Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Like a Deer in Headlights

I’m not the kind of person who normally veers off track – I’m fairly good at hauling myself up by my bootstraps, keeping my nose to the grindstone, setting my shoulder against a wheel and keeping it there – I suppose what I am trying to say is that I believe in Being an Agent.

But even the best of agents have their moments of weakness. I experienced mine this weekend, and had to acknowledge that I was perilously close to reaching a Point of No Return. Like they (used to) say on that ridiculous show anchored by couturiers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, I was ‘hooked, booked and cooked,’ as in ‘Nita was hooked, booked and cooked by Mukesh.’ They said that. To quote Dave Barry, ‘I swear I am not making this up.’

But this is not about HDIL Couture Week’s tantrum-throwers extraordinaire and their small screen misadventures. It is about the fact that I found myself rushing home, looking nervously at the clock, and interrupting my grandmother as she watched a Makhmalbaf movie so that I could catch the latest episode of Ugly Betty. They shot it in the Bahamas, Shakira made an appearance, and Betty and Matt got back together. But still. It was a thing to make me cringe.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to steer clear of television. I’m very suspicious of its capacity to hold people of all ages and intellectual capacities in thrall; of its ability to consume hours of our days. I tend to watch television when I am in need of something anodyne to take the edge off a particularly unpleasant or difficult train of thought.

So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I realized that I had spent the better part of the last two weeks absorbed by Kitty’s struggles with cancer, Booth’s obvious feelings for Bones, Betty’s metamorphosis into a better-dressed butterfly (don’t blame me, they lay their metaphors on fairly thick) and the worst year of Ted’s life. I’m fairly well informed about Castle’s exploits. I also watched an episode of Criminal Minds, although the gusto with which the ‘detectives’ discussed serial killing and rape ensured that that was a one-time lapse. I’d watch 24, but eight seasons down, I know it’s a zero sum game. Jack Bauer will bring down governments, defeat drone armies, lose someone he loves, and save the world. This does not mean I have watched all eight seasons of 24. I just get to hear the jokes.

Watching all of this has felt a bit like bingeing, with the only difference being that I’ve had an overdose of images, plotlines and pre-fabricated emotions. Even though I’m consuming content, and not calories, a diet seems to be in order. Having had only one other addiction – Indian style masala tea – I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. Should I taper off my intake, opt for portion control, or go cold turkey? What is the television equivalent of eating right? Does it involve watching Mad Men and HBO mini-series, in small doses? If so, what would my Sunday ‘cheat treat’ be – Laguna Beach reruns? Gossip Girl?

I’m intrigued by the fact that I am framing this conversation in terms of excess, purging and addiction. Which brings to mind the question – do we have a surplus of content in our lives, a surplus of guilt and good intentions, or both? Whatever. I’ll wait till Oprah gets back from Australia to figure this one out. Xoxo.*

 * You know you love me (fill in breathy voice).

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