I would like to dissect Todd Allcots poem “Television”. As apposed to presenting a discussion on general human addiction to Television and what feeds that need he wrote this poem as though this character trait were both collective and unchangeable. It is that narrative that provokes a response where a conversation might not. To get into the same feeling watch this reading of his poem.

Television addiction is not an important topic to me but the reason for the collective addiction is more interesting and very important: our desire to live comfortably. This is part of us that will never change, and nor would i argue for it to change but it also creates complacency that applies to many other more concerning topics, such as how in comfortable western society we respond to human tragedy. It is with that thought that I want to analyze this poem to create a narrative framework that can be used for other side effects from that collective complacency (“comfort”).

I cut the narrative into 6 basic scenes:

  1. Do as I say
  2. Remove reservations that might distract from request
  3. Recap of contract
  4. Separate willful audience from the unenlightened
  5. Show the benefits
  6. Reset the pace and let them fly

At the end I will give some thoughts on what characteristics the target topic needs to fit this framework best.

Scene 1: Do as I say

Look at me. Look at me. Look at me, look at me, look at me. Look at me.

The surface message is a simple action. The poems title has already setup the context such that the specific meaning of this action, “look at the television”, is understood. The repitition sets the pace and mood. This mood is one which looks down at the audience. The style has a propaganda like feeling to it, similar to the Lawrence Lessig presentation style. Also, if it is not obvious, the narrator and author during the entire poem is actually the manifestation of the readers own will.

No, no, no, dont look over there, look at me, look at me, look at me.

The narrator requires the absolute fulfillment of an action which is difficult to be so devoted to. In this text the viewer has taken the exact opposite of the action, for a fragment of a second, and the narrator forces them back into line by repeating the command.

Are you looking at me?
Is everyone looking at me?
Do I have your attention?

I’m reminded of how when my mother would have something important that she wanted to say to me she would preface with “Nathan, now please just hear me out for a moment and dont react [pause]” Normally after this something serious in nature would follow. The most important effect though is that at the end of this statement and before the next is revealed our entire demeanor toward the conversation changes. In the case of this poem, nothing new or important follows, just further inundation to continue the action required.

Scene 2: Remove reservations that might distract from request

Dont get the wrong idea.
Im not trying to take over your life.

Narrator is aware that this request appears to be too much or too unrealistic for the audiance and assures them that is not the case. Narrator will next go over case and point to prove that they can exist while still fulfilling the request as required. To rewrite this frame for a different topic you must find the single most basic obstacle that prevents the audience from fulfilling your request, formulate it as a question and then provide a simplistic answer. The answer, not the question, is used as the text. To get as close to the original form as possible the text should make the question appear as though it resulted from a simple misunderstanding alone.

You need, what? What do you need? You need to, what?
Go to the bathroom?
Get up,
goto the bathroom,
come back,
look at me.

The misunderstanding was there because the audience felt this request wouldn’t allow for basic necessities of life. A basic necessity is presented as an example for how the audiance can live a normal life while still fufilling the request.

You need, what?
You need to get something to eat?
Get up,
go to the kitchen,
get something to eat,
come back,
look at me.

Another basic necessity.

You need to, what,
get up,
go to bed,
go to sleep,
get up,
come back,
look at me.

Another basic necessity.

Scene 3: Recap of contract

So we have an agreement.
You will do what you absolutely need to do,
and when your done,
you will come back and look at me.

Having covered the necessities, we agree that the audience can fulfill the request.

Dont worry about your schedule.
I am here for you. I am here for you.
Twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week,
I am here for you. I am here for you.
You need me,
I’m here.
Fair and foul,
thick and thin,
I am here for you. I am here for you.

Jumping back to into a tone similar to the previous scene to address an audience worry. The entire text is based on the first phrase, “schedule“. This word almost encompases all of the basic necessities addressed before and the narrator is going the extra mile to explain that he (actually the audiances own will or lack there of) cares about them and has their best interests at heart. “schedule” will probably not be the same key when applying this framework to other topics. The phrase “I am here for you” is also important and perhaps difficult to replace. That phrase gets used later in the poem to say “the people who do not understand this action and devotion to it, they are not here for you but I am.” And that statement is important for the next scene.

Scene 4: Separate willful audience from the unenlightened

People try to tell you I’m bad?
You tell them that I am here for you.
Twenty-four hours a day,
fair and foul,
thick and thin,
I am here for you. I am here for you.
People try to tell you I’m bad,
know what that sounds like to me?
Sour Grapes.

Again we have “I am here for you” as well as a refrain used before. The important point is to create an “us” vs “them” feeling. If possible use the “I am here for you” and refrain to keep the thoughts connected and mixed up. Also, “fair/foul”, “think/thin” and “Sour Grapes” are common statements in English and bring a history with them.

You see what I–hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, no,
dont look over there,
theres nothing going on over there,
look at me, look at me, look at me.

Audience is distracted again. Get them back in line using the same manner as the start of the poem.

Scene 5: Show the benefits

I’ve got stuff you wouldnt believe.
All here,
all in the next eight minutes.
Can you believe it?
You can’t.
It’s unbelievable.
You can’t believe it because its unbelievable!
It’s a miracle.

This is extremely topic specific and would certainly change upon application. The part that can be retained is 1. it shows the audience why they are going to enjoy this new contract and 2. the rhythm is very short. The idea that the benefits the audiance will get from this contract as being “unbelievable” is impactful but I am not sure it translates easily to most topics.

Scene 6: Reset the pace and let them fly

Just keep looking at me. Just keep looking at me. Just keep looking at me. Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me.

End as we began.

How to apply

The most important points I felt I wanted to carry over were in the statements “I am here for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”, I wanted the narrator/author to still represent the audiences own will or lack of due to desire for comfort. My target is a recent injustice that the public has chosen to ignore in-favor of focusing on the messenger. I’m having to contemplate which of “Dont look at me” or “Dont think about me” fit better as the action. I have not yet decided and I believe whichever action is used will be the one that best fits with the “I am here for you” statement. I must figure out what it is that is here for the audience that wills them to ignore the injustice.