Life smells better without television

I don’t like television. I mean, I can’t believe I’m writing that, especially since I made my living on TV all those years….

But for a few hours this week when the cable and internet went out, I felt a strange kind of euphoria. Suddenly, the air smelled better ("how long have my roses been in bloom?"). I caught up on laundry, dusted off my bicycle and talked to my ‘tween (no Disney or Nickelodeon channels to compete with her attention). That night we ate at the table, unburdened by the approaching ‘deadline’ of a favorite flick.

It is television after all that mesmerizes millions, forcing families to spend more time living vicariously in someone else’s reality than their own. Why watch "Jon and Kate Plus 8’ when you can shut off the TV and argue with your own husband in your own house? But it’s not just that. You see, TV is not only ruining our lives, it’s making us all fat. You don’t think so? Well, that’s easier to believe than the claims that Iowa corn farmers and their high fructose corn are making us all fat! But that’s exactly the tired-old mantra being preached by the director of the new movie, "Food Inc."

"Food Inc." is a film opening today in ‘select theatres’ (none in Iowa). It claims modern food production -- everything from the way it’s grown to the way it’s processed -- is responsible for a multitude of ills. For one thing, filmmaker Robert Kenner claims, "we’re paying money for food that’s making us sick" and even goes so far as to compare the tobacco industry to corn farmers.

Well, Iowans know that’s a load of (well, you know). Maybe that’s why the movie isn’t showing here in Iowa—the number one grower of corn in the nation. If you were able to accept their version of reality, that corn farmers you’ve never met are responsible for your obesity (not you) just think of the possibilities! I mean, I’m not a litigious person, but with their line of reasoning— everything would be fair game; parents everywhere could sue Mylie Cyrus for their daughter’s occasional surliness; cooks could sue Martha Stewart for making them feel like failures in the kitchen ("today, we’re going to show you how to make pheasant-under-glass in 5 minutes!"). I could sue Dancing with the Stars because of the argument I got into with my husband while watching it ("why can’t you, um, dance like Giles?"). For that matter, I should be able to sue Oprah because I’m not "Living My Best Life" (insert here-‘My Best Life’ would be living Oprah’s billion-dollar life).

What’s missing from this picture, besides reality? How about those two words no lawyer (or California filmmaker) will utter -- Personal Responsibility?

Once we have personal responsibility, then we have to face up to the fact that it’s not farm subsidies or the person growing the food that makes us fat--it’s the person putting the food in our mouths each day.

Every day we walk into the grocery store we are faced with literally thousands of choices. Yes, corn is present in many products (including batteries, baby diapers, plates, etc.). But it’s also present in regular old corn flakes, versus Frosted Flakes. It’s also used to grow nutritious, affordable pork, versus French fries and TV dinners.

The movie shows a young, obese family that prefers eating drive-through fast food, rather than shopping for lettuce, vegetables or lean meat. Perhaps the choices involved there are not just about money, but the motivation to cook? It was easy for the filmmaker to blame corn farmers for this family’s poor food choices, rather than the parents. Frankly, I think that family would reap more health benefits from asking for the free advice of an in-store nutritionist, rather than a California filmmaker who wants to exploit them for their food apathy. But, you take a look at the movie clip here (   and let me know what you think.

No matter what you think, you’d have to agree that teaching people accountability would make a pretty boring TV show or movie. After all, who wants to play the hero if the villain is really……you?

Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau