Thinking Outside the Idiot Box

Dana Stevens’ essay, “Thinking outside the Idiot Box”, was first published in Slate on March 25, 2005, is a counter argument to “Watching TV Makes You Smarter” an article written my Steven Johnson that says watching complicated TV shows make you smarter when in reality you’re just watching complicated TV shows. She mainly disagrees with Johnson’s opinion that figuring out the complicated plots of the TV shows sharpens one’s cognitive skills. In her view, those entangled plots not only compel one to watch even more TV, they also weaken one’s skills to think because many shows overload one’s mind with quick-paced facts. Stevens 295-6) She also states that Johnson overlooks the Muslim terrorist and tortures in the show “24”. She points out that many people think watching TV is ok especially if it’s a nature show. Stevens also discusses a trip to the airport where she saw quite a few people surrounding a nature showing. The author contemplated whether or not the nature show was acceptable because travelers were still “spacing out” while watching it, so what is the difference between violent shows like “Animal Face Off” which contains bloods guts and gore and a “regular” nature show is peaceful and entertaining. Stevens 297) She is wondering why “spacing out” is ever positive: “A football game in a bar is zapworthy, but spacing out to leopards in the Qantas terminal is A-OK? ” (Stevens 297). Next she says that children are fresh meat for the marketing industries by making shows that catch their eye. She is basically claiming that there are many people who are offended by many things, and each person needs to be sensitive to what they play on their TVs. In conclusion, Stevens believes that TV is neither beneficial nor it is harmful for our minds; it is only there to entertain us. (298)


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