The Babysitter: the personified amalgamation of various mediums we interact with on a daily basis. The Babysitter tells us what to think, what to watch, what to feel, and what’s an appropriate way to go about our lives. It keeps us in check, defining norms and filters through which we dare not stray from. More simply stated, The Babysitter defines our perception of the world for us, all through our TVs, computers, phones, and devices.
When I was a teen, one of the movies I was fascinated with was the 1996 dark comedy The Cable Guy. The film’s about a guy (Matthew Broderick) who bribes a cable installer (Jim Carrey) to juice him up with free cable. This act is something of a death sentence, as from that point on, “the cable guy” won’t leave Matthew Broderick alone, constantly pestering Broderick to hang out and be friends. Even worse, this cable guy is awkward, irritating, and emotionally unhinged.
What drew me to The Cable Guy, more than anything else, was the film’s ending, in which Jim Carrey has a final showdown with Matthew Broderick atop a satellite dish. In the movie’s last few moments, Carrey confesses why he’s an emotional wreck. He spent his entire childhood in front of the television, learning about the world from sitcom families, broadcast news, commercials, and anything else that glossed across the tube. Real human interaction wasn’t a part of his youth, but carefully cultivated programming was a constant. In essence, The Cable Guy played with the nightmarish fear of what “too much TV” could do to the human mind and brought this fear to dramatic heights.
And I identified with it. I saw so much of Jim Carrey’s anguish in myself — the awkwardness, the obsessiveness with movies and video games. I wasn’t very social as a child, so in turn, I had turned toward cinema as a connection to the outside world. It was warm, charming, and comforting. Nourishing, even.
The problem with relying on media as a source of information, behavior, and culture, however, is that it’s inherently distorted and one-sided. We are at the mercy of the screen, basking in the glow of The Babysitter. And when we start to believe in it, that’s when we find trouble.