Audio visual on my mind
Life without TV is like going to school at PU. Thank goodness for
By Kate Swearengen
Garden movie theater is back in business, and it's about time. With
the exception of a trip to South Brunswick to see Charlie's Angels,
I spent my freshman year of college drowning in a sea of print media,
relieved only by the occasional Japanese-subtitled, Internet-downloaded
Now, of course, things
have changed. It's summer, and I've making up for the nine months
of movies that I missed during the school year. Memento. The Steven
Spielberg movie about the robots. Caddyshack, on videocassette.
And lots of Monty Python.
You see, Princeton has
made me smarter. It's given me new friends, not to mention a new
appreciation for corn-fed Midwestern boys. Sadly, it hasn't allowed
me to maintain the level of cultural literacy to which I am accustomed.
Sure, it's great to live on a campus that houses a Picasso sculpture
and Toni Morrison. But where's the multiplex?
It would be disingenuous
to give the impression that I saw only one movie last year. After
all, the University Film Organization regularly screened movies
at the Frist theater, but they just weren't the same. For one thing,
the films were heavily subsidized by the Trustees' Alcohol Initiative,
which meant that if you wanted to see a movie on Thursday or Saturday
night, you had to wait until 11:30 p.m. I've been told that this
measure was designed to restrict the time that students spend drinking;
in reality, it requires Street-goers to condense five hours' worth
of drinking into three. Moreover, popcorn isn't served at the Frist
theater. That's the biggest blow to the American cinema tradition
since the Ragtag Cinema, an art house theater in my hometown, replaced
Milk Duds with hummus-and-focaccia.
Happily, now that the
Garden is making its glorious return, all this is in the past. Yet,
while a $7 movie ticket may buy happiness, it won't necessarily
bring me up to speed with the goings-on outside the FitzRandolph
gate. For that, I'll need a television.
I know, I know. I should
read the newspaper, right? Having grown up in a university town
and having lived in Princeton for a year, I can confirm that these
places are filled with the kind of people who drive around with
"Kill Your Television" bumper stickers on the backs of their Volvos.
Well, I have a subscription to the New York Times, but by the end
of the day, Section A is sopping up grease from a Zorba's gyro,
and I still don't know what's going on in the Balkans.
I tried explaining this to my friend Nate a couple of days ago,
but he wouldn't have any of it. A film student at NYU, Nate evinces
a surprising lack of regard for television, the demigod of the audiovisual
"It's not just the movies,"
I said. "I'm completely reliant on audiovisual stimulation. I need
television. Without it, I feel cut off from the rest of the world."
I explained to him that
the whole thing had really begun when I was eight years old. Brought
up on a steady diet of CNN, it was only natural that I would become
smitten with Larry King. Never mind that he had already been married
four times, or that he was consistently upstaged by Kermit-the-Frog
during his annual interview with the green puppet. Larry King was
golden, and although that attraction eventually dissipated, my love
affair with television continued.
"It's interesting that
you say that," Nate told me. "I'm reading Amusing Ourselves To Death,
by Neil Postman. It's about how society has forsaken print media
for movies and television. This is it, Kate. I'm giving up television
"Even the WB?" I asked, referring to the popular network. "You told
me a couple of weeks ago that you were finding Jungian themes in
Buffy The Vampire Slayer."
"Especially the WB," Nate said. "No TV at all."
Nate says that I should
give it up too. I'm not so sure, though. He may have a point, but
then again, he may not. After all, this is the guy who's trying
to make a living by playing chess for money in Washington Square
Eager to solicit another
opinion, I questioned Sam, a student in my summer microbiology class.
Sam is an EMT, as well as a self-avowed movie and television addict.
He works more than 60 hours a week, lives without air-conditioning,
gets only three hours of sleep a night, and bitterly resents that
these factors impose severe restrictions on his free time.
"What did you think of
that special on plastic surgery?" I asked him. "I couldn't believe
that woman had 11 nose jobs."
"I didn't get to see it," Sam said. "I had to work overtime this
weekend. A woman rolled her car out on the Interstate, and when
the roof came off, it sliced off the top of her head."
"Ugh," I said. "Did you
have to pull her out?"
"No," Sam said. "I had
to look for her brain. It was lying off the shoulder, about 50 yards
"That's amazing," I said.
"It was still intact?"
"Yeah," said Sam. "Vivid,
Indeed. I figure that
if Sam can deal with disembodied brains, I can improve mine by going
another six semesters without a television set. In all honesty,
the sacrifice won't be so great, as the prospect of having a movie
theater in Princeton will compensate for whatever I'm missing on
the networks. Now, if only the Garden theater were just a little
closer to campus! At times such as these, I regret that I missed
the May submission deadline for the Trustees' Alcohol Initiative
"Rethink the Street" campaign. Personally, I think that razing Elm
Club and installing a movie theater in its place would be a nice
touch. Don't you?
You can reach Kate at