Although I gave the last television I owned to a charity some years ago, I still catch a program every now and then — either by watching one online or sometimes when visiting a certain friend who never shuts off his TV. When I do watch a program, I’m often enough baffled by how much anger is found on television.
Like most of us, I hear so much talk about gratuitous sex, but I’m impressed there is even more gratuitous anger than sex. Am I wrong to think actors routinely respond to even the slightest disagreement between their characters by portraying anger? Or that pundits are always shouting at each other? Even newscasters half the time can’t seem to peacefully interview someone. Whether it’s my imagination or not, the one thing that most strikes me about television is the amount of gratuitous anger.
Anger is an appropriate and useful emotion in some circumstances. Wikipedia describes it as “…a behavioral pattern designed to warn aggressors to stop their threatening behavior.” One can see how anger would be useful, but what is “threatening behavior”?
Going by what prompts anger on television, “threatening behavior” might be no more than someone disagreeing with you. Offhand, I can think of at least two reasons why it is usually useless to get angry for no better reason than someone disagrees with you.
Many people — sometimes I think it’s most people — respond to anger by themselves getting angry. And when people get angry, they get stubborn. So, if we get angry each time someone disagrees with us, the most likely effect is to make others oppose us even more adamantly than they would have otherwise.
On television, the usual outcome when the protagonist gets angry at someone for disagreeing with him is that the protagonist gets his way. That’s simply the opposite of real life.
Another reason it’s usually useless to get angry because someone disagrees with you has to do with the nature of anger. Anger impairs both our ability to see the other person’s point of view, and our ability to see the bigger picture. Among other consequences of that, we are unlikely to find a solution to a disagreement if we cannot understand either of those things.
Of course, on television, there is no reason to find a creative solution to a disagreement because on television one side is completely right and the other side is completely wrong. But how often does that happen in real life?
So those are a couple reasons, then, why I think getting angry at someone who disagrees with us is usually counter-productive. Naturally, I’m right about these things. And, naturally, I’ll be quite upset if anyone contradicts me.