Were you raised by TV?

Have you ever felt like the characters in a TV show were more your kind of people than your own family? Have you ever looked to TV parents for wisdom? Have you ever felt drawn to TV shows for company or to help with life’s problems? If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, then I’m here to let you know you might have been raised by TV.

In 2020 we might flock to Facebook to connect with school buddies, Twitter to spy on the school bully, Instagram for the aspirational kids, What’s App to gossip and Tik Tok for the bedroom laughs with your best friend. But it wasn’t always this way. Pre-internet (for the young readers, it was a thing, look it up), we didn’t get our virtual social interactions through phones. We had television instead. (And also real life friends and get togethers.) 

Reading an interview with Desiree Akhavan, who made the TV series The Bisexual, for last week’s round-up post, the TV maker said she was shaped by the shows she watched growing up. She said TV was like a third parent, which even helped her learn about American culture. 

“I watched a lot of The Brady Bunch. And I watched Saved By the Bell, Full House, really saccharine, melodramatic shows about families, which was so strange, because my family didn’t look like anything I saw on television,” Akhavan said in that interview.

It got the Broad pondering the idea that TV can be a de facto parent, even a substitute friend or a kind of mentor, showing you a way of living you might not see around you in the real world. While TV is a creative fiction, it still depicts certain truths to things. It can be particularly powerful when we’re growing up, especially if we’re longing for a different type of upbringing or looking for confirmation of a different style of living or way of expressing ourselves. 

In the Broad’s youth, The Cosby Show depicted a large, supportive family with a professional mother and father on equal terms, not to mention kids who wore cool 80s clothes. (It’s not lost on the Broad that Cosby has been found wanting, but this is about what was seen back then as a young teen.) Shows like Who’s The Boss showed a professional woman and mother and a fatherless family with humour and heart and resonated with a young Broad. Happy Days was like the buddies and the milk bar that didn’t exist in the burbs. And the Broad watched so many episodes of M*A*S*H over dinner in the 80s it sometimes felt like looking at her father when watching Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce. 

And here’s the TV shows the Broad is glad she wasn’t raised by. I Dream of Jeannie. No thanks to life in a bottle wearing a crop top. Bewitched. Walking on eggshells, plus having work dinners at a moment’s notice, as a stay at home mum for your uptight ad executive husband. Pfff. Mr Ed. Having a husband who spent more time with his talking horse? I.don’t.think.so. If you’re up for reviewing films of the past with today’s lens, have a look at this list of movies that look a lot different in the time of the #metoo.

A quick internet search on the topic of being raised by TV shows it’s a *thing* and, as with these sorts of things these days, there are plenty of articles discussing the topic, a podcast for those raised by TV, a matching t-shirt and even an art exhibition. If you’re worried you were raised by TV and it’s been detrimental, this light-hearted defence of TV watching by Tara Lyn Mallick, a self-confessed TV junkie, should allay your fears. 

If you’re still not sure whether you were raised by television, Buzzfeed has you covered with the 21 signs you have had a TV parent. Was your first crush a fictional character? You can’t understand why your problems can’t be wrapped up in 22 minutes? You cancel plans to stay home with your real friends? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be one of our TV family.

Raised by TV is the podcast with Jon Gabrus and Lauren Lapkus who have turned their hours watching TV while they were growing up into something productive. The pair revisit the best and worst TV of the late 80s and early 90s – everything from game shows and TGIF to Oprah and cereal commercials – as they indulge their shared obsession. 

Finally, taking the notion of TV as a substitute to another level is artist David Amorosos who has celebrated the icons of 60s and 70s TV in his paintings, with his subjects including Endoro from Bewitched and the Charlie’s Angels women.

So, my question to you is this: Were you raised by TV? 

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Rosalyn Page
Journalist, blogger and writer covering arts, culture, travel and digital lifestyle at www.rosalynpage.com and www.somenotesfromabroad.com.

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