Monday, November 27, 2006

Violins on Television...

Steven Spielberg called for a stop to violence on television. You can read about it here.

One interesting thing is that Spielberg squarely places the blame on the producers who make these shows. In the forums responding to his statements, you'll see the same point made over and over. Parents need to be responsible for what their children watch. So who's right?

Can I get away with saying everybody's right? Here's the thing. Today's audiences aren't satisfied watching "I love Lucy" and "The Brady Bunch." The wild success of crime shows like "CSI," "NCIS," "Bones," "Law and Order" (in all its various versions), is telling us something. People like watching twisted criminals. People enjoy watching the obscene. Ever wondered why Ricki Lake and the like are so popular? Heck, tune in any soap opera, and you'll see that within the "acceptable" boundaries, the sexual limits are being pushed, and you certainly wouldn't want your children to learn their morals from soap operas either.

In fact, for every talk show about best friends stealing each other's spouses, it probably happens twice on a soap opera. Sure, they're not showing nipples, but you don't have to be a genius to figure out what's going on under the covers either.

So - audiences want sex and violence, and audiences don't want their children to see sex and violence. Guess what? You really can't have it both ways - not all the way at least. Sure, you can make sure your kids aren't watching tv late at night (when the violence gets nastier) but you can't keep them from seeing every horrible thing that's on television without throwing the boob tube out of your house (and they'll still see some of that garbage at friends' houses).

So what do we do as a society? First, those of us who watch violent television shows need to think about what it's doing to us as people. Are we becoming less and less sensitive to violence? Does it take more and more to disgust us?

Next, we need to think about what we're teaching our children. Do our children sit watching television for hours a day without anyone checking what they're watching? Has the television joined our family with full status as a member, or do we remember where the off-switch is? Does it join us at the dinner table? If we don't live without television, our children won't either.

It's so easy to tune out to a television show - it's fun, undemanding, available. But the television is a piece of equipment. Just like you don't let the dishwasher decide what your family does, you shouldn't let the television. I wonder if it wasn't better in the days before the popularity of television. People went to a movie theater, sat down, settled in, and prepared for the onslaught of images and ideas. Nowadays, we just let it into our house without ever looking at what we get. We decide nothing - just let the network execs choose for us...

So Spielberg's half-right. The level of violence is disconcerting. But the producers are only giving us what we ask for. What does that say about us as a society?

1 comment:

Ira said...

"...blame on the producers... Parents need to be responsible for what their children watch. So who's right?"

neither. parents can't control what their children watch and production corporations will answer only to income results. limiting broadcasts with the FCC is arguably against the first amendment.

the solution is simple - educate your kids. explain to them that what they see on the tube is just fiction, and mostly twisted for entertainment and profit. they should be constantly be reminded that this is NOT how the real life should work, or whatever other way you chose to educate them about good and bad, and how to interpret what you see in the world around you, and not only on the tube.