Use Your Gray Matter: Screen Time vs. Page Time

Friends, I love to read. I do. I keep a book in my bag at all times and will shamelessly whip that thing out whenever I can: in line at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, at the bank, wherever. I once tried to read during a dental appointment, but that was quickly put to an end by a dental hygienist with a disparaging look. Sometimes I think longingly about reading while working, or reading while cooking, or reading while biking…I really, really love reading.

But it’s around this time of year that my attention becomes divided. Because you know what else I like? Television. And those shiny, flashy new season premieres start showing up and tempting me away from my beloved books. I enjoy critically acclaimed television, but I also have a penchant for shows with, er, questionable aesthetic value. I am having a real dilemma this fall because I’ve tried to make room for more reading in my life, but some of my favorite shows are back and I want to watch them right now.

I have a few shows that I don’t mind spending time with because, like many of the books I read, they feature Slatebreaking women at the heart of the cast. Here are a few of my favorite Slatebreaking television ladies:

Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. I will argue with anyone that Leslie Knope is the most Slatebreaking fictional female character on television. She’s ambitious, openly feminist, and has an impressive work ethic. She also has an impressive moral compass that leads her to think carefully about her personal and professional decisions. I can’t wait to see what happens with the political options they introduced at the end of last season. There is only one thing suspicious about Leslie Knope, and that is her hatred of public libraries.

Detective Kate Beckett on Castle. Ok, people are probably going to mock me now that they know I watch this show. Admittedly, I started watching it because of my undying love for Nathan Fillion, but I grew to love the character of Kate Beckett and her commitment to doing her job and doing it well. She’s the boss lady of her division, in charge of two lesser-ranking cops. I like it when a female character is in charge. Sometimes Beckett is a little impulsive because of her baggage from the past, and the romance angle has been heating up and that can be annoying. But I see her as a really interesting example of a fictional female charater in a leadership position. Also, as the male captain character was killed off last season, now there’s going to be a new captain character. And rumor says that it’s a woman. A totally female-led television police division? Be still, my heart!

Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. This show isn’t actually airing this fall, but it recently became available on Netflix Instant View and I can’t stop watching it. (Stop laughing. I like Star Trek. What of it?) Captain Janeway is a stoic leader of a starship lost in the Delta quadrant. And she is amazing. She is an excellent leader in times of distress. She goes rogue a lot because she doesn’t have to answer directly to the Federation. According to the more expert Star Trek viewer in my household, Janeway breaks the Prime Directive more than any other Star Trek captain.

So, readers, how do you divide up your leisure time? What factors guide those decisions? Are there any compelling television show that take you away from your to-read pile? Is it okay to betray your books for the television on occasion? Bring your gray matter to the conversation and tell us about the Slatebreaking characters that are capturing your attention this TV season.

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10 Responses to Use Your Gray Matter: Screen Time vs. Page Time

  1. Sarah says:

    Often, I think part of the appealing thing about television is that it becomes a shared event really easily. Since it’s on at one time for ostensibly anybody to watch it, there’s a reasonable guarantee that I’m going to go into work or school or wherever the next day and get to talk about it with someone else. I know I’ll watch Parks and Recreation tonight, and I also know that I’ll talk to Brianna about it Friday morning. With books, it’s harder to get those “water cooler moments” where everyone experienced it at the same time. Sometimes we do, and it’s really exciting – like when the seventh Harry Potter book, or Mockingjay came out. And think how exciting it is when someone else is reading a book along with you – those conversations are really fun.

    So yeah, I really like TV as part of my leisure time in addition to reading (I mean really, Leslie Knope is my hero. And come on Brianna, where are Buffy and Veronica Mars and Lorelei Gilmore on this list!) But I ultimately, I still like books better. And I think it’s interesting to think about the ways we can create the kind of shared experience that TV allows for surrounding a book. Book clubs are one way, sure. I’d also be interested in hearing from teachers and librarians to see what they do locally to create these kind of conversations about what we’re reading.

    • Carly Olson says:

      Sarah, it’s Carly! Remember when we went and bought Harry Potter 7 together? Ah, old times…

    • Katy Beth says:

      Sarah! Yay Veronica Mars! Still my favorite tv show and it’s not even on anymore. And I loooove the Gilmore Girls.

      Also, just finished Mockinjay. Cried. Mostly cause there’s no more to read and I want more and more and more.

      (I’m Bri’s best friend from WI)

      • Brianna says:

        Yay! Thanks for reading and commenting!!! It’s hard to follow up Mockingjay. But if you haven’t read Sloppy Firsts yet, now is the time. It will soothe your heart after the emotional turmoil of The Hunger Games.

        I still haven’t watched The Gilmore Girls. Shame on me. But all of Veronica Mars is on Netflix Instant View so you could rewatch…

    • Brianna says:

      In my defense, I never watched Buffy or Gilmore Girls. But you’re right, the exclusion of Veronica Mars from my lineup is inexcusable!

      The shared experience of reading in a book club is difficult for me because I only want to read what I like, not what other people pick! So after I get my turn selecting the book I start to get bored. In order for a book club to be a satisfying experience to me I find that I really have to expand my horizons and read things that I otherwise might not be interested in. Goodreads, however, has created a really interesting shared experience surrounding reading for me. But it’s limited to online interactions and it’s still not as widespread as television buzz.

  2. Deb V. says:

    Sarah, good call on Buffy and Lorelei being on this list. I enjoy a well written TV show nearly as much a a well written book. But the common thread is that they are well written: unpredictable, character driven stories. And I like to fancy myself a little Leslie Knope on a good day. Love her!

    • Brianna says:

      Ah yes, Deb, you hit on something I hadn’t thought about – the unpredictable element of a great female character. I like when Slatebreaking ladies (on books or on television) surprise me. It keeps them feeling genuine. And a predictable character, I think, is often a stereotypical character.

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