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The Many Roles Television has Played in my Life

Television has played the cast of many roles in the timeline of my life. As a child, television served as a shield from reality. As a teenager television served as a mentor, teaching me about the facts of life. And as an adult television has served as an informant to the world around me. I would like to begin tracing the effects television has had on my life with my earliest memory.

It was a typical school night when my siblings and I had gathered on the floor in mom and dad's room to watch TV. I was about seven at the time and we were watching Growing Pains, one of my favorite shows back then. Anyway, Kirk Cameron said something funny and I began to laugh hysterically, and somewhere lost in my laughter the word "shit" came out of my mouth. I am not sure what possessed me to say the word, nor did I know what it meant. The bottom line is that I said it and I knew that I had done something bad.

The laughter turned to silence, and the smiles changed to glares. My eyes grew big and I slapped my small hands over my mouth to prevent any other bad words from coming out. My mother began to scowl and then demanded that I tell her where I learned that word. The truth of the matter is that I had heard that word at least a thousand times out of my brother's mouth, but I couldn't tell her that. So at a loss for answers I blurted out the word "television". That was a big mistake because I was banned from watching television for one whole week. No Cosby, no Family Ties, no Facts of Life, what was I going to do with myself?

Instinctively, I began to cry because I didn't want to be punished and I thought that my mom would feel bad and not punish me. Needless to say I spent the next week reading a book in my room while my family sat around and watched television. That week was hard and as soon as I was permitted, I was in front of the television again.

As a child, television served as an escape of the commotion that was happening inside my house. When I was growing up my parents tended to argue a lot and when they didn't want me around they would tell me to go watch TV. I didn't mind though, because television served as my escape from all the commotion that was going on around me. I would gather my coloring books, take them into the family room, and plop down on the floor in front of the TV. It was there that I spent a lot of my childhood, tuning out from reality and tuning into the world of fantasy. The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and the Brady Bunch were some of my favorites. I think that I absorbed myself with these shows because life on TV seemed easy, funny, and pleasant where my life was filled with anger, frustration, and confusion.

I remember one night in particular, I was about eight years old and I was the only one home with my parents. I was watching the Cosby Show and I had to keep turning up the volume to drown out the yelling from upstairs. It was as if I was a conductor of my own orchestra and I had to drown out all the other sounds that were conflicting with my perfect harmony. The louder they yelled the more I turned up the volume and when they lowered their voices I would lower the volume on the television.

This night sticks out vividly in my head because my father hollered for me to come upstairs while I was watching the Cosby Show. I left the television on and began to make my way to the bedroom. Right before I reached the bedroom, I heard my mother crying in the bathroom. I poked my head in through the door and asked her why she was so sad. She said that everything was OK and that I should go and talk to my father.

The bedroom seemed larger that night than it ever did before. The room seemed very empty and cold; it seemed as if the furniture was very far away from me. My father was sitting on the love seat by himself. He was wearing a white T-shirt and black pants and he had a disturbed look on his face. He must have sensed that I was afraid because he told me not to be scared and to come over and sit next to him. He reached for my little hand and placed it in the palm of his hand, and told me that no matter what happened between my mother and him, he would always love me and I would always be his little girl. I didn't understand why he was telling me this, and it made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of that room; I wanted to escape from that feeling of uncertainty. As soon as my father kissed me on the forehead I left that room as quickly as my little feet would carry me. I went back downstairs and watched what remained of the Cosby Show. This made me feel better; the television always made me feel better.

When I used to think of my parent's divorce I never realized I used the television as a means of dealing with my problem. The TV served as a retreat from everyday life and exposed me to the world of make-believe. As I began to get older though, television began to take on a new role- as a teacher. I began to tune into television to learn more about myself. One topic that television introduced me to was sex.

The summer before seventh grade, I had a sleep-over with seven of my girlfriends at my house. We sat up the whole night playing truth or dare, making popcorn and watching movies. Around 1 a.m. my friend Rosie was flipping through the channels and she came upon a movie that was just about to begin. So we decided to watch it. All of a sudden the title "First Nudity Musical" flashed across the screen. All of us began to laugh because we realized that we were about to watch our first pornography.

We all sat in front of the television in anticipation of what we would see. None of us knew much about sex, or even seen a naked man before. So when the men and women started dancing across the stage wearing nothing but a bow tie and a Broadway hat, we were in shock.

That night I learned more about the human body and sex than I did the twelve years prior to this movie. We sat up the whole night laughing and talking about the "porno flick".

Before my freshman year of high school I only really watched the television for entertainment purposes. It wasn't until one night in the fall of my freshman year; I came home after tennis practice to find my family gathered around the television in the living room. Everyone was quiet and his or her eyes were glued to the television set. I had just sat down when Dan Rather made the announcement that the U.S. had declared war on Iraq. Nobody said a word; we only focused on the television.

The next day at school many people were wearing yellow ribbons and holding up signs that said Peace not War. Since I was a freshman, I liked to try new things and decided that I wanted to participate in a sit-in for peace. So I made a sign and then skipped some classes and marched down to the courthouse where we were going to protest. A few minutes after we arrived, the camera crews came and interviewed some students.

That night my brother and I watched the protest on the news together and then we started to discuss the war. He told me that if the army needed more people to go to Kuwait that he would go because he was in the reserves. I was unable to speak because the thought of my brother going to war created a huge lump in my throat. For the next few days my life revolved around the news. It was the first thing I watched in the morning and the last thing I watched before bed.

For the first time in my life I felt as if the television had gained complete control over me. Whatever the reporters told me affected me directly because my families future lay in the hands of the media. I began to depend on the television just as I had done in the past. Only this time I tuned into the television to find out what was happening in the real world around me, instead of the fantasy world that I had tuned into previously in my childhood. My brother never had to go to war, but it wasn't until that situation arose that I realized the media could take control over of you.

The next time I became immersed in the news was the summer before I went to college. My best friend was having a small party at her house when suddenly the OJ Simpson chase was being televised. Everyone gathered around the television as if we were watching Monday night football. Some people were cheering for OJ to escape while others waited anxiously for his arrest. I was glued to the television until he was arrested and even after the chase had ended I still watched in anticipation of what would happen next.

After months of hearing about the OJ Simpson case I decided to tune the media out of my life. The coverage of this case really turned me off to the media and made me realize that the media wasn't always unbiased in the stories that they covered. From watching this case coverage I learned that I must decipher for myself what to believe and what not to, because the media doesn't always tell both sides of the story accurately.

I kept away from the OJ Simpson trial until the fall of my sophomore year when the jury announced the verdict. As soon as class was over I ran home to the dorm. The corridor was completely quiet except for the sound of the reporters voice on the TV's echoing throughout the halls.

I found my friends hovered around the television in my room and I joined them on the floor. In a matter of ten seconds the room went from complete silence to utter chaos. Some people were cheering, but most were yelling back at the television.

I remember watching the DA and the Brown family respond to the verdict. Nicole Brown's sister began to break down and she hugged her father. I will always remember the expression on Nicole Brown's sister's face. This is just another example of how television has marked the timeline of my life. For me when I remember a significant time in history I usually remember it by where or what I was watching on television.

All of these events have played an important part in the framework of my life. As a child, television represented an outlet for my anger. A place where I could forget about all my problems and release myself into a land of make believes. As a teenager, television served as a mentor to teach me about life and myself. I learned that television could directly impact "my life" and not just the world around me that seemed far away. As an adult, television serves as a network that can deliver both facts and fabrication and I must decipher for myself what to believe.

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