Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

My cultural knowledge void

I’m going to tell you a secret.

I know almost nothing about television from 1984–1992 (I was born in 1978 but I figure I wouldn’t have remembered any specific cultural knowledge before age 6).

We didn’t get a TV until I was a sophomore in high school. My biology teacher wanted us to watch an episode of Nova on PBS every week and write a paragraph about them. When I told him that we didn’t have a TV, he suggested that I write a lengthy essay instead. I think he didn’t believe me.

So, to save me, my parents broke down and got a TV for the house. A move they’d managed to put off for my entire life. No cable though, just broadcast in the beginning.

TV lost some of its mystery once we got it at our house. I spent massive amounts of time before that trying to sneak TV at my friend’s and relative’s houses. I can’t tell you how many times I got busted for being inside a friend’s in front of the screen while they were playing outside.

I can’t complain too much about childhood deprivation. I did get as many books and comics as I wanted, even if I sometimes got in trouble for reading in class at school.

My dad and I went on a month-long camping trip one summer and we stopped at bookstores in every state we went through. He even built me a little bookshelf that went on the floor of the truck.

To this day, people will bring up some 1980s cultural phenomenon that I know nothing about. Occasionally it’ll be something I’ve heard of, but mostly I’m flying blind.

I do know a lot about movies. We got a VCR 3 or 4 years before the TV made its entrance into our house. I got an original Nintendo one Christmas in middle school and it came with a tiny 13" monitor and we figured out how to connect a VCR to it.

The first movie I ever watched in my own house was A Fish Called Wanda, one of my favorites to this day.