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Television as a Parental Substitute and Freud

  1. Aug 23, 2006 #1
    If you don't remember that Simpson's episode, Homer lowers his voice and hushes semi-erotically when he says the words "secret lover," while cradling a portable television. The first time I saw this, the Freudian connection escaped me. I was too disturbed by it for the obvious reasons and didn't feel the need to search for a deeper disturbance. :rofl:

    However, the fact is out there in plain sight that television has, for at least a generation now, performed temporary roles as a parental substitute for children. It differs in the extent of this role considerably between families, depending on already existing parenting styles. All of us now have likely learned something from television that other people once learned from their parents, especially in the time of Freud.

    What does this have to do with Freud? He believed that every child will develop their first sexual attraction to the parent of opposite sex and ambivalence to the parent of the same sex. It's seems palpably ridiculous to me, as it probably does to many others. Such a theory, if presented today, would fall flat on its face, I'd think. Why was it so revolutionary back then?

    I wonder if it's because parents are not what they used to be. Many of us by now didn't exactly have parents that played active roles as parental figures. They may have been too busy in the modern industrial rat race at work, and too stressed by work, becoming emotionally distant. Most young men now have had mothers who did not stay at home to take care of children, which was common during the time of Freud. And because there are parental substitutes, all the way from school teachers to mass media. Perhaps children in the second half of the 20th century never even had the opportunity to develop sexual attractions to their opposite parent, much less repress them.

    Freud developed this theory after he examined his dreams for four years, after his father died. He dreamt of his mother about a time when he was in cramped quarters with her on a train. He supposes that he must have seen her undressing, instilling in him erotic feelings. Freud's experience seems entirely alien to me.

    Then, I remembered my first memory of an erotic experience. I was watching television! :shy: It was some prime time soap opera kind of thing. I had never seen anything like it. The two individuals were so aggressive, rolling around the room, they caused expensive glass furniture to fall and break. They had no parents to yell at them for breaking the furniture, so it seemed like idyllic fun.

    Here is where I understand Freud, now, because I can see how I would be affected by the repression of desires stemming from these early experiences. There was a modern mythology of "independent and affluent adult play" that I wanted to be a part of, but that desire had to be repressed, much like how the classical Oedipus mythology of Freud's attraction to his mother had to be repressed. Instead of from mother, my repressed childhood sexual desires stemmed from images on television and the 80s cultural mythos.

    In Freud's time, there were no means to massively distribute sexual desire to children. So, it follows that children would first manifest sexual desire for whoever is closest to them from the opposite sex. However, now that there are such widespread means, children can be instilled with sexual desire from just about any source, on top of the fact that parents are more distant.

    What are the implications of this postmodern interpretation of Freud? It can provide a lot of speculation. Maybe certain technologies would not have flourished without the repressed sexual desires that many young people had for mass media and its ability to deliver eroticism.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2009 #2
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