Thursday, July 5, 2012

Watching Under the Influence

Did you hear Walt Disney Co. recently announced its plan to start advertising only healthier foods to children on its TV channels and other media? The company believes the commercials have been contributing to the alarming incidence of obesity among children and adolescents.

Over the next four months, Americans will be “treated” to a saturation of another type of commercial – political TV, radio and Internet ads for Presidential and Congressional candidates. Millions upon millions of dollars will be spent to convince voters their candidates are the right ones to serve them and govern in Washington, D.C.

Clearly, powers-that-be in the media and marketing understand the persuasive punch of the broadcast image. What strikes me as strange is no one has raised the same concern over increasingly violent acts and immoral behavior in programming the commercials support.

It’s almost as if they believe when we watch or hear commercials endorsing products, services or people we’re supposed to think, “You can persuade me now.” But when we watch dramas in which good guys and bad guys are killed amid floods of blood and gore, or voyeuristically observe adults hopping indiscriminately from bed to bed, we’re not affected in the slightest?

Tell me, how does that work?

When I was young, there was TV violence. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Superman, detectives and law enforcement officers all wielded weapons and tried to help good prevail over evil. But we didn’t have to endure multiple killings and full-color bloodbaths. These days, even kids’ cartoons are liberally laced with vivid acts of mayhem.

And sex wasn’t treated as a commodity, an act as inconsequential as a handshake. Bombshells like Charlie’s Angels and Angie Dickinson used sensuality in their roles, but we didn’t see men and women (and now men and men, and women and women) carousing like dogs in heat.

I’m no expert, but could it be that the alarming rate of murders in society today can be attributed, at least in small degree, to the devaluing of human life as communicated through TV, movies, the Internet, even video games? Or that the reason so many people silently suffer the emotional devastation of “hooking up” or being “friends with benefits” is because to not be sexually active (we used to call it “promiscuous”) is to be regarded as abnormal?

Of course, no one is holding guns to our heads as viewers, so we share in the blame. The Bible offers sound advice on this subject: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

In the vast cesspool we call 21st century “entertainment,” it’s extremely hard to find anything that fits any of those adjectives. True? Noble? Pure? Admirable? What’s that?

So – folks at Disney and other entertainment meccas – while you’re rightfully trying to save the world from Twinkies, chili dogs and sugared cereals, why don’t you attempt to do the same with .38s, grenade launchers, and stripteases masquerading as romance?

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