I’m just settling down now after a nice family Christmas, highlights being a nice fat goose and the family coming down from Scotland (not necessarily in that order). It was quiet, family orientated and secular, and it was great. Like a Dawkins Christmas, we had carols (as well as a particularly ‘good’ duet between me and my brother, in which I enjoyed calling him a faggot as he called me a slut, see below), lots of food and family games. If I mention this particular game, played on Boxing day, I tend to have my family abused and likened to Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’ so I’ll go into no detail, but friends may see the lists on my facebook page.
But a real feature of this, and most good Christmasses, has been the telly. It doesn’t feature in the sentimental descriptions of how families spend Christmas, and no doubt some would say we should have been going to Church, or eBaying our presents in a good cause depending on your school of thought. But we didn’t do either of those things. We watched the African Queen, and very good it was too. Like attending Church, there was a benefit in the repetition of this, and other Christmas telly, which makes the ritual special and collective. Like a good church service, families sat around and watched a mixture of repeated and comforting messages and new and current ones. It also in some sense includes the lonely and the isolated who aren’t spending Christmas with their families. Buying into the editorial of television, and watching the same as much of the country at the same time, is really a kind of political act, and I don’t think that makes it a bad thing.
However I have also just been looking at the new iPlayer on the BBC, which looks great. I think it’s a great example of the flexibility of the internet, which has been a topic of a lot of what I have been looking at in my Masters’ course. From reading a lot of commentators, you’d think the internet was killing off TV viewing as we know it, and no doubt to some extent it’s true. Perhaps this is unsubstantiated by anyone but me, but since I’ve had Wi-Fi and a laptop I’ve often ended up with the laptop on my knee while watching television, and I’m sure it has reduced my attention span while I try and concentrate on both. Maybe it’ll be a new year’s resolution not to do this.
But there is something about television that is worth preserving, and that I don’t think will die out even if there are more convenient ways of watching programmes. People like the communal act, of observing even if not of worship. Like in a religion, people need a degree of editorial sending them in the direction of items of interest to them. Much as I often scream at the BBC for some of its political coverage and comment (As, I’m sure, do people involved in politics on all sides), their editorial and mixture of new and old is a really important part of national life, and they do it very well. It was one of the things I missed the most living in the USA.
So I’m using the iPlayer – it’s great and I can’t afford Sky+. But I’m also making a New Years resolution to watch more television, and give it my full attention, not looking up everything on Wikipedia as I go. And I’ll still pester to watch The Snowman every Christmas Eve, however many times I’ve seen it, and even if the Irn-Bru version is better.