Archive for November 17, 2010

Mainstreaming the “F Word” or How Not to Promote a Civil Society

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I don’t watch much television these days.  Maybe a little Wheel of Fortune while I’m on the elliptical trainer before dinner, or occasionally kicking back in front of a rerun of The Closer after a tiring day.  For one thing, free time is at a premium, but I’m also just plain turned off by the current programming on that machine I’ve been turning on since I was four years old.  Even at seven o’clock in the evening, I can’t imagine kids and parents sitting down to watch together.  That slot used to be called the Family Hour.  Howard Stern’s family, maybe. 

I can hear the husband of a certain friend of mine now, as she reads this and says to him, “This week Sue Anne is offended by the content of commercial television,” and he says, “What isn’t she offended by?!”  In my defense, behind these particular convictions is painful personal experience and a long  history of trying to squeak out small protests amidst the oceanic roar that is the American Viewing Public, voting loudly with their viewing habits, week after bawdy week.  

What set me aboil over this hot topic, after decades of escalating coarseness?  Well, I got behind in my schedule and ended up having dinner alone at 7:30 one recent evening, so I looked to the TV for a little company as I ate.  Channel-surfing led me all the way around the dial, passing up The Big Bang Theory (frequent sexual innuendo, juvenile references to masturbation); Grey’s Anatomy (crude language and uncommitted sexual hookups, staple elements); Bones (fixated on kinky fetishes and provocative subcultures, as well as their characters’ pulsating libidos during brief periods of [gasp] celibacy); The Vampire Diaries (sex scenes including teenagers, some involving coercion, violence, and occult lore); and $#*! My Dad Says (profanity – there’s a shocker – and gratuitous references to oral sex, masturbation, genitalia size).  This jaunt landed me briefly in the smack-middle of an episode of Hell’s Kitchen, featuring the out-of-control rantings and ravings of restaurateur Gordon Ramsay. 

The violent tone of this side-show was the first thing to reach out like a slap in the face, but when I realized that participants were screeching the “queen mother of all dirty words” back and forth at each other across the counter tops, it almost put me off my dinner.  It takes a lot to put me off my dinner.  Even the short time I sat stunned, my thumb frozen in mid-air above the channel selection button on the remote, exposed me to scathing diatribes and rude antics (like throwing cooking utensils across a crowded room) I would never tolerate in a friend, acquaintance, family member, or co-worker.  Why would I choose to spend precious time wincing my way through an hour of it from a spectator’s seat? 

I don’t care how effectively the film editors patch together a dramatic crescendo or flesh out sympathetic real life characters, nothing can make this horror show seem like entertainment to me.  But let’s say I got into it, and started caring about those characters, and started loving to hate the Chef Almighty whose artistic temperament and directorial mandates give him license to verbally abuse those around him.  The question then becomes, should I risk desensitization to lewd, destructive behavior by exposing myself to it, packaged under the guise of entertainment? 

I have learned to say, “No,” but it’s not always easy, as when I get momentarily intrigued by the abject shallowness of the characters on (more…)

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November 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm 1 comment


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