Who Are You Inviting Into Your Home?

“In my opinion, good energy—kindness, decency, and love—is the most transformative force in the world.” (Cory Booker)

TVWe don’t watch a whole lot of TV anymore, and when we do, it’s just as likely to be a vintage sitcom as a current show. Bill and I realized some time ago that there’s a lot of television other people say is top-quality—well-written, good acting, compelling stories—that we just don’t find enjoyable. And one of the reasons is that the characters are all rather unkind.

Our friends have raved about Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and several other top-rated shows, but I was turned off by the violence, and the fact that “good guys” were few and far-between. I know I’m probably missing some great stories and some tremendous acting, and perhaps even being stubbornly short-sighted, but if I listen to my gut—which rarely steers me wrong—these are not shows that serve the world I aspire to live in.

I’ll admit that I haven’t really given some of these shows much of a chance, and I may be basing my judgment on too little evidence. I like to think of myself as open-minded, so my obstinate refusal to watch shows that others—including critics—deem outstanding is somewhat unsettling. I’m reminded of the fact that I refused for five decades to eat broccoli, and then when I finally did, discovered that it’s one of the best things on the planet.

Still, if all the characters on a TV show are people we wouldn’t want in our house, chances are, we don’t really want the show in our house either. Take Seinfeld, for example. I know everyone loved Seinfeld and it’s probably sacrilegious to be saying that we didn’t. We watched for much of its first season—and saw that these weren’t especially pleasant people. They were not people we would want as friends, and, in fact, might be people we would go out of our way to avoid having to interact with. So, why were we inviting them into our home every week? The show was often funny, and funny is usually good, but this humor was frequently hurtful and mean: the main characters were smugly judgmental and mocked people with little justification, achieving laughs at the expense of others. After watching Seinfeld, we didn’t feel good or happy. We just wanted their energy out of our house. And it raised the question: does watching meanness make us more inclined to be mean, or make us more accepting of unkind behavior?

Likewise, we watched House of Cards for a couple of seasons—who wouldn’t want to watch anything with Kevin Spacey in it, after all? But, toward the end of the first season, we realized there was not a single likable character on the show. They were devious, manipulative, cruel, and immoral. It depressed us to wonder how true-to-life some of the political intrigues and plots might be. Despite great acting, the show was a downer and the characters were not people we wanted in our home.

That’s become something of a litmus test for us when we watch a new show. In addition to wanting quality writing, stories, and acting, we want there to be at least a few characters we can root for, people we’d love to live next door to or encounter in our day-to-day lives. The last thing we want to watch is a show populated with mindless Pollyannas, but a couple of intelligent and likable characters—even amidst a number of unpleasant ones—that will at least give us something or someone to champion.

Yes, we’re probably missing some great television, but we’ve got books, and Netflix, and reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show—now that’s a group of people I’d welcome into my home any day!

Who are you inviting in?

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” (Fred Rogers)

11 thoughts on “Who Are You Inviting Into Your Home?

  1. Donna, I agree. So many shows leave me feeling anxious and not uplifted, even though they may be award-winners! I’m looking for more ways to bring entertainment that is not violent, or constant bickering. I really like your guidance of who would you have in your home.

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  2. Thanks, Kathleen, I guess if enough of us vote with our “off” buttons, we may start seeing the shows we want to turn on. I fear, though, that media is reflecting the sort of discourse and behavior we’re seeing in the “real” world, too.


  3. HI Donna, You are so right! Not only what/who we invite into our homes; but who/what we choose to leave our homes to see. I’m not even going to see ‘The Revanant’ – a movie that has won many awards. Don’t opt for the violence! Have enjoyed a rather stellar year of beautiful movies – both the acting and the cinematography!

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  4. So true, Jan! There are plenty of good things to view that don’t turn the stomach or give us nightmares…and that leave us feeling good when they’re over! I need to catch up on good movies–any recommendations?


    • Oh my! I’ve seen – and enjoyed – ‘The Danish Girl’ (a true story – amazingly well-acted. I’ve become an Eddie Redmayne fan since he played Stephen Hawking), ‘Carol’, ‘Brooklyn’ (These two take place in 1950 NYC, Connecticut and, well, Brooklyn), ‘The Big Short’ (explains what happened in 2008!)., and ‘Spotlight’. This is about the priest abuse scandals uncovered by investigative reporters at The Boston Globe. You’d think it would be hugely depressing – and it was to some extent – but so well acted and amazing. Also saw ’45 Years’ – a slow and somewhat painful look at a marriage. And, saw ‘Joy’, which has an all star cast but was anything but! Yes, I’ve taken in a lot of movies this year!

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      • Thanks, Jan, I’ve added some of these to my Netflix list (some were already on it). May even go out and see one or two in the theater. If you haven’t seen “Pride,” I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s a couple of years old (2014)–great cast, great story, always makes me cry with joy … there’s hope for the world.


  5. Hi Donna! Here is a possible answer to your question of whether we become more mean when we are exposed more to meanness (the answer is yes): http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/complaining-rewires-your-brain-for-negativity-science-says.html?cid=cp01002fastco
    Many years ago I came across a list of 10 practices to live a more peaceful life. It was published on DailyOM.com. #4. “Consciously choose what you will allow into your being. The media bombards us with visions of hate, war, and pain. Be judicious about what you read, watch, and listen to.” Not long after that I stopped watching the evening news. I am much happier, and not less informed, since then. Thank you for the reminder, and the new perspective. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Catherine! I really liked the article and it linked to some other excellent articles about negativity and positivity and—quite interesting—how “venting” is counter-productive and actually makes one angrier. We all need gentle reminders that we have a choice as to what we allow into our lives, and if we pay attention to our guts, we usually know what’s good for us (and the world) and what isn’t. Thanks so much!

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  6. Timely discussion, Donna. We watched a well-rated mystery on Netflix last week, and I “gamely” stuck it out to the end, turning away from the worst scenes. Afterwards I told my husband that in the future, if he wants to continue watching something I find too violent, know that I will slip upstairs with a book. (Although he’s not a blood-and-gore fan, he will tolerate more in a “quality” film than I. After the Oscars, he felt obliged to see “The Revenant.” He went alone.) The daily headlines are filled with more destruction and violence than my head and heart can bear some days. Why amplify the fear, horror, and sorrow by choosing to watch more of the same as “entertainment”?

    I’m especially enjoying the world of wonderful, meaningful, and entertaining documentaries out there. From the powerful, moving, uplifting “Romeo is Bleeding” (the 2015 documentary: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2866774/) to the delightful, surprising and informative (who knew!) “A LEGO Brickumentary”) to the latest offerings (on the big screen) of Michael Moore (“Where to Invade Next”) and Naomi Klein (“This Changes Everything”). Uh-oh, better sign off before I get on a roll — I’ve got a very long list of Favorites! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kris! I’m reminded that years ago I had to leave the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” because the violence was so upsetting to me. By today’s standards, it’s probably a kiddie flick, but I still shudder when I recall the slow-motion carnage. There’s way too much of that in the daily news, as you note. I don’t need to bring more into my life. Your list of documentaries sounds wonderful—can’t wait to hear about more. “Brickumentary”! I love it … I will have to see that one; I was really into Legos when I was little. Never had a “Barbie,” but, boy, did I have Legos!


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