You know, TV and movies are many things to many people. They can be entertainment (sometimes mindless), they can be moving and emotional life lessons, they can be day-care for our children or they can teach us about worlds we will never get to experience. The list can go on and on but there’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, and it is about how movies and TV try to give us examples of how we should live life, carry ourselves and treat others. Well, not today of course with movies like Hostel, TV shows like those mind numbing Kardashians and pretty much every piece of crap show on MTV teaching children how to be raving bitches by their 16th birthday. But regardless of the way the world is, I think people (who really are just an amazing species), are just not living to our potential or the way they we should and therefore are headed the completely wrong direction.
TV shows and movie in the 40’s and 50’s pretty much tried to be an extension of Christianity. Love thy neighbor, thy family, be courteous, kind and forgiving, do the right thing, and tell the truth. Well that’s all well and good and an entire generation of people were growing up with “Father Knows Best”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Leave It to Beaver”, “Dennis the Menace” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to name a few. Well TV is a funny thing. They call it the idiot box because people watch it, think what they see is true and assume that’s the way the world is. Good going studios…you’ve captured a willing and loyal (and sheepish) herd of gullible followers. Now think about everything you were shown or supposed to be taught in those shows (like what I mentioned above.) Doesn’t that sound suspiciously like the bible’s teachings? Its a live action version of the sermon you hear in church every Sunday. Well that’s what Christianity has always tried to instill in the followers. Better living through Christ, right? Well, I like the idea and have no problem with that. But I do have a big problem with lying. The truth of the matter is that that entire generation was being lied to. Now I always hear people say, I wish it could be like it was in those shows in the 40s and 50s. Well not having grown up in that era, I wish the same thing but mainly because of the fabricated life in these shows. Life is not easy, life is not sweet and there is so much in life that ‘s scary, dangerous and unsafe. My parents tried to raise me the way the shows idealized life but also told me about the bad in the world as well. So, somewhere I found the middle ground and kept from having this disillusioned upbringing.
The problem with the shows is that the world has pretty much always been a terrible, conniving, war torn place that has vile, repulsive things going on all around us. In the 40s and 50s there was an attempt to give people examples of the way to live life and better yourself, you brothers and sisters and the people in your community. I absolutely love what they tried to do, but it caught on wrong in my opinion because people have been brainwashed into thinking and believing in these fairytale places (like Bedford Falls in It’s A Wonderful Life). Yet despite the escapist worlds we want to live in, the world is still a terrible place. You have atrocities, genocide, crime, poverty and all the “Ozzy and Harriet” episodes in the world aren’t going to change that fact.
The shows of old are great examples but people are swept up in this notion that things were better back then…that is utterly false. Things weren’t better back then, they just didn’t have the means to (or desire) to publicize all that was truly wrong. Think I’m crazy, then go read ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ and we’ll talk. So as far as (some forms of) entertainment goes, those immortalized TV shows didn’t reflect the real world which is incredibly misleading to later generations.
Think about it. You have Hitler, the world’s most feared and hated man (save for Stalin and Bin Laden) and then a simple 12 years later you have shows like “Leave it to Beaver”? Not possible that America, who although a superpower, and contributing savior of WWII, couldn’t right the entire world’s wrongs in that time, or ever, really. There is too much evil in the world to squash it all and so an attempts were made to do so passively and spiritually. Those ways translated into a format which continued teachings of the bible though the new media of the time…television.
Now I’m sure this sounds extremely jaded, negative and pessimistic but in order to fix the problem, you have to admit there is a problem. Also you could call my claims unjustified because I didn’t grow up back then but I have a father and grandfather who can provide me with enough stories and evidence to make this post valid. I saw a few episodes of this season’s Nip/Tuck and immediately became an 80 year old man spouting, “How the hell can they show this on TV?”, followed by, “This country’s just going to shit“. But looking back, that show (though exaggerated and completely fabricated) probably does more to show that the world (and we citizens inhabiting it) are messed up, thus giving a sort of ‘shock therapy’ example of what not to do or who not to be.
The world is a messed up place. To be fair, there is quite a lot of good in it but it’s not solely full of “sunshine and puppies” as we are led (and want) to believe. So when people think of movies like Pleasantville, sure that might be a nostalgic throw back to the “better days” but it actually showed us the “perfect world” isn’t really perfect. It did a brilliant job as it further taught us that we can live with who we are as long as we accept who we are. People think of “Dennis the Menace”, and say, “Man I wish life was like it was back then“, but you have to know, understand and then admit, only the idea of life was perfect back then, but not actual life. Admittedly, things were simpler, and slightly better, but not necessarily perfect.
Today people are lost because they have no proper role models. That’s because 95% of the crap on TV is mindless, uninspiring, rating grabbing bullshit like the effen “reality shows” and anything that publicizes the misconduct of people who have no right or moral obligation being in the spotlight. No wonder teen pregnancy, drugs and the like are big problems. Look who our kids look to when their parents don’t give a crap…Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and these self-important shows like “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami” and the very aptly named “American Idol”. But how bout this one folks??…if TV is so abundant, how about an attempt at some quality programming and not his amazingly IQ dropping drivel that people are too tuned into to turn off? Maybe this is a call for us to get our of our chairs and do something productive.
Sadly, the main argument you get from studios for why they don’t produce quality programming is usually “people won’t watch what’s good for them”. Well that’s because we’re all too used to your crap. Try sprinkling some good in amongst the crap and maybe people will start to realize the hints. I may be a hypocrite because I watch South Park. It is unrestrained and raunchy as hell, but they throw this tiny little lesson or moral at the end and I’m sure some people are picking up on that in and around all the lambasting satire and raunchy subject matter. In the end, I guess with the multitude of cable channels, this call for corrective TV programming is ultimately impossible and falls of deaf ears of both studios and cable viewers…
Again I love the idea of the TV from the 40’s and 50’s and its time that the message and moral intent made a return to the people of this century. Just let them know that it is “just a show” and its the “examples” they should take with them, not the belief that what they are seeing is real…It’s late and I’m tired, hope this makes sense to someone….