Putting “a foot in the door” harks back to the days of cold call door-to-door salesmen. Salesmen would knock on residential doors or, if you were wealthy enough to have one, ring the door bell. The housewife would open the door a crack and the salesman would begin his rapid-fire sales pitch. If she wasn’t interested in what he was selling she would tell him so, bid him a good day and move to close the door. But a hungry, footsore and aggressive salesman would stick his foot in the door, thus preventing the busy hausfrau from closing it and allowing him to continue his high-pressure spiel.
The advent of television was evolutionary in that, it not only allowed a foot in the door but virtually the whole salesman, and worse, a whole troop of his loud and boisterous fellows as well. It is, in fact, a home invasion. Because you’ve allowed television in your home you’ve been overrun by a mob of aggressive, hungry and nefarious strangers.
Although you blithely treat them as such, the are neither kith nor kin and have not your best interest at heart.
As an exercise in the study of English composition we were once tasked to write an essay exemplifying personification. My instructor found my choice of television particularly intriguing.
Suppose for a moment your television receiver was a real, singular person. In a room full of other people he is just another person. In a word, how would you describe that person?
Rude? Loud? Aggressive?
Repetitive? Indifferent? Aloof?
Boorish? Insensitive? Selfish?
All this and more, actually.
As a “worst case scenario” ripped from popular culture suppose you were alone with your TV, had a bout of syncope, fell and broke your hip, right there in front of the TV (and neither had nor could afford the services of Life Alert). You can’t reach your telephone either. You’re in agony so you plead with your television:
“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
There is no one else within earshot of you except the TV, and friends and family aren’t expected for days.
How would your television respond? Hour after hour, perhaps even for days, you lie there – helpless. (this HAS happened)
What would your TV do for you then? Ignore your plight and ignore your pain? Change the subject? Talk about sports? Sell you more stuff? While you lie there dry-mouthed and thirsty he might offer you the image of a cool beverage. Hungry? How about the image of a big slice of pizza? Can’t taste it virtually, now can you?
While throbbing thrombosis sends waves of pain through your body and you grow progressively weaker from the swelling and internal bleeding he might show you a rerun of Lassie; where little Timmy says excitedly:
“Lassie! Go home girl! Get help!”
And the bitterly ironic realization that no help of any kind, not even from Lassie, is forthcoming, sends you into an hysterical paroxysm of weeping. Dry your eyes – no one can see you – no one can hear.
But you love your entertainments don’t you? So he, your beloved TV, turns to some lighter, comedic fare. The happy folks on the screen stand over you and seemingly laugh about your tragic fate with that hideous, sadistic canned laughter of theirs. They are indifferent. And what about the Nightly News? Well? What about it? It’s never about you, now is it?
In cogitating this topic two of my late uncles came to mind. Uncle Walter, despite being a former MP, was a genuine sweetheart and generous to a fault. To us kids, he was the next best thing to Santa Claus – in fact, he WAS, to us, Santa Claus. He was by no means easily provoked to anger. Then there was his brother-in-law, Uncle Ed. Uncle Ed was a modestly successful used car salesman. It was my understanding that Uncle Walter had purchased from Uncle Ed in the past. The only time, and I mean THE ONLY TIME, in my recollection that dear Uncle Walter ever lost his temper was in dealing with Uncle Ed. You can only push a man so far. And some things are, as the saying goes: “Enough to Piss-Off the Pope”.
The gist of the confrontation went something like this:
“Every damned time you walk through the door you try to sell me another car! Get the hell out!”
And he proceeded to throw him out of the house.
Americans have an infinite tolerance for this virtual flogging; projected, broadcast, disembodied and agonizingly repetitive A/V psychological abuse.
Your grandparents were enthralled with this novel sound and image projecting device and you and I grew up assuming he/it was part of, or even HEAD, of the family; taking priority and precedence over all and everyone. Americans haven’t the guts, the gumption or enough spine left in them to throw these arrogant strangers and salesmen out the door.
Uncle Walter, old, obese and diabetic, died of a massive stroke while watching television.
I could pretend scholarship and say: You, King Odysseus, and your son Telemachus, have a manly duty to rescue poor Penelope from her relentless suitors and drive them from your castle – your home. Or I could say that the television is now the head of your house and your slave master. I ask the cosmos: how many millions of American women divorced their husbands only to run off with the TV? What is it you’ve gained, and what have you lost, just by having that device in your home?
There are strangers in your home. Do you know their names? Do you know where they live? Do you know anything at all about them? They force a smile at a camera lens in an empty room and proclaim themselves your “friends”. But is “friends” a word you yourself would choose to personify them? Do you know anymore who your real friends are? Now, with cell phones, these strangers ride along in your pocket listening in on your every conversation and tracking your every move.
So enthralled are we with this modern technology that we think, just to have one, as a status symbol – a mark of superiority – a mark of success. So much so that burglars steal them and fence them to those who can’t afford them. But status symbols of all kinds cut both ways, and having a large television antenna on your roof, or a satellite dish, a cable feed, a big screen TV and the latest programming on your lips, in some quarters is considered the mark of a fool.
How many ways are there to describe this, your idolatrous and adulterous, and altogether unnatural relationship you have with your television? Ignorance is the bedrock foundation of capitalism.
We depend on ignorance.
It is not merely a foot in the door – it’s a jackboot up your ass.