Television dominates my spare time. It dictates what time I meet friends, when I leave the library and sometimes it eclipses meal times. I spend Sunday nights frantically trying to live stream Downton Abbey, Monday mornings catching up with Homeland and the rest of the week is littered with Fresh Meat, Friday Night Dinner, Breaking Bad and others. I think I can safely say that it’s become more than a method of relaxation. It’s about trying to keep up-to-date with the English speaking world.
I have to confess, I spend more time checking BBC iplayer (which I can’t even watch abroad) than I do BBC news. Why? because I’m afraid of being culturally out of step with home. News is universal, culture is not. I don’t want to be sitting around Christmas lunch in a few months time and not know whether Bates has been proved innocent, or hear all my relatives gossip about the latest hit television drama.
But this is absurd. What would be the worst thing that could happen? I stopped watching Dr Who a few years ago, and that hasn’t done me too much harm. Sure, people give you a funny look when you say you don’t like it. Some get feverishly aggressive when you call it “low-budget”, but, I mean, I’m not mentally impaired by not watching it. I have a friend who has never watched nor read Harry Potter. My instant reaction to hearing this was complete shock. There is a degree of shame that comes with rejecting a national treasure. The very idea someone could avoid such a cultural phenomenon made me feel like she had avoided something more than a just few books or films. Harry Potter, for my generation, was the apex of our childhood.
What if, by not keeping myself up-to-date, I lose some of my cultural identity? What if instead of being British, I become an international citizen with no committed relationship to popular culture in the country I grew up in. I know, it’s far fetched, but I’m spending what I see as the tail end of my ‘formative years’ abroad, I know I’ll gain something invaluable, and I’m hoping it won’t come at the cost of what I’ve left behind. So, an irrational part of me is clinging on to the tattered hemlines of British television, and it’ll carry on for as long as my bandwidth will allow. That is, until I can find a subtitled version of Flikken Maastricht.