chapter  8
33 Pages

The Self and Others: Reading Television People

C O U N T DUCKULA. Children like his mordant wit and psycho-socio­ logical subtext . . . adults just laugh at the jokes. (Advertisement for Independent Television children’s programmes, 1990)

Critics of television often describe its pleasures as merely ‘vicarious’. Television, it is argued, is a substitute for real, personal experience. It enables us to step into other people’s shoes, to share their emotions and experiences without having to suffer the consequences. Television can provide a kind of wish-fulfilment, in which we escape temporarily from ourselves and become the kind of person we aspire to be. Alternatively, it may offer us idealized images of our own lives, in which characters like ourselves discover fantasy solutions to our everyday prob­ lems and predicaments. It is through this process o f ‘identification’ that television is often seen to exert its influence upon our values and beliefs.