Why Can't We Stop Watching TV?

A Glimpse of Her Stomach

Roland Barthes, writing in The Pleasure of the Text, has an explanation for a befuddling recurrence: Why so many people, including myself, watch so much bad TV even when we know it is awful. Barthes's answer: pleasure. He elaborates thus:

"If I judge a text according to pleasure, I cannot go on to say: this one is good, that bad. No awards, no `critique'," for this always implies a tactical aim, a social usage, and frequently an extenuating image-reservoir."

And, more poignantly:

"It is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the stage of an appearance-as-disappearance."

--Steve Hoenisch


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