Cultural Television · 8 May 2009

The words “cultural” and “ television” do not really belong in the same sentence. I would even go so far as to say that “cultural television” is an oxymoron. Even so, my wife, The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, and I have been trying to give our younger sons a taste of cultural television. That is, we have been subjecting our children to TV shows from when we were kids.

The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi started this cultural revolution when she brought home “The Flintstones” from the library. It was the first season of the animated series. The episodes were so old that I do not remember seeing some of them before. The kids enjoyed most of the shows but the DVDs were not on the “must see” list. Neither “The Jetsons” nor “Jonny Quest” (one of my favorites) made the list either. Not only did they not need to see the shows over and over, they did not even watch all of the episodes of any of the shows.

For Thing 2 and Thing 3, the “must see” list seems to be composed of cartoons with ties to trading/playing card or video games. It seems that they can sit and watch Pokémon movies all day long. At least when they are not actively engaged in one of their Pokémon games. I guess it makes sense. I liked “Jonny Quest” because I thought it would be cool to have adventures around the world with bad guys take pot shots at me. My kids like Pokémon and cartoons tied to video games and trading cards because those are the things that they love.

While The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi’s and my efforts to bring a little television culture into the lives of our children have mostly been in vain, we have made a small inroad with our children. They all like Star Trek. They like to gather ‘round the TV and put the almost obsolete VHS tapes into the player to see Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, and the whole Enterprise crew “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The kids love to see what alien races will show up and what challenges will unfold for the miniskirt and bellbottom clad crew. They marvel at the phasers and photon torpedoes but do not really think that the communicators are so novel. And they have no idea that the show was innovative in more ways than one. (They do not know that the first televised interracial kiss was on Star Trek. Or that the creator, Gene Roddenberry, “invented” beaming because he did not know how to land the Enterprise.) After all, the kids do not need cultural reasons to like the stories and the characters who lived them.

While the small doses of cultural television that we have given our kids may not have made much difference in their lives, I think that they would probably like to see what Kirk was like in his youth. And while they really do enjoy Star Trek, they are definitely not as excited about the newest movie as The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi is. (She wants to see it opening day.) But I digress.

In reality, I am not that enamored with television but I must admit that there really is some cultural value to it. I do not much care for the fact that my kids like cartoons tied to video games and trading cards, but that seems to be the norm these days. However, I am extremely grateful that the kids like Star Trek. And I am even more grateful that the greeting, “Live long and prosper” has stuck but “Nanoo nanoo” did not. Maybe culture and television are not always oxymoronic.

© 2009 Michael T. Miyoshi

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