There have been a number of television shows—The Simpsons primary among them—that instead of castigating the media-raised generation, celebrate it. As I watch the younger, internet-raised generation, I realize that we were the kids raised on television. Before the fifties and sixties televisions were too expensive to reach into every home. Although we were poor, we managed to scrape and scrounge enough to buy a color television by the time I was an early teen (what’s now technically a tween). And even before that I had a television habit. Dark Shadows, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and the list could go on and on. Since neither of my parents finished high school, we used television as a window into the wider, more educated world.
As an adult I’ve moved beyond that academic stage of being embarrassed about being raised on television. I’m inclined now to embrace it. It was forming me long before I started reading and these days I prefer reading to television, which I practically never watch. Still, I have a great appreciation for its formative influence. How else are you supposed to learn about the world when you’re poor and uneducated? Dark Shadows taught me about vampires. The Twilight Zone made me appreciate the strangeness of life. Star Trek awoke wonder about space. Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart taught me to laugh in tough times. The Partridge Family taught me about music and the Brady Bunch prepared me for Zoom.
For many years I’ve tried to put this behind me as a cause of shame. I was an academic. A book-learner. That way of life, however, shouldn’t deny what has made us who we are. While following the new rendition of Sleepy Hollow in television format, I came to realize that there was a new direction to go. Religion in horror had been lurking in the background for many years, even before my career malfunction. To deny it was to deny the same academic pretentiousness that has refused me a place. Media can hold meaning for us. There’s no replacing those younger years in front of the tube, the intravenous meaning that successful writers and media producers of the sixties and seventies were giving us. When you don’t have the free time for research, you can still access what childhood taught you in the first place. And perhaps, if you’re lucky, move it forward.