Quite possibly. They’ve certainly become a male status symbol. I first noticed this at a dinner party when all the men went missing. Following the “ooh-aaah” sounds, I found them in the lounge room, crowded around the new giant plasma TV. It wasn’t even switched on. They were just ooh-ing at the sheer manly size of the screen and slapping its proud owner on the back.
It reminded me of when girls gather around a woman with a new baby or a pair of impressive new shoes.
And just like men can’t speak shoe and think we’re idiots for wanting to accumulate so many, most women don’t get the plasma obsession. “I couldn’t care less about the size of the TV, what’s the big deal?” wonders one girlfriend. “Is it just about size, or is it also about width and picture quality? And what’s a rear-projection – are men proud of that too?”
Good questions. Personally, I like a big screen because I’m a bit short-sighted but I don’t understand what plasma actually is and please don’t tell me because I don’t care.
Neither do many other women. “The only up-side I can see to having a wall-mounted plasma is that it would stop my 18 month old son from kissing the tele,” notes another girlfriend. “He especially likes the cast of Neighbours and does some serious tongue action on Harold Bishop’s face. I hate to think of the radiation he is absorbing through his mouth.”
Among the guys I know, my electrician friend Gary appears to be a lonely male voice of dissent. He calls plasma-obsessed men Tele Tuggers. “My mates will embrace and high five each other when they discover someone has joined the plasma club; ‘oh, we must come around and see it’ they rave. They’re plasma tragics.”
Then there’s the implicit prejudice against those with regular TVs and even non-wall mounted plasmas. “When I told one of my clients that it wasn’t possible to conceal the power and aerial cables and that he would be best keeping it on a stand on the floor, he went into a deep depression,” adds Gary who recently declined the opportunity to buy a wholesale plasma cheaply through a friend. “Three things I will never own in life: a jet ski, a leaf blower and a plasma TV.”
My own home theatre experience has been typical of many couples: man fervently desires plasma and spends many months hunting down best possible deal. When plasma-prey is finally sighted and killed at Harvey Norman, it’s dragged back to the cave by triumphant man who waits for oooh-aaah accolades from woman. Woman gives large box in living room disinterested glance and wanders off. Man proudly assembles plasma and over ensuing months, repeats process with surround sound speakers. Woman hates surround sound. Complains it’s too loud and is disconcerted by feeling of being inside TV. Keeps looking over shoulder nervously during movies to see if bird//space-ship/crazed killer is actually behind her in house because that’s what it sounds like. Man bitterly mutters words like “killjoy” and longs for company of other men who can truly appreciate his plasma genius.
The worst part about home theatres is the remote controls. There are many. They mock me. I hate them.
Men have always sought to dominate the remote. But as TVs and home theatres become more complex, many women have been rendered impotent when it comes to remote controlling. Fighting for control of the remote is now futile because once I get it, I can’t work it. It may as well be a baguette.
Am I the only one who needs the phone to turn on the TV? As in: “It’s me. Look, how do I make this damn television work – no, DO NOT tell me it’s simple because it so bloody isn’t and I’m sick of not being able to watch TV when you’re not here AND I HATE THIS STUPID TV AND I’M GOING TO SMASH IT WITH THE STUPID REMOTE!”
Switching on my television now requires pressing five buttons on three different remotes. Inexplicably, switching it off requires six buttons on two different remotes. See? Simple.
So how did the plasma become linked to male status? One friend has this theory: “I guess plasmas can be a competitive item for men because, let’s face it, not all of them can afford the flash car or a flash house, yet for a few lazy thousand bucks, they can razzle dazzle their mates and make them envious.”
Indeed, when I ask my girlfriends what precipitated their partners buying plasma the answer is always the same: ‘one of his mates got one’.
Not that I’m mocking men for coveting thy neighbour’s plasma. It’s no different to the way some women envy other women’s weight, wardrobes or relationships. Neither gender can claim superiority on this front.
Interestingly, plasma envy has yet to penetrate the country. Tele tuggers are predominantly city creatures. This was confirmed by my farmer friend, Pete who admitted “I don’t care about big TVs but I am a little envious of people with more cows than me. Yes, very envious actually.”