Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 8, 2022

Valuable life lessons are learned from watching television shows

By Florence Lau | May 2, 2013

Well, this is it.

End of the line.

It’s kind of weird that I’m writing my last column article for F(l)o Show after keeping up with it for so long, but ... life goes on, I suppose.

I struggled with what I wanted to write about for my last ever column.

Do I want to talk about my absolute favorite TV shows?

Do I want to give advice about which shows to avoid and which to embrace?

Or do I simply want to be nostalgic and look back on my year and a half as a TV columnist for The News-Letter?

As I thought about all the other endings coming up in my life, though, I decided to ignore all those options and go in a different, and hopefully more appropriate, direction.

Many people have asked me why I love television so much. They claim that television rots your brain, or that I’m just wasting my time or that I’m not learning anything.

Well, I don’t know about the first (though I did see a study at some point claiming that the more TV you watch, the earlier you’ll die), but I would like to beg to differ on the latter two points.

Television is a way for me to escape the stressors of real life. Sure, I could be studying for my next test or writing a paper, but sometimes we all just need to step back and take a deep breath.

When I hear the sound of the TARDIS on Doctor Who, or when I follow the prison gang into yet another confrontation with walkers on The Walking Dead, I enter another world that is not necessarily realistic (at least I hope that TWD is not a portent of the future), but that is important to me all the same.

It’s a world beyond the one I know, and adventure and angst aside, these stories make me think differently than I would for a test or paper.

And that brings me to my next point.

For all you haters who like to point out that TV is pointless because it doesn’t teach anyone anything — sorry, but you’re wrong.

First, I wouldn’t even be a psychology major or want to go into psychology research as a career if I hadn’t gotten into fiction and television.

I first became interested in understanding how people’s minds work because I wanted to understand why certain characters made the decisions that they did, both as a consumer of media and as a writer of fiction.

School aside, television does teach lessons if you look hard enough.

There’s a reason I love shows involving pseudo-families.

While they’re probably not the most realistic description of the real world, they still show that if you’re open to it, there will be people there for you, and that you can make your own family.

As someone who was awkward and always had a harder time making close friends in high school, this was something that always gave me a little hope.

I don’t exactly expect to find a group of tight-knit friends to go drinking at a bar with every night like the gang in “How I Met Your Mother,” but hey, if someone as annoying as Ted can have close friends, how hard can it really be, right? (Okay, not really, but you get my point. And I guess Ted isn’t always that bad.)

Or take a look at redemption arcs.

Something I’m very interested in possibly studying in grad school is violence and crime.

Obviously, I’m not so naïve to believe that everyone who does something evil can be redeemed.

But, looking at redemption arcs on television reminds me that everyone has a past and a story that makes up the present.  This encourages me to try and uncover that story to figure out the “trigger” which led to the violent act.

If I can do that, then maybe I can work with others in creating social policies to prevent such a trigger in another individual.

So yes, television is partially what gives me passion for the work and changes I want to effect in the real world.

Tell me that isn’t a freaking huge influence. Tell me that television isn’t important.

There are obviously shows that I hold nearest and dearest in my heart: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Doctor Who,” Castle.” “What do any of these shows have in common?” you might ask.

With the odd assortment of vampires, space cowboys, time travel and aliens, and writers who want to be cops, is there a common link between them?

These are the ones that touch me, whether with the words or the acting or the overall storyline.

Buffy teaches me that being brave means having the courage to live in a not-so-perfect world. Firefly not only had some of the best one-liners in modern television, but also says that sometimes, you have to take a stand for what you truly believe in.

Doctor Who shows me the beauty of the world and of the people who live in it. Castle reminds me that there’s always joy if I’m willing to open my eyes to it.

And all four of them stimulate creativity and inspire me to write more of my own fiction.

After all this, if you still tell me that TV is not important and that it doesn’t teach anything, I’ll laugh. (No offense.)

As I head to New York City in the fall, I’ll carry what I learned from Hopkins, but also what I learned from the fictional characters whom I love.

I will find new prospects, press ahead despite maybe not wanting to get out of bed, and take advantage of all my opportunities to study and do what I love and what I’m passionate about.

And most importantly, in the famous words of Captain Malcolm Reynolds, I aim to misbehave.

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