Friday, February 06, 2004


Fox News, in its continuing coverage on Janet Jackson's lack of coverage at the Superbowl, says there may be a crackdown coming on indecency in broadcasting. Standards have slipped quite rapidly even in the last 10 years, and so I for one am in favor of it.

Some have been saying for quite a while that standards would only get looser and looser. The entertainment industry seems to think that broadcasting standards are just too prudish and restrictive. But if broadcasting standards are too restrictive, then that implies that there are standards out there that are sufficiently restrictive, sufficiently tight, to make them happy. But we never seem to find that point. In 50 years of television, it has progressively gotten worse and worse, with things once deemed unimaginable now routine. I expect that many of the libertines of yesterday, who thought the broadcasting standards were too restrictive, would have said at the time that they would never favor things going as far as they have, and maybe some would have meant it. But it's become clear to me that what many on the so-called cutting edge of entertainment actually favor is not a less restrictive standard, but no standard at all. It's not that they think the standard is too prudish, they think America is too prudish.

That leads to the conclusion that they are trying to change us, to mold us after their image. I can't imagine that anyone would think that it would be a good thing to model their moral behavior after the Jacksons, Madonnas and Timberlakes of the world. And yet that's what's being attempted, is it not? Like the nobility of old, the celebrity of today seems to too often think that moral standards only apply to the little guy, and that the ideal world is one where there are no checks, no restrictions, or at least none on them. And while they may have been content 50 years ago with keeping their scandalous behavior behind closed doors, as time has gone on they've thrown off even secrecy as an unacceptable burden on their right to complete freedom. Therefore, we must be changed to accept them.

Think I'm being needlessly reactionary, or conspiratorial? Think they're just after the money, and are just responding to what people want? Then why has the entertainment industry, for at least three decades or so, consistently been way out front of the public in terms of what was acceptable? Why would any of their product ever be described as 'shocking', if it's just what people wanted?

But there is a limit- there has to be. Society bears the cost for their experimentation, and sooner or later (I think we're rapidly approaching 'sooner') the bill's going to have to be paid.

From the article linked to above:
Social historian Gabler doubts that there will be any long-term change in broadcast standards. The line between what is acceptable and not is always changing, but, historically, it never retreats, he said.

Social historians must have pretty short timeframes. The standards in Hollywood were looser in the 20's and early 30's than they were in the 40's and 50's, when Hays' Code was implemented (which, incidentally, corresponded with what most describe as the "Golden Age of Hollywood"). And the standards even now must surely be more restrictive than those during the reign of Caligula, or the height of Sodom and Gomorrah. Standards during Cromwell's protectorate in England had been more restrictive than the standards before, and so on. Many examples of the line "retreating" could be given. The fact that he refers to more restrictive standards as a 'retreat' shows you exactly where his preferences lie, and makes the point I was making earlier about their desire for ever fewer restrictions on what can be done in the name of "art" or "entertainment".

I think the question that we need to face, the discussion we need to have in this culture, is whether or not we are going to let an elitist immoral few drive our understanding of what is acceptable and what is not, or are we going to take back control of our own country? Sure, they'll complain and whine and call us prigs, but that will just be their distress at the loss of their privileged position.

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