The holidays provide many dubious pleasures, one of which is to see what the rest of your family watches on television. In my case, as we are all congregated in this Overlookish Sheraton off the O’Hare airport in Chi-Town, we’re watching snazzy widescreen flat panel TVs in our hotel room, which unless you know how change the aspect ratios via some deft slight of remote, every image is sssstrrretched to fit the widescreen. When I try to change the ratios on my parent’s and siblings’ TVs they flip out: “Erich, we LIKE it this way!”
Based on my family and the TV I saw down in the bar, I’m guessing all of America watches TV this way. The autodidactical cultural analyst that I am, I instantly draw a pie chart comparing America’s rising obesity levels with the advent of widescreen TV and see an immediate parallel. We are what we watch and we want to watch what we are. Thus, the new Humphrey Bogart is a fat Bogart, as are all actors unlucky enough to be filmed in the normal 4:3 aspect ratio.
The problem here too is that even if the show is widescreen it gets stretched, because you have to have the technology fully engaged with itself to read the HD signal properly and not stretch it irregardless of its original signal. I’m not enough of a tech nerd to figure all that out, but I got it to work on my projector at home. But most people bring home their widescreen TV, plug it in and let it go at that. Sometimes they get lucky and get a show that understands their system, but more often than not, everyone is very wide and distorted, and America doesn’t notice or care.
The biggest nightmare example I have is when my mom bought my brother THE TWIN TOWERS or whatever the second Lord of the Rings movie was called on DVD so we could watch it on his big widescreen TV. Well, I come home from my prowls to see them watching it, and they’re watching… you guessed it, the full screen edition, stretched to fit the widescreen.
When I complained, they told me to shut up and stop being difficult. Okay… okay… I’ll stop. But I hope you, dear reader, will feel my pain…