|Two Aspirins and a Comedy: How Television Can Enhance Health and Society|
Paradigm Publishers ISBN: 1-59451-155-1
Can entertainment foster a culture of peace? This is a decade that the UN has dedicated to promoting a culture of peace. But how can we do this? Two Aspirins and Comedy offers this surprising, answer: television!
Sociologist Metta Spencer sees series television drama as the greatest wasted potential force in the world, for it could be inspiring millions to commit to activism and nonviolent change. TV dramas can reach audiences of over one billion per episode. If well-crafted, they can enhance the viewers' emotional well-being and social sensibilities, while showing solutions to global issues.
As a peace professor herself, Spencer had long imparted valuable information and theories. But drama reaches far deeper, she says, by touching our hearts whenever we care about the characters, who then can influence our attitudes. Stories can either teach great truths or deceive and mislead us. They can foster a "culture of peace" or a "culture of blame."
Once underway, wars are exceedingly hard to stop. The only practicable alternative is to interrupt conflict at a lower level - the "blaming" stage, which is a precursor to violence. Unfortunately, the apportioning of blame is a cultural habit that television demonstrates everywhere today, especially in crime-and-punishment shows. The pursuit of "bad guys" is a screenwriter's trusted formula for a thrilling plot, but it supports our prevailing "culture of blame," the precondition for war.
A culture of peace is based on empathy, not blame. It seeks solutions to problems, not retribution. The world needs more stories that encourage empathy and diminish blaming. That's how to foster a culture of peace. Such dramas can be intensely emotional and entertaining. As its title suggests, Two Aspirins and a Comedy also identifies entertainment as a public health issue. As Spencer discovered personally, laughter really is "the best medicine." It reduces pain and relaxes blood vessels. Also, love, joy, and frequent tender sexuality actually lengthen life, while stress shortens it. Vicarious emotions, acquired through empathizing, impact on one's health in the same way as the feelings arising from real life.
Moreover, emotions and ethics interact. Empathy, for example, is both a source of insight and pleasures and a potential challenge; empathizing with a wrongdoer can make you miserable, and misery can make you sick. We may form intense feelings for fictional characters who, over several seasons, influence our health, our happiness, and our social, political, and spiritual practices. We need to use television far better - and we need to improve it.
For a preview of the book, see www.twoaspirinsandacomedy.com
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