Life Time Fitness, which operates 128 fitness centers in the U.S. and Canada, recently announced it is eliminating cable network news stations from its TV screens, claiming the networks’ “politically charged content” was unhealthy for its clients. From now on, the overhead TVs will only offer USA, A&E, Discovery, ESPN, HGTV and a few local programs.
That’s right, kids. We’re actually at the point where it’s considered more palatable to run on the treadmill while watching a serial rapist dispose of his victims in vats of acid in a crime drama than listening to George Will use eight-syllable words to eloquently describe his Trump angst.
I get it. Studies have shown the consumption of TV news’s emotional content can affect a person’s mental health and mood. Some members have told Life Time they already feel less stressed during their workouts. A member wrote in support that “Some of us use the gym as an escape from the news of the real world for even just an hour for our health and sanity!”
Interesting, but as the member of a fitness club myself, I don’t see how that one hour a year at the gym — usually in January — is going to do much for my health and sanity.
TV wars aren’t just at the gym, of course. I was at the dentist recently and was subjected to watching Fox & Friends, which put me in the notion of thinking a root canal isn’t all that bad.
Sure, my eyelids weren’t wired open like in “A Clockwork Orange,” so it’s not like I was forced to watch it. I should’ve just read my phone or one of the pamphlets available for perusal, things like: “The Plague of Plaque!” or “Halitosis: A Fancy Word for Why You Didn’t Get the Job.”
Later the same week, while waiting for my car to be repaired, I discovered the dealership had arrived at its own Solomon-like solution: One waiting room offered Fox News; the other MSNBC. It was a peaceable kingdom with free Starbucks and nary an acid barrel in sight. Where was this sort of forethought when I was trapped at the tire store, no remote in sight, forced to watch “Dr. Pimple Popper” on TLC skillfully smash a zit the size of a rutabaga embedded in a young man’s buttocks. Where?!?
Communal TV is never a good idea. The urgent-care clinic offers a loop of depressing videos you can’t escape. You go in with an oyster shell deep inside your foot; you leave convinced you have early onset dementia AND irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. (I don’t get that one either.)
You could argue that we are all grownups and shouldn’t need this sort of coddling. One outraged Life Time client tweeted that while he “might not love watching Socialist MSNBC or Fake News CNN, I’m an adult and can handle it because America is about choice, not censorship.” I could not agree more, person-who-watches-Mouth-Breathing-Knuckle-Draggin’-Fox-News.
Well. He started it.
— Wilmington, North Carolina’s Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com