Toilet Television

The unrelenting penetration of television and its proxies into virtually every aspect of human existence may have reached it epitome with the introduction of Toilet Television here in Bangkok.

Fueled by giddy post-WWII spending in the 1950's, America embraced television along with other new technologies as harbingers of a fresh new world.

Toward the end of the '50's, TV trays found their way into our homes, allowing the entire family to watch the evening news in the comfort of their living room as they ate dinner.  Television networks provided seductive programming immediately following the news shows,  thus television replaced both conversation around the dinner table and most family interaction afterward. Friends would come over to watch television with us as much as to talk.

In Thailand as in much of the rest of the world, similar changes were taking place, though the placement of events along the timeline lagged a bit.

Television had become a constant presence in the home, and as such was often left on but largely ignored. To counter the lack of attention, advertisers turned to the orientation response -the inborn predisposition to look at a sudden stimulus. Television advertisers create flashing images and attention-getting sounds, and when the viewer involuntarily responds by looking at the television, the advertising message is delivered.

Disturbingly, the televised battle for the consumer’s attention has spilled out of our homes and into the supermarkets and shopping malls.

Television has been a mainstay in Laundromat for decades but now television sets appear in such places as airport and bank lobbies, police stations, and restaurants -nice restaurants at that. Giant screens flash television commercials across expansive shopping malls while smaller flat panel displays hang on supermarket shelves and flash their images while braying their sales pitches.

The consumer’s attention has become a commodity to be bought and sold, and a consumer with less than a Theravada Monk’s concentration has lost a measure of control over his most precious asset -his mind.

One would hope for some place to escape, one last refuge from the continuous torrent of advertising messages, but alas, all hopes were dashed as I entered the men’s room at the Central Shopping Center in Bangna, and was greeted by a presentation on Toilet Television.

Back to Postcards page

Contents copyright 2004, 2005 by Richard Cappels All Rights Reserved.