Room for Dining
Why Tolkien's Middle-earth Table Manners Matter Today
by Arthur W. Hunt III
So you are watching television and Will Ferrell appears in a commercial scrolling his smartphone and says, "This filter makes me look like a cat. It's so funny it's making me cry." His family stares at him pathetically because he is doing this in the middle of dinner. The public service announcement you have just seen is sponsored by Common Sense Media and is part of its #DeviceFreeDinner campaign.
Common Sense Media is not the only voice on television promoting proper table manners. Every week on the hit show Blue Bloods the Reagan family sits down to a device-free Sunday dinner. The show stars Tom Selleck as New York City's Police Commissioner and is reminiscent of the old western series Bonanza, where the central character is a strong father figure who maintains law and order with the help of his offspring. If any member of the Reagan family were to pull out a smartphone at the table, he might find himself washing the dishes at the Reagan kitchen sink.
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Arthur W. Hunt III is Professor of Mass Media and Strategic Communication at the University of Tennessee in Martin, where he teaches Public Speaking and the Rhetorical Tradition for the university's honors program.
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