The year was 1981 and I was 8 years old. The anticipation was almost palpable, for most everyone it seemed. MTV (Music Television) was going to change the world by bringing artists into our living rooms through music videos. Thing is, you had to have cable television service to get MTV and the available analog service at the time was expensive. It was impossible to convince my parents that cable television was a necessity, for we had survived thus far without it. As August 1 approached, I new I was going to be out of the playground social group for good; everyone else was going to see MTV launch and I would only hear about its epic awesomeness.
As the winter holiday season of 1981 approached, a miracle occurred! I was invited to my friend’s house for a slumber party, and her parents just got cable TV. Oh, how the angels sang! And I witnessed my first music video in all its splendor. It was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and I sat wide-eyed and open-mouthed as pure entertainment danced out of the TV screen. I was hooked, and so were all of my friends by the time all of us were in the vicinity of a TV with cable programming. By Christmas, my parents decided that having cable was a great idea because of HBO (Home Box Office). It was a win-win.
Up until then, I had only my imagination to go along with music I heard from the radio. I made up my own images, stories, and meanings based upon how the songs made me feel – and decided what I thought some of the songs’ lyrics were because there was no way to look them up anywhere. My relationship with music, and more specifically words, felt special… my own. However, I bought into the reasoning that seeing the actual artists perform their music with their own interpretations coming through the TV screen would be better than what I was capable of imagining. It was going to be like going to a concert in a way, and along with my Atari gaming console, life was good.
I have always had a relationship with the TV and still do. MTV was different though – it appealed to me like nothing else had, including movies and cartoons. It seemed so relevant compared to the rest of the options available to me. I continued to play outside with my friends, in part because I wanted to and in part because my parents limited my time with technology. I had a balanced mix of people time and fantasy time, with many responsibilities thrown in. Being a kid, I allowed myself to believe what I saw and heard coming from the TV. Somehow the boundary between what I truly felt in my heart and what I was “supposed to be” disappeared. I do not blame TV or MTV at all; to the contrary. I am trying to understand who I once was before it all began in order to understand who I am supposed to be now. I gave up myself, and knowing why and what I’m going to do about it is my current intent.
MTV introduced reality TV in unprecedented ways, keeping with their fresh-trendy style. I was able to see people behave in ways that I only thought occurred behind closed doors. The drama, topics of conversation, worldly locales, and highly attractive players brought us into another world, wanting us to care about what would happen next. People did care. Millions of them did, and reality TV is brasher and more popular than ever. I gave the characters on reality TV my empathy, and that seems to have been a very serious mistake. Another mistake was brushing off the way I saw them interact with each other. I assumed that once the cameras were off, they would make up and they were all really friends. The drama was a little inflated, but that’s show biz. The shallowness, deceit, and blind sides bothered me each time but I kept watching.
I feel as if the outside world has become a reality show, and I want to get voted off of the island. Seriously. Vote me off, exile me to somewhere else, just let me out of this charade. I don’t want to blind side another to achieve this, nor do I want to use trickery nor any tactics that seem shady. I just don’t belong and it’s better for everyone. It took me over forty years to realize that I became a disposable person in other’s eyes. Not everyone, just most everyone that isn’t in my circle. The reality TV stars dispose of each other all the time, and many shows are completely based upon documenting the removal of people in a malicious and embarrassing manner. I have tried to understand how others can exchange personal vulnerabilities, and sometimes intimacies, and then turn around and treat each other like garbage. No loyalty. No respect. No remorse. No self introspect. Everything disposed of nice and tidy and on to the next one. I am not capable of this and certainly am not looking to be. Thankfully things have not gotten to the point that drivers think they can just run over whoever they want. That’s still a crime, although people will do with their cars what they won’t do to you in person.
What is your purpose here? Is it to regurgitate someone’s else’s opinion or one that you heard from the TV? Is the programming with the most updated graphics and mainstream endorsement the only source of your information? Have you researched anything on your own? Are you actually free? These are the kinds of questions I am asking myself nowadays. I also need to find that girl I was before MTV and ask her what mattered, for she may be the only one that remembers. Before society told me that I had to be a certain way, I was happy making up my own definitions. And my heart has always known what is right, although my mouth and actions said otherwise. The most challenging work is unlearning what I knew without the need to replace the void right away. I think this means more walks with Buzz…