I have decided that enough is enough. While my comments in this opinion may not meet many standards of a legislative column, the issue fills political news. I am tired of the media — including TV news, talk shows, blogs, and Hollywood celebrities — expressing outrage over the sexual abuse stories gripping our nation. I find their sudden “shock and awe” surprising, given the long growing moral decay that the entertainment industry fosters. Hollywood movies have been the catalyst for social influence over the past 50 years. The influence has not been positive.
We should all condemn the abusive behavior that has been in the news! After years of pushing the limits of acceptable behavior and language in television programs, reality shows, videos, and even video games, the media and their talking heads are surprised and shocked that their audiences are behaving as if reality has no limits.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, I finally had enough. The Dennis the Menace Sunday comic had to resort to opening with Mr. Wilson shouting out “What the … ?” right in front of Dennis. Yes, they did leave off the last word but most of us can fill in the blank. Why was this needed in a comic strip? The same can be said of the recent movie "Spider-Man: Homecoming." Why was it necessary for Peter’s Aunt May Parker to end the movie with, “What the ... ?” These same abbreviated expletives are now showing up in commercials.
Movie studios seem compelled to add something “spicy” in movies, even to what otherwise might be a G-rated movie. Apparently, PG or PG-13 will get more adult viewers. My parents never avoided a move rated G because they wanted more adult content. They took us boys because it was a good kids movie. Video games are worse. I can hardly watch youngsters playing some of their video games. Violence is the core of these addicting games. Destroy the opponent, get more points. What ever happened to family time with board games, watching Disney’s "Wonderful World of Color," "Mickey Mouse Club" or "Leave it to Beaver?" I know, I’m showing my age but you get the point.
I do not purport to be some saint, as I do enjoy movies and television. Adults have the maturity to recognize fantasy over reality. But many movies are made to appeal to a family audience. After I saw "Spider-Man: Homecoming," I told my wife that the last 2 ½ words were not necessary. All I could think about was how many young minds would walk away thinking, “What the … ?” is socially acceptable. Could Peter Parker’s Aunt have expressed her shock with “Peter, what are you wearing?” Could George Wilson, Dennis’ neighbor, have said “This is unbelievable?" Sure, they could. But the writers intentionally chose to take the low road. This just compounds the degradation of social behavior.
So now, real life is revealing despicable behavior of so many public figures, the same types of behavior promoted and viewed as acceptable in movies, television, etc. The networks fill programming with poor behavior and speech. Yet suddenly, they’re expressing shock. Shock that viewers are living their prime-time script. Unfortunately, network programming, late night talk shows, and most situation comedies portray life well beyond what is close to — or should be — acceptable behavior.
The question “What now?" is much easier than the answer. More government regulation is not the answer. It’s the insatiable demand for more entertainment and better ratings that seems to drive the networks and movie industry. The FCC has standards for what is seen and heard on network TV, but cable appears beyond their reach. The internet is another challenge. How do we educate our youth about appropriate behavior when they can browse the Web and find most any bad behavior just a click away?
You and I may have little impact on the networks, Hollywood or gaming industry. We should do a better job of filtering what we watch and limit our kids and grandkids to more appropriate displays of behavior. How we should treat each other is not what the entertainment industry is selling. We need to become more civil in our interactions with everyone and recognize that the social behavior portrayed by the entertainment industry has been leading us down this moral spiral of decline.
I think Mark Twain said it best: “Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.”