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The Tube
A Film by Peter Entell
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Is there proof that television is habit forming, as some people have suspected for years? After his young daughter threw yet another fit when the television was turned off, journalist Luc Mariot decided to find out.

What is this pulsating, radiant light doing to us? Researchers claim they have scientific evidence that television is addictive. Normally, when we are awake and alert, specific areas of the brain are measurably active. But scientists have found that viewing a cathode tube, or television, causes such a decrease in brain activity that viewers are actually put in a trance. According to the research, it doesn't matter what you're watching - the news, a soap opera or "Survivor." The mental numbing may be caused by the cathode tube technology itself.

Corporations, TV networks, and the advertising industry have been funding research about the physiological effects of television for decades. Mariot set off to penetrate the very heart of these industries, to find out what they knew about TV addiction. Together with filmmaker Peter Entell, the journalist spent three years searching, following clues and gathering information. During a voyage that took them from Europe to the studios of Japan and on to the clinical laboratories of the U.S., they discovered some troubling cases, including the 'Pokemon Incident'.

In late 1997 the Reuters News Service dispatched a wire under the headline, "Monster TV cartoon Illness Mystifies Japan". THE TUBE investigates what was behind the 'Pokemon Incident' by interviewing Dr. Makoto Funatsuka, who treated some of the children, and Mana Yamaguchi, head of programming at TV Tokyo.

THE TUBE also looks at the history of General Electric, the multinational conglomerate that owns the NBC network. Instrumental in the development of TV, scientists at GE's Department of Public Opinion Research were the first to measure the brainwaves of a person watching TV. THE TUBE tries to find the men who did this research, and uncover their results. Others interviewed include Robert Kubey PhD, a professor at Rutgers University and director of the Center for Media Studies, whose research focuses on the development of media education.

At the dawn of the 21st century, television screens flicker everywhere. Millions of us spend more free time watching those screens than doing anything else. Has the industry kept the physiological effects of television secret for decades? What exactly has been discovered? What haven't we been told? You may never watch TV the same way again.

"Both scary and reassuring. Scary because it makes clear just how little we know about potentially harmful effects of 'tubes' on our brains, but reassuring that someone is finally asking the questions which so desperately need to be answered!"—Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., Educational Psychologist, Author of Endangered Minds and Failure to Connect

"Well done.... An outstanding investigative movie that begins to present interesting questions about the true nature of television. It presents many compelling facts and questions about an activity that most people take for granted."—

"The film is a tongue-in-cheek indictment of the dangers of watching TV, a convincing, methodical and well-argued denunciation, not on the contents of television, but on the psychological and physical effects of watching the TV screen itself."—Le Monde (France)

"Fascinating... An entertaining, intriguing film about the effects of television on its viewers..."—DOX Magazine

"A thrilling and troubling film."—Le Matin (France)

2002 Cinéma du Réel (Paris)
2002 Viewpoint Now, Gent (Belgium)
2002 'It's All True' Documentary Film Festival (Brazil)
2001 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival

87 minutes / color
Release: 2002
Copyright: 2001
Sale: $398

Subject areas:
Advertising & Marketing, Biology, Communications, Media Studies, Neuroscience & Neurology, Physics, Psychology, Science and Technology

Related Links:
Click here to view the filmmaker's Web site.

Related Titles:
Electric Signs: Explores the effects of new screen-based advertising sign systems on urban environments and public space.

CultureJam: A film about the movement called Culture Jamming. Pranksters and subversive artists are causing a bit of brand damage to corporate mindshare...

Playing the News: Does the convergence online of current affairs (like the Iraq war) and computer games herald the future of news and entertainment? And if so, is it dangerous, or a new way to reach a young audience?

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Last Updated August 17, 2015
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