“Watchin TV Makes You Smarter” by Steven Johnson Analysis

This persuasive essay by Steven Johnson defies what current culture and tradition teaches us: Television is bad; avoid watching shows. It is known that television was created to “dumb us down” and “control us”, making us heavily dependent on this form of technology. However, in Johnson’s perspective, television nowadays increases intellect and exercises cognition, therefore making us more intelligent. While we are watching shows, along with the drama, we learn to think critically and analyze environments and situations. Johnson is not stating that ALL television shows are beneficial, as there are some forms of entertainment that are too explicit in many ways. Besides these types of shows, other shows, such  as the finished series of 24, that “you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships” (Johnson 279). It is like your brain is acting out what you think would happen, along with the action occurring on the show. The benefit of these shows does not come from learning and following the characters’ actions, it comes from thinking and questioning situations. Johnson shows the comparison between complex shows from years ago  to complex shows from today, through multi-threads. Johnson states that, “Audiences happily embrace that complexity because they have been trained by two decades of multi-threaded dramas” (Johnson 284).  Years ago, Hill Street was considered too complex to understand for its viewers. Now, The Sopranos uses the same multi-thread technique and this show is celebrated and enjoyed by viewers today. This shows that intelligence has increased along with the use of complex shows that make us think critically. Johnson does not want his readers to believe that he thinks parents should stop monitoring what their children should watch. Instead he states, “What I am arguing for is a change in the criteria we use to determine what really is cognitive junk food and what is generally nourishing” (Johnson 293).


6 thoughts on ““Watchin TV Makes You Smarter” by Steven Johnson Analysis

  1. I like how you state that Johnson doesn’t say ALL television makes us more intelligent. And I’ve always found people’s variation in their television preferences to be obscure. How can someone honestly enjoy watching a show like 24 (or something that actually stimulates brain function), and yet still like Jersey Shore? That has never made sense to me.

  2. Nowadays you always hear people saying not to let kids watch TV and TV is bad for you but i agree with Johnson when he says that some television shows actually can help your brain. I do think that some TV shows that are out today are absolutely terrible and stupid and should probably be taken off the air but its not all bad.

  3. I like your thought process. I have to agree with all your statements. I happen to agree that television teaches because I can’t count how many times I’ve made references or answered legitimate questions based on what I’ve seen television.

  4. I think you recognized every major point believed that Johnson was trying to make. He strongly believes that CERTAIN television makes you smarter and disproves the theories that television only serves to turn our brain’s to mush. In these complex series, the viewer processes the plot lines and predicaments as if they were in the situation themselves.

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