Hello friends and neighbors. This week I’m beginning a new column on what TV taught me either in the past weeks, months or years of my life. It’s true that we can learn a lot about society and how we interact relationally through television. Each week, I’ll reveal another way in which TV has taught me something useful to real life situations. Some (like today’s) will be more reflective, while others will be plain sarcastic or just silly. Since (unlike film), the stories of TV continue every week, leading us to grow more and more invested in characters, worlds, plotlines, actors, etc. The loss of these people, can seem pretty personal. Especially if we’re experiencing losses of our own in our real lives.
When I was in middle and high school, FRIENDS was my favorite show on the planet. I was obsessed. Thursday was my favorite day of the week. I had not only a FRIENDS T-Shirt, but also an NBC shirt. And when we finally knew it would end after 10 years, I dreaded the day for months. But one thing the show really provided, was distraction from real life problems. For the first two years of high school, one of my best friend’s mom was dying of cancer. It thoroughly sucked all around. We would try to have fun by going to outdoor concerts near the hospital or watching TV, but it was of course always in the back of everyone’s mind.
One of her best friends was also obsessed with FRIENDS so we quickly bonded over it. In an effort to cope, we clung to what we had: a show where the whole theme was literally centered around the phrase “I’ll be there for you.” That’s really all you wanted to tell the people around you who were losing their mother and best friend. This was our way of dealing with this incredibly difficult situation that weighed heavily on everyone for months and months.
On May 6, 2004, I attended the funeral of my friends mother in the morning and that night, I watched the final episode of FRIENDS, a show that had meant so much to me, especially in the final difficult months. Somehow, the loss of my favorite show, (a very small deal in the scheme of things), helped me process the very real life loss of someone I cared about. I’m in no way comparing the two things. One is obviously way worse than the other. My point is simply that it’s sometimes hard for to deal with these kinds of emotional moments where there’s literally nothing you can do to make people feel better. But for an hour that night, I was able to forget and laugh. To say goodbye to the characters that I would never see again. To mourn the loss of something that made me happy even when I had a crappy day. To feel this moment in history that I would never again feel in the exact same way.
So in many ways, TV didn’t so much teach me how to cope with loss as it taught me that it’s necessary to cope with loss. It’s not something that goes away on it’s own. You should be sad. You get to feel angry. And eventually, (hopefully) acceptance sets in: a sort of peace. It could take months or even years. Through all of these stages, let’s never underestimate the importance of those 5 words: “I’ll be there for you.” And in many ways TV always will.
Heather Mason is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The TV Sisters. When not freelancing in the Entertainment Industry or standing in front of newsprint-covered walls, she spends her time biking around Los Angeles, pondering the meaning of life and searching for a TMNT shell backpack. You can email her at Heather@theTVsisters.com or stalk her @NerdHeather.