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People on television are not real


At some point in the future, we will be near the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, home of a dog shelter called Villalobos Rescue Center,  which is the subject of the “reality” television show Pit Bulls and Parolees. Darling wife likes to watch that show. I sometimes watch it when I have nothing else to do. It’s not quite as brain-killing as most “reality” television is.

Darling wife toyed with the idea of visiting the rescue center, because she enjoys the television show about it. But after she read their “Visiting Villalobos” page, and read about all the problems they’ve had with gate-crashers trying to get autographs from staff and dropping off their unwanted dogs without making prior arrangements, she thought twice. If Villalobos is so inundated by stupid people, we certainly don’t need to add to their misery.

I think the problem Villalobos faces with stupid visitors lies in the problem of “reality” television. Viewers watch these people on television every day, and begin to believe that they, the viewer, have a relationship with the people they see on television. The viewers think they know so much about the actors’ lives, that the viewers think they have a relationship with those actors, and the viewers think that they can just drop in and treat the actors like the friends the viewers believe them to be.

Only they’re not friends. There is no relationship. The actors are merely patterns of electrons on a television screen, unaware of and uninvolved with the millions of viewers who watch those patterns, who learn and remember their “stories.” And as a result, the actors have to set very stiff boundaries with the multitudes of stupid viewers who accost the actors in real life.

I take the opposite view. Rather than believing that I have a relationship with the people I see on television, I think those actors, those patterns of electrons on the television screen, aren’t “real” people at all. I have no relationship with them. Of course I know the actors are living, breathing organisms with their own lives and their own destinies. But what viewers see on television is definitely not the actor or the actor’s life, and it’s not “reality.” That’s why I am never sad when an actor dies in real life. They’re not “real” to me. Do you feel sad if you read the obituary of a person you’ve never heard of? Of course not. You don’t care. I don’t care either, even if I have heard of them. And I don’t care about the people I see on television. I don’t know them, and they’re not real. They’re just patterns of electrons on a screen.

So, in short, we’re not going to visit Villalobos Rescue Center.

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