We Are Prime Time; or, Change (the Channel)

by cowboylands

In times of moral confusion

I turn to prime time

where good can conquer evil

in the space of sixty minutes (minus twenty for 3.9 percent financing on Chevy pickups and softcore Viagra porn).


Once upon a time prime-time showdowns between good and evil came in a haze of gun smoke and rawhide

men bristled with single-action revolvers and laconic one-two punches.

They had only half an hour

but without fail,

the good guy won.

Good always won, back then, while these days it takes an entire season to conquer evil and the episodes are so fucking confusing no viewer actually knows what happened, or even if anyone won at all.

We are what we watch—back then we used to be the cowboy, trim slacks and clean shirt, aced with a tight concho belt around our hips.

True to Cold War form, we’d posture and preen without crossing that line in the sand,

stroking guns and thumbing hats, staring and squinting, a détente in a western town on a vacuum-tube

boob tube that shot ramrods up every child’s spine so he or she would grow up to be good little yes/no-

black/white-right/wrong fighters for the American way.


Back then the villains wore their badness on their sleeve and everyone acted according to script.

Back then the hero never said much but told the truth and torture was having to wait for the next installment of Bonanza.

But that time has its own ghost images of armament build-up, its own static-y pixels of injustices that flash beneath clean-cut white cowboys and blonde horses.

We still identify with our heroes, now flat-screen knights in high-definition armor.

For eight years we were mediums, those Great Deciders who go beyond laws and constitutional rights because a little voice tells them to.

We were paranormals who thirst for common mortals’ blood and fight for world domination against those who are just like them.

We were mediocre reality-show contestants yearning for the fifteen-minute touch of media Svengali.

Omniscient know-it-alls who sat in spider-dens of high-definition surveillance equipment.

plugged-in technical virtuosos in forensic labs and behind-the-scenes commando raids.


We were above the law, below the radar, over the top, beyond mortal ken.

No wonder when we are hated. despised, laughed at, threatened and killed.


So—we change our president. Will it be like changing the channel from one hero to the other: Intuitive to methodical, insular to cosmopolitan, sound-bytes to elaboration, yes-men to debaters, threats to communication, isolation to interdependence,  black gold to green energy, division to union?

Yes we can, we say.

But what will happen when the day after the inauguration turns into one of those weekend afternoons, when you flick through hundreds of cable channels, all proclaiming the change you need but looking the same?


Our primetime heroes are bigger than us, they are grander. They have better teeth, more hair where we want there to be more, less where we wish we didn’t have to wax, they have more guns, better ideas, they never tire or give up hope.  They don’t get laid off, worry about paying health care premiums, or work minimum wage—unless it serves a dramatic or comedic function.


But they have our DNA that shouldn’t sit back on Target daybeds with bags of organic chips and bottles of microbrewery beer, changing the channels. We have to metamorphose, turn from us vs. them to us and them.

It’ll make for boring TV, but why not turn off the flat-screen and play a game of catch with your neighbor? Or better yet, do something to make a difference. Effect a change.


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