Thoughts, brought to you by Tony Soprano

Do you ever think about the how T.V. dramas are therapy for everyone?

Consider this. You’re watching your favorite show (I’m currently marathoning “The Sopranos”). Everything is fine and dandy and then someone makes a bad life choice. It’s so bad, and so obvious, that you see it coming three episodes before it happens. You yell at your T.V., you rant with your friends and family, you feel betrayed and upset by a fictional event. If you pause in that emotional moment you may feel something else.

Superiority.

You would never make that mistake/say that thing/sleep with that person. You know better. You can tell the characters why it’s a bad idea, why they were driven to that action… As viewers we can analyze everything that happens in the show. We know the characters better than we know our family or ourselves because the characters don’t lie to us. We see their actions, so even when Tony lies to Carmela we know the truth. We were there. And because we know those truths we can see why things happen. We can see an entire mob directed by one person, and it’s never the person who thinks they’re in charge.

I love seeing the cause and effect in T.V. shows. I suppose it’s partially because it makes me feel in control of my life, but it also gives me that feeling of superiority. It’s like looking back on college and seeing all the choices I made, and knowing that I won’t make those choices again. I’m smarter and more mature than that now. T.V. is like that for me. I can see all those choices the characters make, and I know I would never make them. I am better at communicating than that, I am better at relationships than that, and if I were friends with these people I could tell them they are making bad decisions.

T.V. shows become popular because they are entertaining, but also because they appeal to us. Something in the show is familiar somehow. The middle aged father who doesn’t know how to express himself to his family, the old grandmother who feels like her time is up, the mom who just wants to be appreciated and loved. These characters are familiar, but they are caricatures of real life. They are symbols of what everyone comes across in their lives. We enjoy watching them because we know them and also feel smarter.

What if we took that feeling of superiority and used it? What if we took a moment to assess why we feel smarter than those T.V. characters and use it in our own lives? Instead of “oh, I could never tell my boyfriend/wife/partner/sister/friend that”, what if we thought about why we could never say it? Maybe the things we could never say are the things that are the most important?

So the next time you want to yell at your T.V. because Meredith Grey is about to do something stupid (because let’s face it, she rarely comes out of her dark and twisty place), think about why it’s so important to you that she not do it. Maybe it’s just that you are emotionally invested in her character because the writers have been cultivating your relationship with her for several years. But think about that. Why do you care? It might tell you something interesting.

Or it might just say that you are very invested in a T.V. show. That’s an ok answer too.

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