Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sin Sells

Why are you reading my blog today? Go, now, and read Larry D at Acts of the Apostasy; Larry is being especially brilliant today:
As if I needed another reason to NOT watch prime time television.

Premiering on ABC this fall is a sitcom called "Modern Family" (9PM, 9/23), starring Ed O'Neill (remember "Married...With Children"?). The synopsis, from ABC.com: "Today's American families come in all different shapes and sizes. Shot from the perspective of an unseen documentary filmmaker, this comedy is a modern look at the complications that come with being a family in 2009." (Link and text color in Larry's post--E.M.)

Sounds innocuous enough, right?

Wrong - included in the mix is a gay couple with an adopted child. Yep. Disney Studios doing their part to propel social engineering. Or rather, social re-engineering. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what some of the "complications" will be: so-called gay marriage and gay adoptions, to name the two biggies. I'm willing to bet that one or more characters on this show will be a "religious intolerant bigot", too. To show 'balance', of course.

I often wonder how much different our culture would be if shows reflected traditional families, dealing with traditional issues. Couples remaining faithful to each other in marriage. Children being respectful of their parents. Parents acting like adults. Fathers not being portrayed as ignorant airheads. Immoral behavior being rejected rather than embraced and glorified. Values such as sacrifice, prudence, modesty, chastity, God and faith being honored rather than vilified. Comes down to two words, really: Sin Sells. It's a shame the American public at large have rejected many of these ideals, replacing them with cheap laughs, scatological humor and being content with settling for the lowest common denominator. Shame on us.
Do read the whole thing.

I'll admit that I watch a little bit of television. I watch almost none of it on the actual TV, though; I watch mainly through Hulu or via other online access methods. I also don't tend to watch realistic shows or "family comedy" shows or most of what used to be called "must-see TV." Even so, I also don't allow my kids to watch with me; if there's something worth showing them, their dad or I, or both of us, will have previewed it ahead of time, and that's just as true for something "educational" as for something entertainment-based.

Because, like Larry says, sin sells. So even on a seemingly innocuous history program or cooking show there might be a moment of cultural decay on parade, just so we can all get that 5 second message of social re-engineering having to do with, say, the host's extremely alternative lifestyle, subliminally reinforcing the message that our disgust with such things is somehow our fault and our problem, because "everybody else" approves.

And while such previewing and careful selection for our children is a must, I also try to reexamine the shows Thad and I watch for entertainment. Is there something valuable here? Is there a good message overall, good writing, well-developed and interesting characters? Or did the show start out reasonably good, and then slowly start pushing an agenda I can't agree with, or a level of coarse banality that has slowly risen and made the show unwatchable? Sometimes we'll agree that one of these things has happened, and will drop the program from our viewing list; it's too easy to be in the habit of tuning in to something and to be tempted to overlook rapidly increasing and potentially dangerous shortcomings.

I'm with Larry in his call for some traditional families occasionally being treated as something other than a joke on television. The great writer Flannery O'Connor always said that art (and some television might occasionally rise to that level) should reflect reality--but the reality is that there are good, decent families struggling to raise good, decent kids in a world that no longer respects their struggle or their sacrifices, and it ought to be possible to see things like that on TV once in a while. The iconic TV families of past generations were not bland uninteresting caricatures of real people (well, not all of them) and the simple struggle of daily life with jobs and homes and neighbors and children can be the foundation of a lot of interesting stories to tell.

But, quoting Larry again, sin sells. It's more amusing and provocative to show such families as repressed fundamentalist closet-cases who hate everybody but themselves, reflecting not reality, but the bigotry that lives in the minds of many of those responsible for producing this sort of "entertainment." And if we tune in and laugh along, we may be part of the problem.


LarryD said...

Thanks for the link - even more so for the gracious comments.

My TV viewing is limited to sports - and even then you have to watch for the commercials - and EWTN. Even the news programs are verboten for me.

Rebecca said...

I haven't watched TV in a long, long time...except Antiques Roadshow at my parent's house. I'm amazed at the things I hear about it, though. I'm not that old--I'm 35, and in high school, I was watching The Cosby Show. How is it that things have degraded so quickly? I'm just astounded at how what would have been considered shocking in the eighties and nineties is now just the norm.