By William Murchison, Creators Syndicate, Inc.
March 1996 – "All I need is a book that will teach my kid to kick Cody's (expletive deleted). "Get this (expletive deleted) off my platform." "If we can nail the (expletive deleted) during his deposition …"
But on TV, they don't delete the expletives. They spit them out, as on the foregoing occasions. And we, audience? We bestow the expected laughs.
What we eminently don’t do, because it would be un-modern, is rise from our chairs and say: Hey,Trash Mouth, don’t talk like that around here! And because we don’t rise from our chairs, they talk like that. And because they talk like that, even the family hour on television – 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – is turning into a linguistic cesspool.
In a special report, Virginia’s Alexandria-based Media Research Center spotlights the overthrow and extinction of the one hour of TV that was supposed to be a family haven. “There was a sense of what material was appropriate for children and what wasn’t, and there was a general understanding that the latter would not air before nine o’clock. This understanding began to crumble a few years back and is now largely in ruins.
“The family hour’s decreasing respect for parental authority and traditional values has been troubling, but the deterioration of standards has been most noticeable in two areas: language and sexual content.”
MRC undertook a four-week survey of what used to be the family hour. The results were dismal. “We found,” says the report, “40 treatments of premarital sex during this one-month period; these outnumbered treatments of marital sex by a 10-to-1 ratio. The vast majority of premarital-sex portrayals condoned the behavior by presenting it non-judgmentally or matter-of-factly.” As for all the vulgarisms the study turned up, use your imagination. This is a family newspaper.
MRC explains what goes on here: “The networks’ rush to appeal to the 18-to-49 demographic coveted by advertisers has left young viewers (and their parents) underserved.” To say the least!
At this point, a moss-encrusted pundit who grew up in the ’50s lays aside the family-hour survey. He would render some observations of his own.
MRC’s concern – rightly – is for that large corner of the culture occupied by the television audience. But there is a larger concern: the culture as a whole, which includes people too busy or tasteful to bother with Melrose Place and Roseanne. We are coarsening that culture – cheapening it, wearing it out. This will be news, no doubt, to the television moguls. High standards, low standards, whattayatalkingabout, and who cares anyway?
Here’s what I’m talking about: men and women on the one hand, and animals on the other. There’s a difference. Or hadn’t the moguls noticed?
Men and women live lives in which restraint and respect play large roles. Animals do their own thing, and why not? Being an animal is no big deal. A dog can do it – a pig, an ape. The human destiny, which partakes of the divine – at least our civilization used to believe it did – is higher by far. The journey is infinitely more demanding.
The decline of religion in modern times – say, the last 200 years – blurs the human-animal distinction. Respect and restraint? What for? Where’s the fun in all that?
The TV moguls don’t think in terms of debasing their audience; they think about making money. Throw some bananas to the apes – watch them clap their paws in glee. So the moguls reason. Never mind if such treatment makes the apes even apeier, as it certainly must when the language of respect withers and dies, and the aimless rutting of orangutans becomes the model of sexual fulfillment. Naw, never mind all that. Just count the cash.
We do have a problem here, and it’s worse than the name that contemporary TV scripts apply to that portion of the anatomy designed for sitting. Our most influential cultural medium, television, is demolishing the culture. What a lot of dumb expletive-deleteds we are if we sit by and allow it to happen.