Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Television: A Personal Appeal

The United States Congress has had a great interest in protecting the youth of America from the brutality of modern television programming, with its simulated violence and sex. Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee investigated the effect of media violence on children. My senator Jay Rockefeller feels that it is necessary for the government to step in and defend children. His rationale is reported as such:

Big Media companies are putting more emphasis on profits than the well-being of kids, he said, while hiding behind ineffective Band-Aids of voluntary action. Rockefeller said he expected broadcasters to argue for parental responsibility and content-control tools, which they did, but said that has not worked and the government was going to need to step in. He didn't seem to have a lot of takers on the committee.

Rockefeller also called the $300 million TV Boss ratings/V-chip education campaign that had been spearheaded by the late Jack Valenti "farcical" and a joke.

Rockefeller called the industry "cowardly" for putting the onus on parents to control their kids TV viewing, saying it was not always possible. Then, saying he wasn't sure if his colleagues knew how violent TV had become, aired a video montage--put together by the Parents Television Council--to demonstrate.

It was that video, which included a now-famous forced oral sex scene from FX's The Shield, that prompted the legislators to register their general disgust. The video was cut short after Rockefeller and company appeared to have had their fill.

I have to say, as someone who has grown up during this oh-so-violent time on television, that my senator is completely wrong on this issue. Firstly, as the rest of the article notes, no one actually agrees with Rockefeller. Democratic colleagues like Frank Lautenberg have no interest in censoring television. Like the Republicans, everyone knows that this reeks of Big Brother. Regulating television is a complete overstepping of governmental boundaries. The government does not have the right to tell me what is appropriate and what is not.

Now, with that said, forced oral sex on television is a bit over the top. But, as with all of FX's night programming, it is all lead off with very explicit warnings telling the viewer what the show contains and to display discretion. Discretion is the key word here. Good parents make the effort to watch television with their kids by not putting a television in their room and placing the television in a centralized spot. Such incidents are not unusual. In fact, they are quite the norm. If this is not possible, parents take care to look at what their kids are watching. If you don't want your kids to watch the show, you will turn the channel or explain to them that they can watch it when they get older. But, this is a game-time decision. Some kids are able to handle the violence. Others cannot.

From a personal standpoint and as someone who watched a lot of ridiculously adult programming at an inappropriate age (I saw License to Kill when I was eight, and I watched Oz in its original airing), the connection between violence and television is very much overblown. It is not real. It is a fantasy, a non-realistic presentation of day to day life. Shows that are reality programs that aren't game shows or news-based programs are just as fake. The fact that people who watch television and can't tell the difference should be greatly concerned. I was always able to tell the difference. I didn't think that I should do what I saw because it was illegal and pretty dumb. Also, I wasn't really trying to shank a bitch. My state aside, I don't think that the free speech allowed to broadcasters should be restricted. The Shield, when not forcing oral sex, is a very interesting program that should not be silenced because some stiff old guy has a problem with it. What will be silenced next? Will they start regulating authors? Will hip-hop no longer be allowed on the radio? Will they stop Barry White? I hope that you can see what I'm getting at here...

The fact that people are doing what they see on television aside from trying to construct something from The New Yankee Workshop or cook something from Barefoot Contessa is what the real problem is. Those people need to be studied to understand why they think it is a good idea to go and set things on fire or push their friends in shopping carts into curbs so the person falls out. If these kids are so desperate to do something, they really should try to build something from The New Yankee Workshop. Have you seen that show? There's so much work involved. Those restless kids will be busy for days!