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Published:July 14th, 2008 13:40 EST
Pain and TV Programming

Pain and TV Programming

By Rex Owen Waide, Jr.

There is a thin but ever-present similarity between pain killer addiction and sitcom watching. It is a fine thread, keener than a fishing line and more beautiful than a string of silk. However small, however minutiae the comparisons may be, they are there in a big way that says a lot about our way of life in the US. First to understand the similarities, or even the condescending comparisons, you must understand the deeper evaluation of pain killers and sitcoms and why people are attracted to both.

TV Programming

As a recovering addict to pain killers and other opiate substances, I can understand the attraction that they create amongst Americans. We are one of the only, possibly the only, countries with as much as we have. On a daily basis we have clean water, private houses and/or apartment complexes, free speech, the ability to make a life that pertains to us as individuals; we have everything we can ever want and then some. As much as our standard of living is superior and grandeur--stuffed with luxuries and unnecessary possessions--it is also our individual downfall. Just like in a Spiderman comic book, With great power comes great responsibility. " I can see in also every man and woman in this country that our ever growing luxuries are straining the responsibilities that they pose. We are being bombarded with the epitome of what our mothers used to tell all of us, Take responsibility for your actions. For most of us it is becoming too much to bare.

Pain killers are a class of opioids. The effects of opioids are very direct and very appealing because of our growing list of responsibilities. Opioids give the user a sense of euphoria as it effects the limbic system, the emotion control center for the brain. For most people, like myself, opiates are consumed as pills (which are actually more synthetic nowadays) that come in a variety of concoctions and dosages that are prescribed for pain. The most notable opioids, for me and most Americans, are Vicodon and OxyContin. With their intent to alleviate physical pain, many people learn that it also takes away one`s emotional pain as it does effect the limbic system. As euphoria takes place, the user is almost like a zombie, completely impervious to their surroundings and, especially, their worries. Similar to heroin the opioids depress the hind brain where the hypothalamus resides. Appetite, thirst, respiration, circulatory, and brain activity is dulled almost like in a state of complete exhaustion, the brain is tapping out and ready to snooze. This takes away the user`s mind, and therefore takes away the worries about responsibility in their mind.

Pain killers are a way to drown out the hurt and the worry and replace it with a pseudo-euphoria. It will trick you into thinking, or more so, into not thinking. I have seen pain killers addicts stare at the television for hours upon hours. It wouldn`t matter what is on the screen because the user is completely withdrawn. Sometimes the television would be off and the scenario of staring into the screen would remain the exact same. Everything is void. You are so far into a world where there is no pain, there is no worry, there is no strain, only nothingness. Which, by in large, is what most of us want in hopes to escape the piling responsibilities we are building for ourselves. It is a way to cope. A wrong way to cope.

The last paragraph could be written, with the exception of one sentence, to explain sitcoms and America`s growing fascination with them. They are all the same and have a fair amount of humor. What they all share, even more than the slight humor and archetype characters, is the time in which they appear for your viewing pleasure. I know it is a marketing strategy to air the shows when the public is most prone to watching it. But consider the audience for a second. How many forty year old men and women truly watch sitcoms anymore? Not many by my count. By this point in their lives they have evolved and matured in a personal way. Most of them understand that news is more important than silly kids doing silly things. Now, how many teenagers and college students do you know that watch sitcoms? Hundreds, thousands, millions. We, as college students and young teenagers, cannot say they do not watch at least one sitcom throughout a given week, or even a given day. We may not be who the marketers want (or we may be, who really knows) but we are the ones who soak it up.

When was the last time that a sitcom, or any show a teenager has watched, expressed any real value to a person`s life or lifestyle? At first you would think none. Not one show--The Office, Grey Anatomy, CSI, Hogan Knows Best--can claim an effect on one`s life. So why do we sit on our asses, stare at the television, and soak up this nonsense, this dribble media? Because it takes us away. We are addicted to it. Maybe not addicted to the story or plotline, but to the thirty minutes that it takes up of our day. It gives us a time to ignore the responsibilities and live our lives through archetypical characters who mean absolutely nothing to us in reality. We don`t watch to be entertained; we watch to be able to ignore.

Much like the pain killers, the sitcoms take us to a place where we have nothing to respond to, therefore no responsibilities that stem from it. We sit there in a void dissociated from the void that we try to hide from. Also similar to the pain killers is withdrawal. Where do we go? What do we do? How do we deal with things without the pain killers? Without the sitcoms to consume our time? We have not become the consumers as much as we have become the product for these mediums of avoidance. The pills use us like toys just like the marketers use our efforts to escape our own reality as a tool to launch more shows, make more money, profit from our methods of deconstructing our reality head on.

Why is it so hard for us to understand that we are not only feeding the marketers and exploiters, but also the void that hangs over our heads while we watch these programs and consume these substances? Do we consciously realize what we are doing yet ignore the real reasons? Or, are we totally oblivious to everything, buying and consuming, viewing and swallowing? How do take control of our reality and face it without distractions and diversions? Can we in fact accomplish this? Is it possible to reverse the effects of our nation`s society, to take control of our standard of life?

Let me put it in perspective for a second. A single male in his forties works eight or nine hours a day. He has a nice car that he still pays off; his house is wonderfully furnished; his clothes are mostly new and name brand; his Internet is the fastest and most expensive; his pets get their share of his time; and he dates. He doesn`t drink, doesn`t use drugs, and can`t stand coffee. His only vice according to him is sitting in front of the television for the last three hours of his day as he watches show after show until sleep comes for him.

I can honestly state that this is a typical single male in America. He strives for it all and wants nothing less. But his responsibility, his focus, his concentration to maintain this lifestyle (which is actually the standard of living for most) are not sufficiently taken care of. In the back of his head there is an understanding that all of this is overwhelming. He may not state it in public or write it in a diary, but we all know the responsibilities will built and pile.

So my question for this whole analysis is this: what`s the difference between the habitual television viewer and the junkie on the side of the road panhandling for the next hit of junk or pills? In light of what they both accomplish, they are the exact same. One may smell better, live better, look better, have more money, have a job, have a significant other on speed dial, but they are the exact same. We as a nation do not leave people behind. When the tension rises, it rises for everyone. When the complications are shined upon, we all revert back to using a way to escape whether it be putting a pill on your tongue or holding the remote in your hand while you watch the next episode of Family Guy.