Pop Culture

How Much Does Television Affect Your Views?

Last night, I met up with a friend who I haven’t seen in about three years. A lot has changed since 2009 when she came down from Boston to visit me in New York City; we’ve both earned our Master’s degrees and started new jobs, and she got married and is pregnant with her first child. Of course, we ended up chatting for several hours, catching up on gossip and anything else that crossed our minds. 

My friend is Mormon, and a relative of Mitt Romney (a third cousin, I believe, and I don’t even know if they’ve ever met). We started discussing what it was like for Mormons to take center stage during the presidential race, and how it seems like a lot of people really don’t know much about the religion. There are tons of Mormons in Southern California (we even have a temple that was built in the early 2000s in my town), so I grew up around Mormonism. The old stereotype holds true: some of the nicest people I have ever met are Mormons. Although I don’t agree with any of their tenets, and the whole Prop 8 debacle continues to send me into a rage, I still have fond memories of time spent with those families.

My friend told me something that I found really interesting; when people find out she’s Mormon they mention two things: they are either huge fans of Big Love or they adore Sister Wives. The strangest part of all? Most of the time they tell her that they would love to have a sister wife. Apparently, having one wife to take care of the kids, another to clean, and another to do laundry sounds appealing.  Maybe they’re just joking around, but it seems odd to me that in all of these separate incidents, the same thing was said.

Not only am I surprised that so many people want to be sister wives, but I am also surprised that the first thing that pops into their minds when they hear “Mormon” is “polygamy.” Once again, it could just be that where I am from, you hear a lot about the Mormon faith, and if you know enough Mormons, you even start to understand their special jargon. But I would think at least they’d associate Mormonism with maybe the Romney clan or not drinking alcohol or something else before they think of polygamy. But, if you watch Big Love, Sister Wives or the news, with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS popping up on occasion, I guess it makes some sense. I try to base my views on more than just what I see on television, but in some cases, literally all I know about something does come from the television. That is somewhat scary when you really think about it.

For things (like in this instance, religion), how much do you rely on television to inform your views? If, for example, you don’t know anything about Mormons, would you trust Sister Wives to give you an accurate account? When asked about it, would you hold your tongue due to lack of information, or just say what you’ve learned from these television shows?

By Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

3 replies on “How Much Does Television Affect Your Views?”

Eddie Izzard has a bit on one of his DVDs about what he calls “passive research” where you’re flipping through channels and see a program about sharks and you watch it and then you know about sharks.

If I end up really interested in the subject of my “passive research” I will go forward and more actively look into it but sometimes that program about the shark is enough.

Leave a Reply