“She told me she loved me. I trusted her. And then she took all the dope, man.”
It’s lines like this that make me love “Trailer Park Boys,” a show about a bunch of idiots’ drunk and high misadventures in a Canadian trailer park. It’s the kind of show that, when I watch it at home, inevitably leads my mom to call out, in a tone of resignation and slight disapproval, “Gabriel, what are you watching?” When she says that, I know that she really wants to know why I’m watching a show that so clearly appeals to a level of humor one rung above reality television.
Really, I can’t blame her for asking, and I often ask myself the same question. It’s not as if I don’t enjoy “good” television and film. I watched all of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” I periodically go to the classical film screenings on campus to watch French films from the 1960s. Sometimes, though, the brain just needs a break from seriousness and complexity. This is all the more true for us as college students who are, hopefully, trying to stay aware of global events while managing classwork and other commitments.
Our brains are, if anything, abnormally burdened with seriousness and complexity. College is, in a very real sense, a full-time job where you work 80 hours a week, and those 80 hours are filled with physics problems and the abstruse theory of Cubism in art. Much of the rest of the week is filled with ongoing dread of the election fed by compulsive checking of FiveThirtyEight’s forecast or a broader sense of turmoil based on whatever outrage is trending on social media.
While it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that the malaise of the above paragraph is part of the long-term investment that is college and that the world is generally doing fine, your brain and your sanity tend to have difficulty taking that step back and get caught in the maelstrom of the day-to-day.
I’ve found that a good antidote is to expose myself to things that aren’t serious or complex. That’s where “Trailer Park Boys,” “Super Troopers” or “The Office” come in. Dumb, low-stakes humor is a great way to just let your brain idle for a bit and cool down. Watching “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men” wouldn’t have the same effect.
Interestingly, the same principle can be applied to videogames. I get a great deal of relaxation from just playing 30 minutes of a plotless, needlessly violent shooter. By contrast, settling in for a three-hour “Bioshock” binge, complete with the Ayn Rand overtones and stress-inducing boss encounters, might not have the same effect.
Naturally, everyone decompresses in a different way. Some people prefer intramural sports, while others might opt for reading or just a casual conversation about nothing with a friend.
The bottom line is that it is perfectly reasonable, acceptable and often necessary to turn off your brain every once in a while, in whatever mode of relaxation you prefer.
I personally find that, when I shut my brain off for a while, I end up much more refreshed and able to focus on and appreciate my schoolwork than if I had “relaxed” by bingeing through my Facebook feed or gobbling up op-eds in the Atlantic.
But this increased capacity for appreciation doesn’t just extend to schoolwork. It even extends to the very mindless drivel I use to shut my brain off. Curiously, the more I watch “Trailer Park Boys,” the more I appreciate the very specific and deliberate ways that the camerawork, small details of set design and dialogue combine to enhance the overall believability of the show’s moronic characters and their circumstances.
Am I suggesting that watching stupid television in moderation can actually increase your capacity for artistic appreciation? I guess so. I think that a public screening of “Trailer Park Boys” the week before finals would be an excellent way to boost student happiness and grades. Your move, SGA.
Gabriel Levine is a junior chemistry major.