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Blog Posting: “Us and Them”, Essay Example

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Essay

There are few things that draw North Americans together like the act of watching television. Rich or poor, uneducated or intellectual, it seems that everyone has a television and can hum the theme song for Law and Order if asked. Television has many failings: a distinct lack of quality programming, too many commercials, the threat from mothers everywhere that we’ll certainly go blind from sitting too close to the screen. However, it has the power to draw us together by providing popular culture touchstones that can allow people with nothing else in common to talk about the latest episode of Glee or their favorite episode of M*A*S*H or Seinfeld.
The ability of television to help us relate to one another is a central theme in David Sedaris’ short story “Us and Them,” and illustrates how the lack of a television serves to identify the Tompkey family as Outsiders just as surely as the unwanted bowl of gumdrops they leave out on Halloween. Television critics and critics of television alike have bemoaned the fact that television seems to pander to the lowest common denominator with cheaply made ‘reality’ television and inane sitcoms that present a version of reality that is nothing like that experienced by the average person. However, such complaints serve to underscore the point of television: in binding us together, it teaches us about the Outsider–the person who doesn’t get the water-cooler joke because they were too busy, like the Tompkeys, having dinner with their family and actually talking to spend time watching the good old ‘idiot box’.
The child that David Sedaris was recognizes the inherent differences in the Tompkey children and instinctively shies away from them, as if the stigma attached to their brown-bagged lunches and homemade Halloween costumes might be contagious. While television itself might be as empty of true meaning as a bag of chips is empty of nutritional value, it connects us to one another. This, especially in the highly-judgemental world of young children, is far more important than intelligent conversation at the dinner table if we are to be accepted by our peers as one who is as tuned into popular culture and thus a fully participating member of the status quo.

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