Marketing / Mis-match

“Poor people have big TVs. Rich people have big libraries” and other dumb stuff people who claim not to watch TV say…

It is a scientific fact, or at least it will be by the end of the week, that our tolerance for ‘terrible’ TV increases the more and more ill that we feel.

Illness is not a time to catch up on harrowing dramas in which there are a lot of drug addled clubbing scenes, often filmed on Go-Pros, cut with shots of people crying in the shower. It is, at first, a time for fever-induced hallucinations and then, as I discovered to my eventual delight, a time for Four In A Bed.

For the uninitiated, Four In A Bed sees four pairs of B&B owners travel around the country visiting each other’s B&Bs. Once there, they rate the B&B out of 10 for things like cleanliness, quality of sleep, breakfast etc and then awkwardly handover an envelope of cash to the B&B’s owner – the amount of cash that it contains being how much they think their stay was worth. In short, it’s Come Dine With Me for B&Bs and it is truly fantastic television.

There really is nothing as truly delicious as seeing the look on the face of a stuck up old cow, who has recently lorded it around the B&B of a well meaning couple from Blackpool, when she is presented with a greying shoe that said well meaning couple found under the bed in one of her hotel rooms.

But there are poopers at every party and no sooner had I spluttered and hacked my disbelief at a B&B owner from Surrey who nearly dislocated his shoulder trying to see if behind a radiator was dust free did my ultimate nemesis pop up on my Facebook feed.

Ah, the Television Denier. They’re everywhere.

The person in question was talking about Brexit, of course, and was very keen to stress that he never watches TV; that he doesn’t even own a TV.

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Couple. Of. Things.

First up, not owning a TV does not mean that you don’t watch TV. Please refer to everyone who’s been a student since 2009. Also, Netflix.

Technicalities aside, if we could harness the energy that people who don’t watch TV put into telling us that they don’t watch TV then we could all leave the big light on and have every appliance on standby forever and not have to give it a second thought.

Considering why people who don’t watch TV irk me so much, I came to the conclusion that it’s nothing to do with the actual watching/not watching of TV. If you don’t find that anything that’s broadcast on TV (or any other pseudo-form of it) relevant to your personal interests then that is fine by me, but it’s the moral implication that TV Deniers seem desperate to attach to their not watching of TV that really bothers me.

There are the people who say that they’re too busy to watch TV. Sure.

(Sidenote, if someone had told me that adulthood was just one long pissing competition about who’s the most busy then I’m not sure I would’ve signed on for it, if I’m quite honest with you.)

Then there are the people who are loud and proud about their shunning of TV, as if it automatically implies that their time not watching TV is time that is spent productively. It isn’t.

Then, perhaps worst of all, there are the people who see themselves as elevated for not engaging in the trivial pastimes of the unwashed, stinking masses.

The worst thing that I have ever done in exchange for money was repeatedly writing, editing and being with a 30km radius of the following quote;

“Poor people have big televisions. Rich people have big libraries.”

no

Please, grab your pitchforks, carry me through the streets and burn me at the stake.

I used to work in an environment in which this was spouted as though it was a proverb, engraved on the wall of a cave somewhere; crude drawings of round-bellied, unkempt stick people staring at a box, whilst a muscular stick next to them is seen reading a book and sitting on a throne. It’s not a proverb, obviously. Given the age of the television set, I doubt that it even officially qualifies as a ‘saying’.

It’s actually a quote by Jim Rohn and it is so stupid and so wrong that it makes me want to scream into a pillow for several hours. (Please don’t email me telling me that actually Jim Rohn’s life is very much a rags to riches story. I know, I’ve read the books; I still think that particular collection of words is incredibly dumb.)

Firstly, the very clear assumption that is being made here about what poor* (* I’m going to use ‘poor’ a bit from now on. It’s an uncomfortable word sometimes, but as a former poor person, I feel as though to not use it is to suggest that it is too uncomfortable for us to acknowledge that there are people who are really, really struggling financially and I don’t think that will help anything) people watch and what rich people read is quite staggering. That it’s their choices that keep them poor and nothing more complicated than that; which is obviously completely incorrect.

Also, maybe poor people don’t require in-house libraries (?!) because they have been made to feel like reading isn’t meant for them by assumptions that keep very much in line with Jim Rohn’s. Isn’t it possible that no one ever took the time to find them books and stories that speak to them, immediately writing them off, and as a result that assumption has settled into a belief somewhere within their own heads?

This quote very much echoes the same sentiment that’s puffed out into the world when moronic people who have a minute understanding of almost everything sayIf you go to a council estate [as if it’s a living museum, and not people’s actual home] They’ve all got Sky satellites on the side of their houses!”, so often said in order to imply that said satellite dishes are all paid for with food that parents all too willingly rip from their children’s mouths. It hints at the belief that poor people should be punished; that it’s their fault that they’re poor and that no entertainment or joy must enter their life until they bloody well buck their ideas up.

Not having a satellite does not mean that you don’t have a TV; it means that you have to get permission to have one from a board of your neighbours and you can’t be bothered with the admin, so you buy a Firestick instead.

Also, the thing about TV is that it’s actually quite cheap. It’s much cheaper than any of the hobbies I asked to take part in as a child and it’s certainly much cheaper than faffing about with craft supplies and musical instruments and trips to Build-A-Bear and indoor water parks. Certainly cheaper than the rock-climbing wall that one TV Denier that I happened upon rented for her children to use for an entire summer.

Despite both of my parents working full time as I grew up, we were perpetually broke. Because childcare was, and is, more expensive than most super cars my sister and I spent any school holiday with our grandparents; they’d take us to local tourist attractions, Stratford Upon Avon and the Black Country Living Museum (great fish and chips there, by the way), but that occupies approximately 1% of the 6 weeks holiday, so we’d often spend whole days in their living room, enjoying a comforting menu of This Morning, Loose Women, Neighbours, Columbo/Murder She Wrote, Pet Rescue/A Place In The Sun and then a lovely ‘nan tea’, usually involving potato croquettes.

Do you know how much knowledge you can piece together from that line up?

About 80% of my knowledge, that’s how much.

Why is knowledge that is read seen as more valuable than knowledge that is watched, or listened to?

Is it because reading is seen as being not as fun? It requires a tiny bit of self-discipline, if you don’t feel like you naturally enjoy it, and it’s often done in quiet, but how does that make it more worthwhile or valuable than watching a two hour documentary? Or a lightning quick sitcom?

Not everything that we do has to consciously contribute to a long, hard slog of a drive towards becoming ‘better’.

Surely it is stories, in whatever form, that help us to develop? Stories enrich us, inspire us, uplift us, comfort us, worry us, hurt us, anger us and, as a result, better us. Does it matter where the story comes from? What if poor people are watching information that’s been lifted straight from a book in Jim Rohn’s library? Does that make the learning any less valuable? Not everything has to deliberately teach us and make us feel as though we are being taught.

Stories are like sand – they get everywhere, often despite our best efforts, and I can’t see increased exposure to stories, whether it’s through TV or books or podcasts, as being anything less than positive.

And now, returning to our original TV Denier, the one at the start of this tale; a few days later I saw him share a quote from popular BBC crime-drama Luther.

And that’s the important thing to remember about TV Deniers – however unbearable, they are usually liars.

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