I came home from work not long ago and decided to watch some prime time television on one of the major networks. I’m not going to mention which one as I think they are all basically the same. It was a sitcom night and my wife and I watched three of them. Over the next hour and a half it occurred to me the network was transmitting some rather disturbing messages:
* They discouraged smoking, but promoted recreational drug abuse and alcoholism instead.
* Pre-marital sex, lesbianism and a ménage à trois was portrayed as okay, and marriage was for suckers (and will most likely end in divorce).
* Profanity and lack of manners and courtesy was considered the norm, not the exception.
And this was just one evening’s worth of prime time.
In 90 minutes I learned my sense of the world was all screwed up and I should be more like these hip young characters in the shows. I am certainly not a prude, but these messages disturbed me in terms of what Hollywood is telling our youth.
It wasn’t always like this of course, as censors watched prime time content carefully. This all changed with the advent of Cable-TV which could offer more risque programming for its viewership. Profanity and pornography quickly crept into our consciousness. It seemed the more lewd and obnoxious the program was, the better. Cable-TV became such a powerful force that the prime time networks could no longer resist and lowered their standards in order to remain competitive. This of course marked a significant change in our culture as our vocabulary, humor, customs, and morality was greatly affected.
Some would argue, “What’s the big deal? The kids are going to learn it anyway.” This may be so, but I question the media’s role in advancing it. Think about it, whereas the “Big 3” networks at one point offered programming rated “G”, today they would easily earn an “R” rating regardless of the day of the week.
Television signals have been traveling through the cosmos since we started transmitting in the 1940’s. Distant worlds are just now receiving pictures of “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners” among others. I wonder what their impression of Earth will be when they finally receive episodes of “Two Broke Girls”, “Two and a Half Men,” and just about everything else we show these days. I wonder if they will understand any of it, as I know I have trouble making any sense of it myself.
As I have written in the past, our sense of comedy has changed radically over the years. Whereas, we were more “suggestive” in the past, which would cause viewers to use their imagination, now it is all “in your face,” leaving nothing to the imagination. I am just questioning the wisdom of having the networks drive home questionable moral values over and over again every night. Is there no self-control or sense of responsibility in the media anymore? Evidently not.