Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Call Me a Luddite

I had a new experience this past weekend, with a portable DVD player, of all things. Mind you, I’ve seen them before from a distance, in other peoples’ vehicles, and always found them very distracting. Especially at night. Especially when they are mounted up high in the vehicle, right by the rearview mirror. The glare those screens produce on a dark night can be virtually blinding. And if they effect me, the driver of a separate vehicle, so acutely, I am pretty suspicious about the impact they have on the attention and focus of the driver of said vehicle. I know some people favor them to stupefy their children during car rides, but I don’t have kids, so can’t appreciate even that dubious boon. OK… we might detect a wee bit of bias here.

Flashback to Friday. We are three hours into a six hour drive, heading up the northway. The scenery is spectacular, everyone jumping over themselves to point out another scarlet hillside, another rocky outcrop, another pristine lake, another funny sign. Conversation is buzzing. We make a pit stop at a fast food restaurant, get a snack of french fries. When we hit the road once again, T gets out the portable DVD player and starts up a movie. Based on my preexisting notions regarding these things, I immediately feel a little bristly, a little bitter. All of a sudden, I have to keep quiet so as not to drown out the movie; all human conversations cease.

The sun was still shining; I wanted to continue enjoying the beautiful scenery. I vowed to myself that I would ignore the damn thing, and carry on with my delight; it would just be a solo experience instead of a group one. But the problem is, I am terrible at ignoring a TV screen: it's the main reason I am so ambivalent about them. It is always a companion that initiates viewings. I do enjoy certain shows, but hate watching the crippety-crap that comprises the majority of all programming. I hate how watching TV is such a passive activity. I hate how I turn into a vacant minded slack jawed drone.

Of course, I inadvertently got sucked into the movie, American History X, which I had never seen before. The movie is profoundly disturbing, featuring racism and violence, tragedy and redemption. Overall, a quality film, although unpleasant to the utmost degree. When it was over, D made a comment about how depressing it was, and T defended herself, saying that’s why she couldn’t watch it at home (they have two small children). And I understand that sentiment: it’s definitely not imagery you would want a toddler waking from a nightmare to stumble upon whilst seeking parental reassurances.

So even though I liked the film, I don’t think the experience changed my perspective of the technology significantly. I guess it’s cool that such things exist, because apparently much of the world enjoys them. But me? Not so much.


Erin said...

Good grief, what a way to ruin the scenic vistas!

And that isn't exactly light entertainment. Oof.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I highly agree that watching TV when there is good fall color is some sort of blasphemy. Fall color is so ephemeral. I think watching TV when you have company or with companions is gauche under any circumstances. That's what conversation is for.

On the other hand, if EVERYONE wanted to see a particular movie and it was nighttime--well maybe, if you were all talked out. But what abotu the poor driver?