Why We Write

January 12, 2008

Why We Write – Number 16: Reader-Submitted Essay

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charlie Craig @ 8:26 am

Number 16

Today’s piece is written by Susannah Nix, full-time mother, part-time blogger, lifelong television fan.  She writes on her blog at tvbacon.wordpress.com 

 

Some people will tell you that television doesn’t matter.  That it’s all self-serving crap, the lowest common denominator of mindless entertainment, and we should just say good riddance to those whiny TV writers and move on to more important matters.

I am here to tell you that these people are wrong.

Television does matter.  Maybe it’s not brokering peace in the Middle East or feeding the hungry or solving the appalling shortage of Hannah Montana tickets in the world (come to think of it, television’s kind of responsible for the Hannah Montana Crisis), but it is, in its own way, making the world a better place (Hannah Montana aside).  It’s made my insignificant little world better, anyway.

Three years ago today, my mother passed away after a long battle with breast cancer.  The time leading up to her death was a terrible one for me, filled with worry, fear, grief, and not a little guilt.  And during those difficult days, the one thing that gave me comfort and strength—more than my friends or my family or a religion I’d never been able to subscribe to—was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Sounds a little silly, perhaps, but there it is.

You see, my mother’s illness happened to coincide with my discovery of Buffy in reruns on FX.  And during the long, lonely days spent at my mother’s bedside, the one scrap of joy I could cling to was the promise of that next episode of Buffy waiting for me on the VCR.  (This was during what I think of as the Dark Ages of Television, before I’d been indoctrinated into the ranks of TiVo disciples).  On these days I’d come home from the hospital emotionally drained and mentally exhausted, no fit company for myself or my family.  So I’d crawl into bed, turn on the TV, and lose myself in the story of the slayer who fell in love with a vampire.  It may sound like a small thing, the comfort I derived from that hour in front of the TV, but believe me it was not.

It was just a TV show, but it made me laugh at a time when I thought I’d never find anything to laugh about again.  It brought tears to my eyes—tears of both sadness and joy—at a time when I thought I had already cried myself numb.  It showed me that people have an amazing capacity for strength, at a time when I felt weak and helpless.  It reminded me that love is all around us, at a time when I felt bereft and alone.  And it proved to me that there is magic in this world, at a time when everything before me seemed bleak and barren.

The universe is a big scary place for us mortals and sometimes life can be painful, or difficult, or mundane, or lonely.  And in these times some of us turn to the stories on television for a little bit of much-needed solace, or hope, or excitement, or company.  Television is important because it allows us to enter the lives of these fictional friends—familiar characters who enter our homes every week to make us laugh, cry, or fall in love—and, even if it’s just for a little while, our own problems don’t seem so insurmountable.

Such is the incredible power of story-telling.

Stories are integral to our very existence as humans.  They illustrate our commonalities, point out our flaws, celebrate our triumphs, and bring us together.  It is our need to tell stories that defines us and sets us apart from the other species on this planet, the very same need that drives us to create art, music, literature, film and, yes, television.

Every one of the stories we watch on television comes from the mind of a writer: an ordinary person with extraordinary imagination.  Those writers deserve to be paid every cent they’re asking AMPTP for, but, more importantly, they deserve our respect.

 

WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers.  Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers.  If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at whywewrite@gmail.com.

11 Comments »

  1. I too have been extremely influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even in tough times it has helped me get back to my senses, to calm down and to get up and move ahead. Thank you for this essay, truly touching.

    Comment by Inar — January 12, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  2. *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

    Comment by Bon — January 12, 2008 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  3. Hear, hear!

    Comment by Dottie — January 12, 2008 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  4. I too love Buffy and the spin-off series Angel. I think the writing is powerful and beautiful.

    Comment by Ashley — January 12, 2008 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

  5. I really hope season 6 wasn’t what was re-running at that time. ^_^

    But I felt the same way, back on September 11th. It still happens occasionally, that TV or film gives me that lift, but never so much as then.

    Comment by LadyUranus — January 12, 2008 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  6. my friends who don’t watch Buffy don’t quite understand why it can be so important to me- because they think it’s just an absurd premise and show.

    Comment by dene — January 13, 2008 @ 8:18 am | Reply

  7. What a beautiful essay! I’m a Buffy fan too. When someone first told me what a good show it was, I had a hard time believing it. Within the first minute of watching it I was hooked! The writing and acting was so incredible. When you can believe anything and get so lost in it, you know that you are in the hands of a masterful writer.

    Comment by Anali — January 13, 2008 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  8. Thank you so much for that beautiful and moving essay.
    I, too, took solace in a Joss Whedon show when I had what I refer to as my “medical adventure”.
    For me, it was “Firefly”.
    I’ll stop now before I start tearing up again.
    Once more, thank you.

    Comment by gwen aka tllgrrl — January 13, 2008 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  9. This was an incredible read. My mother, too, died of breast cancer a little over three years ago, and I also found solace in television in the months before (and and after) her death. For me, it started with Gilmore Girls. (Ironic, no?) But you’re right, television is the perfect escape. I certainly don’t know what I’d do without it and its writers.

    Comment by Krystal — January 15, 2008 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  10. Great essay, Sus. X-Files helped me get through a bad breakup in the 90s, so I know whereof you speak.

    Comment by Dia — January 15, 2008 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  11. I went through a major depression in high school in the 80s, where one isn’t actually diagnosed as being depressed so much as “difficult” and “a problem” but my parents’ marriage was falling apart, so they mostly left me alone.

    I came home from school every day and watched the previous night’s episode of David Letterman. I felt dead and rotten inside, hated every breath my body kept taking, but…Dave and his writers made me laugh. It was like a glimmer of light into the darkness of my life at the time, a tiny thread that I could cling to, knowing that as long as something, anyone could make me laugh, maybe my life wasn’t over, maybe I wasn’t all gone.

    It sounds so dumb to say it, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one who has sought such solace.

    Comment by tem — January 21, 2008 @ 2:21 pm | Reply


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