The car in front of me had an agenda–a bumper sticker I had to read because the light was red: KILL YOUR TELEVISION
I don’t have a problem with television. Or I don’t have the same problem with television as most people do–a waste of time or too much sex or violence. My concern is that television is such a powerful storytelling medium it can replace the real storytellers–our own families.
I was in the third grade when television made it to my part of rural Idaho. My grandparents bought a set as soon as we knew TV was coming. For weeks I watched the screen with fascinated anticipation when the only thing being broadcast was a test pattern for three hours a day.
Of course, as soon as the local station was up and running, I did what everyone my age did. I ran in from school, flopped down on the floor and watched TV westerns. The power of that visual medium was such that I began to think of the American West the way it was being presented on TV—a place of strong men and few women. Never mind that I was growing up on a working ranch that included horses, dogs, sheep, cattle, and three generations of women who had run that place from its beginning. What’s more, this wasn’t ancient history for me. I knew all these women, even my great-grandmother, but the reality, outside my back door, was so different from what was coming in on the television set that I didn’t connect the two. I didn’t assume that they were supposed to be the same.
Our stories are important because they’re “ours.” If we don’t keep telling them, we might find ourselves without stories, just television.