I don’t like to pig out on TV shows or movies. And when I do pig out, I’m exhausted.
My wife likes to do other things while watching TV. She can breeze through five seasons of a show in a week because she’s working on something and barely watching whatever’s on the TV. So I was tired of 7th Heaven and Tales from Avonlea playing all the time in
my our house. I made up a list of ‘genre’ shows that I would like to have playing in the house instead, at least for a little while. She casually vetoed the whole list. So one night she wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. That’s when I started watching Fringe, the show on the top of my list. I knew nothing about it besides the cast having the guy that played Denethor and the one kid from Dawson’s Creek. I watched the first two or three and didn’t really dig it, but could tell it would probably go places that would make me love it. And it did.
I’d catch an episode here and there, if my wife was out or going to bed early or something. She tried to watch one with me and was really put off by the scary stuff, so I didn’t play it around her anymore. Then the second season episode “Peter” was so good, I couldn’t keep it to myself. There was no scary or gross stuff so I just started playing it and waited out her protestations. I got her into Doctor Who the same way, with my favorite episode of that show. “Peter” is a great episode and she became a fan of the show while watching it.
“This is good,” I thought to myself. “Now I can watch TV with my wife.” Idiot. I forgot how my wife’s way of watching TV is so horrible. I mean I love her, etc.
I don’t fuss about TV very much because I decided before we got married that it was an easy thing to give up for her sake. TV was something I loved and could take seriously, so it was the perfect object for me to sacrifice. By deciding in her favor every time, I was announcing (at least to myself) that she was more important to me than me or my shows. I don’t mind saying that I hate the way she watches TV and I hate most of what she chooses to watch. I took entertainment too seriously prior to being married and I have been given the opportunity to give up something I idolized for the sake of someone that I love.
Simple restraint isn’t the way to cure idolatry. I gave it up. You might think I haven’t because I still watch TV. But I am willing to give it up on a moment’s notice and have. Sometimes I grumble, but I have built a pattern of holding my marriage higher. It’s not perfect. But isolating a selfish area in my life and just handing it over to her has helped me to grow. There was even a strange period where I was calmed down by her family-friendly media. Maybe I’ll write about that some other time.
I’m not saying that marriage is the only way to undo the idol of entertainment. There are single people who manage to fix it somehow and there are married people who still indulge in it. I was simply given the opportunity, through my marriage, to dethrone entertainment.
So that was the decision I made to avoid indulgence. It’s been good. But this weekend, my wife got hooked on the show I liked. I had to either keep up with her break-neck pace, unhook the TV to stop her from watching it, or abandon the show. I chose to keep up with her. I didn’t enjoy the watching of the show so much anymore. But I did enjoy watching it with my wife. I liked talking to her about sci-fi and hearing her speculations about topics that I usually ramble on about. That was fun. And it was worth giving up a TV show to hang out with my wife.
So that got me thinking…
In the old days, everybody watched stuff the same way. They either watched their favorite show when it was broadcast or they went to the theater when the movie was showing. As we progressed into home video, the times and frequency of watching shows and movies changed. But you were pretty well stuck with the same basic viewing configuration as most other people. Nowadays, you and your best friend might have wildly different viewing habits.
What are your viewing habits? Have they changed since Netflix? Or since DVDs started publishing entire TV shows?
Do you think it’s a good change? Do you worry about indulgence?
It can’t be denied that the way we watch TV and movies has changed radically in the past 15 years. Whether it’s a good change or not has barely crossed my mind. Until now!