Like many of us, I probably watch a little too much TV. I have to admit that there are some shows I really enjoy watching. I have grown up with the media for the last almost 70 years. I remember the little square 12 inch black and white TV, although I do not remember watching that much until I was older. I recall shows like FATHER KNOWS BEST, STAR TREK, KUNG FU and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to name a few. During this time the media quickly learned that they could advertise products to a large market during these shows. Back then, commercials and TV shows were somewhat simple compared to today’s high tech, thoroughly researched, mind invasive productions. For example, in the early days, cartoons were very passive with occasional slap stick humor. I think it is safe to say that Micky and Mini Mouse were pacifists. Compare that to today’s toons. Basically there are three types of toons on TV today. First we have the adult toons which include violence, abusive language and lots of destruction and sexual connotations. Next would be the toons for the teens and preteens, these shows are simply a gateway from Winnie the Pooh to the adult toons. Often these toons include subtle sexual undertones, not quite offensive language and a good amount of violence. Finally we have the children’s toons which very subtly are teaching society norms which is totally up to the producer. Some of these toons do teach good decent human behavior and others get into the addictive buying nature of our society or even gentle nudging of social norms. Many of these children’s productions are suitable to young children but soon fall by the wayside when the child happens to watch one of the toons for older children. It’s sort of like sugar, once a child is allowed to eat sugar products, there is no going back to the less addictive bite of a delicious apple. Or another example, a fellow teacher once asked me the rhetorical question, “How can I compete against TV and video games?”
I would love to debate with anyone who believes that the media industry has not been a substantial part in shaping the values of our society. Here is a great example. When I was growing up the word queer was a mysterious word to me. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there was this group of people, predominately guys, who liked guys. It was never spoken about in the media or around the dinner table. The only time you ever heard the word, queer, was when guys were referring to each other in a derogatory nature! You could be labeled queer for a variety of reasons such as, you ran too slow or your hair was too curly. It was totally up to the person deciding who was queer! Anyway, later in life I worked at the Greyhound bus terminal in Washington, DC and there were many guys of the queer persuasion. I must say I was a bit uncomfortable at first but I soon decided to live and let live. I met several guys who were gay and they seemed like nice guys so my issue was settled. Now, move ahead to the last five years. The gay population was ‘coming out of the closet’ and society was having a difficult time accepting the alternate life style of these folks. Enter the media. In there own, sometimes crazy way, the media has helped us understand and accept people with alternate life styles with a barrage of movies and shows depicting the life of gay people. Some of these shows caused quite an uproar in the beginning but slowly the noise died down and people began to realize that these were good people with just a different slant on their own sexual preferences. So, I would have to give the media a thumbs up in this area. Sometimes I think they overdo things, but the end result has been rather positive.
Now, one would think that with this type of power to change attitudes, the media would try and help society grow up, but I fear that is not always the case. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) the average child will witness 200,000 acts of violence before the age of 18! That is almost 30 a day!! I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but has anyone noticed the increase in violence in our society lately? We lead the developed world in violent acts created by our own citizens! We don’t have to worry about Mexicans or other multinationals killing our citizens, we are well trained and capable of doing it ourselves. Our country had almost 40,000 gun related deaths in 2018 alone!
I do not have any clear-cut answers to these issues but good old common sense tells me that the media could help our world become a more peaceful place to live. But I fear it goes back to the same answer many of my writings do, money and greed. The media, which has the power to make the world a better and more peaceful place will choose the dollar every time. If they can make a movie that sells, there is no limit to what horrible acts they will depict in the movie. They will cut off heads, scare the living hell out of you with horrific scenes, shoot people’s faces off with large guns, cut them in half, run over them with cars and trucks, but make no mistake their favorite way of killing people is with ever bigger guns!
So this is what I want to say to the media, “wake up and smell the gunpowder”. Our society is in trouble. We are at the end of being the technological and social leaders of the world. Part of this is your fault. Rather than promoting science and math and culture, you have promoted a society riddled with violence and corruption to pad your pockets with ever increasing amounts of money. Make no mistake, as our country heads down this well traveled road that many societies in history have ventured, your profits will fall along with every thing around you and some day you will wonder what went wrong?