Anger, Emotions, Television

Anger and Disagreement

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.

7 thoughts on “Anger and Disagreement”

  1. The way I see it, there may be a lot of anger, over incredibly petty things. It is especially galling with the pundits, because they don’t HAVE to be angry in order to carry along a plotline: they are just perpetually angry because they either like to be, or because the audience is thirsty for some verbal bloodshed. Anger in fiction stories, though, I sympathize with more, since it is a plot vehicle: it is the emotion that reflects conflicts, which supposedly are the key reason why people are interested in the story to begin with. However, I do myself grow tired of “righteous” anger (as it appears to be shown) not only being the sole motivating force, even when it the rage is disproportionate to the cause, but also that the person who is so motivated is given sanction by the plot to “get his way”, as you phrase it. But, there are a good handful of attempts to subvert typical assumptions of “the protagonist is always right”, and to deal with anger in novel ways (if at all).


  2. @ Ron: I simply hadn’t realized until then Big Bird had so many unresolved issues, Ron!

    @ Asylum Seeker: It sounds to me like you’re drawing a worthwhile distinction between the pundits and the actors in dramas.


  3. Yeah, that was part of it. Also that anger is sort of a motivational cliche when it comes to fiction. In fairness, as much as pundits should not be as perpetually enraged as they usually…they are also more entertaining that way. The tastes of the public are at the heart of the matter I suppose (especially when you factor in the overabundance of violence in comparison to sex on the TV screen….).


  4. @ Asylum Seeker: Good point! The entertainment media does indeed seem to be driven by public tastes, rather than exclusively by the studios, etc.

    @ Ybonesy: I believe anger is indeed one of the seven deadly sins of Christianity. Also, in the Bagavad Gita, Krishna points to anger as an emotion that leads to hell.


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