Monday, February 27, 2006

Pornified Pop-Culture?

We have some bloggers we just can't wait to read what they have to say. Even the reluctant ones (JVL where are you you?)

Our original blog fave is Jim Geraghty of NRO and the excellent ontap blog. We're "the guy with the tab bigger than his waist" in the discussions over there. Sorta like Norm.

Jim has been watching the crunchy con debate going on over at National Review. And he submits this for our approval:

This is a more detailed exploration of a view that, as another NOR contributor once put it, “Pop culture is filth.”

I’m not there, frankly. And I don’t find these kinds of blanket denunciations terribly compelling. So let me offer a differing cultural critique: Our popular entertainment is not too ‘pornified,’ but it is too dumb.

I'm not down with some blanket denunciations of pop culture, either. However, the trend line is towards dumber (I'm with you there, Jim) and hypersexualized content over thoughtful and intelligent programming. I don't begrudge the entertainment industry their right to produce whatever content they want. And I am not like some conservatives who think that there exists some madcap conspiracy to destroy all decency on television. There isn't. What exists in pop culture is a lack of imagination and guts to try a different course. And thoughtful programming is difficult to get into, because it demands more of you than dumb programming. Here's out imaginary screen writer's pitch:

So yeah let's make a show about bikini clad girls getting whacked and here we go, let's have David Caruso solve the mystery. That sounds great, doesn't it? And let's tie it into our hit show, that way it won't look like Silk Stalkings v 2.0. That sounds terrific!

My problem is not the skimpy clothes or the racy plotlines. I think they are an accurate reflection of our culture. I think that television has no responsibility to foment positive change. It would be nice if they wanted to do that, but positive change in self is an individual's responsibility and positive change in society is society's responsibility, not an institution within that society. But I look at the decadence of programming and I wonder, when, or more appropriately if, we are going to change.

What makes the effects hard to see is take a generation or so for them to take hold. Let's look an example. If Sherman and Mr. Peabody would be so kind as to take us on a spin in the way back machine to the sixties, in addition to getting a contact high, we would do wise to find a copy of the Moynihan report. Fortunately, the Internet is its own way back machine of sorts and we can find the report.

Chapter 2 of the oft-cited Moynihan report gave us these gems:
  • "The Breakdown of the Negro Family Has Led to a Startling Increase in Welfare Dependency."
  • "It has been estimated that only a minority of Negro children reach the age of 18 having lived all their lives with both of their parents."
  • Nearly One-Quarter of Negro Births are now Illegitimate.

The conclusion was that the disintegration of the black family unit would have severe consequences for black people in America. That dire projection has been partially shown in the violence and poverty in the black community. Without a centered family unit, who teaches kids morality or responsibility? Traditionally that has been dad's job, because dad is better at doling out the tough love necessary to teach responsibility, accountability and morality. But dad had been replaced by a welfare check. He was not there to show his kids that he was accountable for getting mom pregnant. He wasn't there to show that he took responsibility for the kids well-being. He wasn't there to love them as only a father can. And as a result, those necessary lessons were nto taught.

So let's go back to TV and popular culture. Popular culture is by definition the aspects of our culture that are popular. Television programming is not so much a training or indoctrinating element of society as it is a mirror that reflects our current societal mores. Can television programming glorifying a lifestyle of irresponsibility undo proper parental shaping? Of course not. Anyone who says that is demagoguing. But what we see in our dumbed down hypersexualized wasteland of channels is a reflection of a society that is int he words of Judge Robert Bork Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

Look at legitimacy rates now.

The number of births to unmarried women has been increasing for the past 60 years, although the rate of increase slowed during the 1990's. In 1940, there were 89,500 out-of-wedlock births. In 1990, there were 1.17 million. This represents an average increase of 5 percent per year. Between 1990 and 1999, the number rose to 1.30 million, an increase of just slightly over 1 percent per year.[10] Since 1994, the percent of all births to unmarried women has been approximately 33 percent.[11] In 1998, four out of ten women giving birth to their first child were not married and almost two-thirds of women under age 25 giving birth for the first time were not married.[12]

Gradually we are seeing the rates of illegitimacy and single parent homes becoming more common throughout American culture. What effect will that have on our culture? And will we divert our attention from the satisfaction of our own needs long enough to notice or care?


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