Have you ever watched regular television months or years after cutting the cord?
For someone who watches cable tv for hours per day or week, the avalanche of advertisements which interrupt every program become a sort of background noise — you may watch them, even be able to recite two or three of your favorites, but for the most part they are not consciously interacted with.
On the other hand, for someone used to getting their entertainment from Netflix or Youtube who returns to cable tv, to these advertisements, it can be like a slap in the face with a wet towel soaked in cold water.
The ads are loud and obnoxious, low-brow, even the ones trying to be serious, manipulative and intrusive. Return to these after some time away, and you may find yourself thinking, ‘wow, is this what people are ingesting day after day?’
This week I was watching soccer, or ‘football,’ as it was being called on the broadcast I had on.
I know, how unpatriotic can you be?
Actually, it’s worse than that. I wasn’t even watching soccer; I was expectant of watching, excited even, to the point I had on the pre-game analysis on British television.
The show, on which a group of pundits discuss the pressing ‘football’ issues of the day, led off with an aggressive, fast-paced theme song while words like ‘heated,’ ‘opinionated,’ and ‘decisive’ flash on the screen. Yet, as topics were introduced, the pundits repeatedly took a calm, measured approach to their responses, speaking softly and eloquently, staking out the uncontroversial middle ground and agreeing with each other on most points.
After a few minutes, I started to feel a sort of anxiety building in the pit of my stomach.
I realized it was the tension building as I waited for someone to fly off the handle, to say something wild, the kind of tension experienced in a horror movie when the hero hides from the villain under the bed — Hurry up and pop out already, would you!?!?
I’m used to American sports punditry, where two or more people sit across a table and yell at each other using the most dramatic and absolute statements they can think of — This guy is the best, or worst, of all time! This guy’s career is finished! That guy is the most arrogant human being on planet earth, the most hated, the most loved, in history! Hot takes and clickbait are the currency of the day.
Like the person watching television advertisements for the first time in a long time, watching a show with intelligent and thoughtful discussion based in reality was something of a shock to the system, literally causing my stomach to clench as hard as it might for even the greatest Game of Thrones scene.
Of course, the #HotTakeLife is not exclusive in the US to sports punditry.
They told of “Escalating Tensions” as an “Iranian cleric threatens U.S. Navy fleet,” and the “living hell” of those “forced into modern day slavery.” They spoke of how “The US is hurtling towards a financial breaking point” and how “American Nazis protested a Holocaust remembrance event.” It was “Trump divides the world” and “Media attacks Trump,” ad nauseam.
Perhaps this is why, on many issues, people are so resistant to nuance. For someone hit over the head day after day with only the most dramatic and superficial of hot takes, a thoughtful, nuanced discussion can be a literal, physical, shock to the system.