Intellectually I know I watch too much television. But I’ve always rationalized that it’s okay because I’m a ravenous reader, as though they somehow cancel each other out.
Now I’m realizing an evil of TV that goes beyond the over-sedentariness of the pursuit and the inaneness of much of the content. Commercials. Not just an annoyance and a symbol of the over-consumerism in our society. No. They are pits of fear and danger that people like me with free-floating anxiety at the best of times are reactive to. You may not notice it, but these commercials will have your anxiety meter inching up and up and up.
Yes, I’ve had my flu shot, alright already! But what is the age I’m supposed to start worrying about a pneumonia shot, and is a regular pneumonia shot enough or do I need that one I think has the number 13 in it that’s extra special? And what about a shingles shot? I know a few people who’ve had shingles and they sound horrible, I get prickly and pained just thinking about it. What if I get shingles, am I the age to get the shot? How do they calculate the odds on what age to give you those things anyway; are there 50 year olds out there getting shingles but they tell you only to get the shot if you’re 60 or older?
And speaking of Big Pharma, what about all those side effects they have to publicize in their drug commercials? I know you’re supposed to just watch the pretty pictures of people driving down the road together and ignore the fine print at the bottom of the screen and the voice that drones the side effects orally and almost cheerfully, but I can’t ignore them. What if I got this disease? How could I take what is clearly the best, most state-of-the-art drug for it when the side effects range from nausea to actual cancer?!
And what if I slip in the tub and I can’t get up! I should have had Bath Fitters come out and install a walk-in shower with bars and should wear a Lifeline necklace with a button to push, right? Scary stuff!
It’s not just health scares that get you on commercials. What if a tech-savvy malicious hacker gets hold of my identity? How can I risk identity theft in this day and age? They’re advertising a service to protect my identity, should I pick up the phone and get the service? Do I need the service, should I get the service?!
Car commercials dominate the airwaves, urging consumers to ever shinier, faster, smarter, and more eco-friendly vehicles. For those of us of limited means with cars whose odometers have pushed north of 100,000 miles, though, even car commercials can be a fear trap. Should I just drive my Subaru into the ground and expect it to last another 10 years or to 250,000 miles? But then it’ll have no trade-in value. More importantly, where will my income be in another 10 years, will I be able to afford another car then? Can I afford another car now? Well, my financial adviser says no and I like to listen to her. But isn’t my income now likely to be higher than in the future as I creep (and believe me, I’m creeping as slow as I can) toward my next milestone birthday? Each shiny new car advertised (over and over and over again) taunts me; heck, a dull used car ad would taunt me at this point!
Finally, I can’t address the topic of commercials and fear-mongering without pointing a finger at local news. Their “teasers” for upcoming newscasts all too often are in the vein of “predator stalks area neighborhood tonight—more at 11!” If they really wanted to help the commercial would tell you what neighborhood then, not wait ‘til ! (Wait; is that a police helicopter circling my community with lights ablaze?)
I’ve got to spend less time watching the scary box, where between shows lurk illness, death, predators, and fear. Because clearly the main thing for vulnerable saps like me to fear is fear itself.