January is miserable at the best of times and this is a particularly tough one for most of us. We are all haunted by a particularly strong sense of uncertainty about the months that lie ahead. Being locked down, unable to distract yourself with socialising, commuting, going up the zoo or whatever bollocks it is you usually do to fill your time. It can be taxing.
We are all addicted to mental distractions. From a young age we learn how to use them to avoid the irritating ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’ that bubble away in the background. Like most kids of the 1980s, I watched anything and everything that the four terrestrial channels of the era could throw at me.
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Most of it was mad escapist serials from America, about talking cars or vigilante army veterans or men who could morph into animals. At other times it would be sitcoms and dramas about cockney spivs and conmen. Then there were kids’ shows about dysfunctional comprehensive schools or gangs of creepy puppets living inside a cult run by a man in colourful dungarees.
It was perfect to distract the mind from processing anything remotely uncomfortable and saw us through those years in a numbing state of fantasy. I pity the kids of today who have to watch shows that place such emphasis on authenticity, emotions and challenging social issues.
Yes, watching American TV shows where all of the characters are constantly engaged in heartfelt exchanges about their feelings has taught young viewers the language of mental health. It has encouraged them to address bigger human issues and discuss them eloquently. But where’s the fun in that?