A Reprint

June 16, 2014 in Blog

I was looking through older stuff today and re-read this. It was nothing huge and I felt it was only written to get a grade,  but it seems like maybe it was more than that. It has nothing to do with computers or programming but it’s a kind of ‘if you’re bored’ thing.

Television and the Route to Beautiful

 

What is beautiful and what do I have to do to be beautiful?  Everyone asks this or a similar question of themselves at one time or another.  The television has become so powerful an advertising media that I believe it has come to define beauty in America.  It shows us examples of beauty constantly in the shows we watch.  It can set fads in motion, make a song popular, it can even make a new style take off.  It can show us the wonder of an untouched landscape, or the beauty of a working relationship.  When its time for the commercials, it can even help us to achieve our personal beauty in the way we look, how healthy we are in terms of fitness, how happy we are (because a beautiful person is a happy person, after all)  and how we should maintain our vision of perfection.  The television has become so deep a part of our lives that I think at times people confuse it for reality.  After all it must be true, I saw it on TV!

One evening in front of my TV

            It was around nine in the evening when I found out I was fat, depressed, and ugly.  I was watching “Family Guy” on the Fox network, it was a sunday night, and the commercial break had just begun.  First, I watched a “before and after” shot of an incredibly fat guy who miraculously lost 80 pounds playing with some crazy looking body building machine. Then I was privy to a well produced shot of that machine, an ugly contraption that looks like a big black spider with little flexible black tentacles just ready to grab my fat ass and make me work!  The ad tells me that in just twenty minutes a day this thing will transform me into a toned and muscled version of myself, my own perfection in just 140 minutes a week.  I wasn’t aware that I was so out of shape,  so I looked in the mirror and I saw that, yes, I have a few (more than a few) extra pounds to work off.  I guess all the free food and absolutely no place to work out during my recent life as an “at sea performer” paid in more than just money, I took home a bunch of free pounds on my butt as well!

 

I sat back down just in time to witness a dreamy looking scene with a woman staring out her living room window into a rainy, dreary day. She looked so depressed I almost wanted to go and give her a hug.  The prescription drug company that made the ad has a better idea though, they can do what a hug cannot. They can’t cure you, no, but they can make you feel happy and self confident too.  When the woman in the ad takes the pill, she becomes so happy the sun comes out for her!  She goes from a depressing day staring at the rain to a bright and sunny day having a wonderful picnic with her whole family.  To achieve this result apparently all you need to do is submit yourself to a life long addiction to a new miracle pill that can make everything all better. Surely no hug can do that!

 

I watch the list of symptoms scroll down my screen and find out that I am not only

fat, I’m also depressed too!  If I go to my doctor and tell him all about it, not forgetting of course to tell the doctor that I already know which particular drug I want to take, then I will be all set and happy as a clam.  They also mention in the fine print and a very quickly spoken disclaimer at the end of the ad that there are side effects that go along with this route to my happiness. Not only will I be happy as a clam, I just might be as mobile as a clam, and just about as smart. The list includes aches and pains pretty much everywhere, headaches, sleeplessness, a possible rise in blood pressure, and many other fun sounding painful activities. I can’t remember them all, but at the same time, I can’t remember any side effect that I liked either.

 

At this point I’m feeling pretty down about myself, it can’t get any worse.  In under five minutes I have found out that I am overweight as well as clinically depressed. Getting from there to ugly, well I admit, the television didn’t do that, I drew my own conclusion based on my weight and obvious depression.  After all, how can someone be fat, sad and beautiful? I’ve certainly never seen that combination in any magazine or television ad.  Well, I figure if I take a pill and fight a spider maybe I will not be ugly when I am cured.

 

Unfortunately the television isn’t done with me yet, In the next ad I find that I have another problem!  Just before my program resumed I had the absolute honor of listening to a beautiful woman tell her friends how happy she is that her husband is taking “that pill.”  Oh no!  Now they’ve gone and done it, now I am not only fat, depressed and ugly, now on top of that my (you know what) isn’t big enough!  I need to achieve and maintain yet another addiction that will do what God could not, make me a porn industry hero, not to mention a depository for widely varied female DNA if I get my way once I become a tripod!  With that much sex comes another demon though, one that is so evil people shudder to think about it, the dreaded sexually transmitted disease.  Not to worry my fine friend, there’s a pill for that too, and once I take it, I’ll be all smiles. If the ads are any indication I’ll be mountain climbing and white water rafting and doing all those fun things that people who take Valtrex apparently do.

 

My program resumes but I don’t really enjoy it very much. I was laughing and having a great time during the first fifteen minutes, but now my mind is elsewhere.  I am watching, but at the same time I am wondering if the claims are true, and if I really need to do any of these things. Am I too fat to just bike a little and watch what I eat?  If I do that will my mood improve, along with the way I feel about myself?  What it comes down to is this.  If I look better I will feel better and in the end I will live a happier life.  This fact is not in dispute, I have already lived in many ways, looking very different in each one.  I have been too skinny, too fat, and just right at one time or another.  From my own experience I can state that the happiest time in my life was when I looked and felt good, and they absolutely did go together.  So the question is, do I need help to achieve these goals?  I did it on my own the last time I improved myself, but I am older now, what a pickle I have found myself in!  I haven’t even mentioned the things I can’t fix.  Would I want to subject myself to whatever side effects come with a pill that makes you bigger?  Is that good for me (probably not, but I’m no doctor) or even safe?  Do I need to be bigger?  What is big, how do you define what is right for you?  All this in five minutes between segments of a thirty minute cartoon.

 

When I go out and see the advertising everywhere, I am constantly reminded of how lacking I am and how I need to change.  Everywhere I look there is an example of what I should look and feel like.  On a bus ad, a park bench, a newspaper, a magazine,

and the internet, which takes it to another level.  It seems that the internet, being less regulated is a great place to view ads that make me blush at the top of my browser screen, and even e-mail. My private address gets so many ads that filters have to be built into my mail program to separate the “spam” and “junk” from e-mails that I really need to read, there are that many, and most of them contain nudity.  If they could do it on radio, I’m sure they would, but they’ll have to stick to verbal descriptions there, although with my imagination, I might be better off with the visual ads!

 

Defining Beauty on Television

 

Before I set out on a grand end expensive adventure to drop pounds, add muscle, and cheer up, I am going to take a moment to try and define beauty.  Recently I found that I had never given the subject much thought at all.  If someone asked me what beauty is, I would probably have pointed to an anorexic girl who probably just puked up her lunch and can share her sweater with her cat and say ”she is.”   It’s not as simple as that though, is it?  Why do I think she’s beautiful?  After contemplating the pre-chewed meal she just left for some sewer dwelling rodent and her well defined rib cage, she doesn’t look quite as appealing as she did at first glance.  Why did I choose her to point at, or even to discuss here in this essay?

The simple truth is that I have become so accustomed to the ads I see on the television that they have influenced me greatly.  I pride myself on being an individual who has lived my life my own way up to this point.  I wanted to be a performer, so I learned to play the piano and keyboard and sing.  I wanted to travel the world, so I changed my full time land gigs for a life playing in the bars on huge cruise ships.  I wanted to change and finish the degree I started and I am doing that too.  I am making all sorts of free choices and have done very well with those choices along the way.  Why, then do I feel as if I have been so influenced by these apparently harmless, although annoying ads that I mostly ignore?  Perhaps the repeated viewing of them causes me to sub-consciously accept their wild claims.  I know that my logical side knows ads for what they are when I think about them.  They must be wild exaggerations at best, at worse they appear to be outright lies.  How much then do these ads affect me in ways I don’t consciously consider?  Does watching something repeatedly for an extended period of time influence me even though I know better than to be influenced?

The possibility worries me when I think about it.

 

What is beauty anyway?  Is it just a popular opinion? If more than one person thinks something is beautiful, is it?  What if another person does not?  Obviously it can be in what we see, be it a person, and animal, a building, a landscape, or just about anything we find appealing.  It can also be a piece of music, a car, a work of art, even an idea.  This being the case, why then does it seem so narrow a subject when I am watching television ads?  How exactly is beauty defined on television?  The best answer I can give is that on television, beauty is physical perfection.  A good looking person is a skinny person who is not too tall or too fat, speaks well and appears happy and healthy.  It seems they have a working business model to show us these gods in the flesh during programs and then hock products to us to help us be like the people we watch during commercials.

 

 

 

Defining beauty for me

 

The best way to state what beauty is for me is this: Beauty is what catches my attention and makes me appreciate life.  There is no exact definition, it is different for everyone.  I don’t believe that any solid definition can exist for something that depends so much on how we perceive the world around us.  If it were an easy question, I’d be easily able to answer it!  Why do I focus on the television then?  Because the television is where much of the population draws it’s conclusion on how they perceive the world around them.  For some people, it simply is the world around them.  There is no doubt that it influences all of us to some degree.  It can be the authority on what is cool in American society for the bulk of our younger generations.  It is a powerful medium and often has a far reaching influence on our population.

 

My problem with the TV ads

 

My problem with all this is one of responsibility in advertising.  I don’t believe it is morally right for advertisers to purposely influence our ideas about ourselves.  As far as being fit goes, I can find no fault with that in itself.  But I do find fault in using questionable products to achieve that goal. I find ethical problems with the implication that you can become healthier by calling “Jenny Craig” or by eating only “Subway” sandwiches, they may not say it, but they are implying that if you follow and buy their products, you will lose weight and look better.  Only one of the two businesses I mentioned is even a weight loss company.  One is just a sandwich shop, and nothing more.

 

I find the most serious problem to be in the prescription drug advertisements.  These ads promise anything from mental happiness and stable moods to weight control and memory improvement.  I firmly believe that recommending a controlled substance should be solely in the hands of our medical professionals and nobody else.  We’ve all heard the dreadful side effects of these products at the end of drug advertisements, shouldn’t a doctor decide which is best, if any for his or her patient?  Should competing drug companies be giving us this information at all?  After all, there is a reason it takes so long to become a doctor.  I don’t think that a 30 second video can give us all we need to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing a drug that can harm us just as easily as it can help us.

 

I remember when it was illegal to advertise any controlled substance aside from alcohol on the television, and I miss those days!  The laws have changed dramatically since then, right now, direct to consumer drug ads are only legal in two countries, the United Stated of America and New Zealand.  In no other country is it legal for direct to consumer ads from drug manufacturers to appear in any medium whatsoever.  I am beginning to become jealous of any nation that can sit down in front of their television without being bombarded with “Smiling Bob” and “Extenz” ads that offer us pills to “enhance that special part of the male body.”  These ads make me sick to my stomach and sorry to say that I actually pay for cable.

 

It also saddens me to see so many drug companies offering to cure depression.  Mental health may be the hardest to diagnose, it truly is something that should be in the hands of psychiatrists and psychologists, not the depressed individual themselves.  These ads place emphasis on unhappiness or depression being the result of a sickness or disease.  Everyone is occasionally unhappy or depressed, this is only natural. The way in which many of these ads are worded can make the normal seem to be abnormal and cause people to treat themselves where it is not necessary.  There is speculation in some cases that problems can be caused by the drug itself.  In other words, becoming dependent on a substance can exacerbate the problem and make it worse.

 

The route to beautiful

 

The route to beautiful for a person is in my opinion the same route taken to achieve happiness.  I have found in my life so far that three things are required to be truly a happy person.  The first is confidence in myself.  I must believe that I am a good person, that I am not an ugly person, or in some way undeserving.  The second is love and friendship.  I must have healthy friendships to better see myself and to have the opportunity to discuss my ideas with others.  I must have love to feel needed and important, this could be the love of another person, or even a pet.  Lastly, I must have achievement.  I must be doing something to move forward in my life, be it school or improving my musical abilities, or my physical fitness, I’ve never been happy sitting still.

 

Once happiness as a regular state of mind is achieved, I find it easier to appreciate beauty in everything around me.  I find myself less influenced by outside factors the more I am sure of my inside self.  I also find myself questioning how I am perceived by others less often.  In myself, the route to beauty is one and the same with the route to happy.  I have been there before, lost it, and found it again.  I will do my best to stay here this time, and not allow outside influences to sway me again.