Snobbish Pretention – A Double-Standard


If someone you are talking to says, proudly, that they don’t read, what is your reaction to them? If you’re like me, it’s a feeling of slight revulsion, a bit of pity, and a smug sense that they’re deliberately ignorant. If they tell you that they do read, but it’s only things like Twilight and The Hunger Games, then you might say to yourself, “Well, what they are reading sucks balls, but at least they’re reading something!”

Now consider that you’re talking with someone else who says, proudly, that they don’t watch TV. What is your reaction then? I’m willing to bet that in the case of many people, they’ll nod, and start talking about what a vast, cultural wasteland television is. If someone says that they do watch TV, but they only watch shows like Here Comes Honey Boo-boo, then I’m willing to bet your reaction will be even more negative. Possibly with phrases like “junk food for the brain”.

Why do we have this double-standard? Surely if someone who never reads is “inferior” on an intellectual level, then so is someone who never watches TV, yes? By that same token, if all someone reads is crap novels, then they must be every bit as “bad” as someone who watches nothing but badly-done reality TV, right?

But for some reason we as a culture generally regard the person who doesn’t watch any TV as being morally superior. Why? Sure, there’s a lot of bad TV out there, but there’s also things like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and others. TV as a viable entertainment media is less than seventy years old, and is just now really hitting its stride. We’re in a golden age of television, and walling yourself off from it by pretending all TV is crap is just pretentious stupidity and likely makes you out to be a smug, hipster asshole.

By that same token, it you only read bad novels, that doesn’t say anything good about you. I would rather someone not read than have them read nothing but badly written books. I have far less respect for someone who reads bad books than I do for someone who watches good TV.

And that’s the point, really. It doesn’t matter what medium you use for your information or entertainment. It can be TV, books, radio, music, movies, whatever. The only thing that matters is the content. If you’re listening to bad music, watching only movies made by Michael Bay, listening to nothing but overly-political talk radio or the like, then you are every bit as “bad” as someone who watches nothing but reality TV or reads only books like Twilight.

You have to make a choice when you’re ingesting cultural goods. Choose the stuff that entertains, informs, and is well-crafted. Don’t limit yourself to the simple and easy, and don’t wall yourself off from an entire medium of entertainment.

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Posted in General. Tags: , , . 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Snobbish Pretention – A Double-Standard”

  1. cmsgardnerblog Says:

    Not sure I totally agree but I get your point. I do think that reading crap at least, hopefully, helps the reader learn to string a sentence together. It also forces you to use your own imagination while TV is fantastic for veg-ing out.

    • Chris Says:

      But the best TV also does that. People can watch something like Mad Men and imagine what life was like back in the 1960s, just as they could be reading a book. Books can also be fantastic for vegging-out. I mean, have you read The Hunger Games?

  2. Zach Sheffler Says:

    This is one of my pet peeves, too. The idea that reading by its own virtue is somehow intellectually superior is dumb. Consider that the current #1 Book on Amazon is by Rush Limbaugh in Mary-Sue time travel adventure where he meets the pilgrims. (This is not made up: http://goo.gl/ui1veL )

    There’s bad TV, and there are bad movies and video games. But the volume of utter crap that comes out in book form is orders of magnitude larger than all three. Is reading one of the 12 books James Patterson is putting out this year more admirable than watching Frontline?

  3. A. Michael Schwarz Says:

    I must say, you made me at least do a double take on my fixed opinion about TV. So, the content proviso is a strong argument. However, I shall say this here and now on my soap box that I am constructing on your blog, if only in a make shift pattern. I believe a lot of this boils down to one word: literacy. Or more to the point illiteracy.

    I have this experience. Whenever I am talking to a stranger and getting along with them, meaning finding substance in what they have to say, I do this little trick, I ask them if they read. They always tell me yes, those types and then I say to myself, see, I knew it.

    That doesn’t mean anything by itself, but I do believe reading gives you more depth. Look at this way, rarely is the movie as detailed as the book. It can’t be. So that’s my argument, more depth, deeper understanding, literacy.


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