Unification News For March 1996


The Moral Impact of TV

by Haven Bradford Gow

A new study sponsored-ironically-by the cable TV industry reveals that violence pervades much of programming on both network and cable stations. An article in the Feb. 8, l996 Christian Science Monitor explained: "The researchers found violence in most of the 2,500 hours of programming analyzed. But the most disturbing aspect was the context in which the punching, slapping, kicking and shootings were shown." For example, in 73% of all violent scenes, the instigators and participants in violence go unpunished, while 47% of all violent encounters show no harm to the victim and 58% show no pain. In 84% of the programs which show violence, we find no long-term negative physical, financial or emotional consequences.

Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University, says this about the moral impact of TV: "When television indulges its Sodom-and-Gomorrah side, it offends the American ideal of innocence as defended, often, by our religious spokesmen. We shiver when we think of our children being exposed to that. At the same time, TV, when it publicizes a variety of sexual and marital behaviors and misbehaviors, is giving viewers a feeling of worldliness and sophistication."

Writing in a recent issue of Dispatches (Box 2450, Fair Oaks CA 95628), TV critic Laura Bulkeley Goldsmith provided this insight into TV's moral impact: "Sex outside of marriage was de rigueur in the 1960s and 1970s. Everyone giggled when Mary Tyler Moore implied, as a single woman, that she was taking `the pill.' Even `our Mary' was `doing it.' There was no shame in it; the consequences were and still are glossed over. `Three's Company' was the `Friends' of its day; one sex-centered story line and joke after another." From popular TV shows and movies of the time, we learned that young people were living "in an abortion society" and that commitment "was a joke, marriage an inconvenience."

In this connection, Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Network recently agreed to provide its viewers with ratings (G, PG, R) of its programs so parents and other viewers could know how much violence, sex and profanity they could expect from the shows. According to Dr. Ted Baehr, president of the Christian Film and TV Commission, Atlanta GA, though, the answer to TV programs saturated with sex, violence and anti-religious hostility is "not ratings but standards-a pro-active code of ethics which will guide television producers and others in the entertainment industry. All other professions hold to a code of ethics; so should the entertainment industry." Dr. Baehr adds: "Pollution, even mind pollution, is best controlled at its source. Rating the water supply toxic is not the solution. Cleaning it up is. The same is true of the entertainment industry."

That popular TV programming needs to be purified is made manifest by exploitative TV talk shows. Writing in the Mar. 2, 1996 New York Times, TV critic Elaine Madison said she found morally reprehensible "the incessant efforts of talk show hosts to use the misery and confusion of troubled children as grist for the `infotainment' mill." She added: "It is time for the television industry to consider voluntarily banning minors from the daily emotional striptease of daytime talk shows. The well-being of vulnerable children is far more important than a few minutes of shock programming."

TV critic Sara Nichols, writing in the same issue of the New York Times, wrote: "Sally Jessy Raphael, Jenny Jones, Rick Lake.... It is hard to accept that the lion's share of trash television is fronted by women. It is even harder to believe that these women, who denigrate our society's most vulnerable members on a daily basis, can live with themselves."

In sharp contrast to the popular TV programs and movies saturated with sex, violence, exploitation and anti-religious hostility is the Bravo cable TV channel series Brooklyn Bridge, which celebrates and affirms such traditional values as religious faith, decency, and the beauty of good family life and friendship. One of the nicest features of Brooklyn Bridge is the developing friendship of Katie, an Irish Catholic girl, and Alan, a Jewish boy. In one episode, Katie and Alan bring their families together in a Chinese restaurant, where they help them overcome religious and ethnic bigotry and prejudice and see the positive aspects of each other's religious and ethnic identities and teach them to become friends.

Jennifer Lewis, the lovely and graceful young actress who portrays Katie Monahan, communicates-personifies-a wholesomeness and a spiritual beauty, purity and innocence. Watching Jennifer's fine acting is like watching poetry in motion-like watching a lovely ballerina dancing at her best. When Jennifer smiles, her eyes light up and she radiates an inner grace and beauty. When Jennifer appears in a scene, her eyes glow and she lights up the screen with her grace, charm, dignity, beauty and professionalism. When one watches Jennifer perform in Brooklyn Bridge, he can see the grace, beauty and dignity of a lovely young actress captured on film for a lifetime.

Jennifer, who also has performed admirably in the movies Troop Beverly Hills, Trading Hearts, The Wizard, A Friendship in Vienna, Runaway Father, Daddy, Perry Mason: Case of the Defiant Daughter and Sweet Temptation, possesses a purity of heart and soul, and that purity is reflected in the beauty of her eyes and in the graceful way she does and says things. Jennifer possesses the kind of beauty which causes one to think of Christmas and of Easter and-ultimately-of God. Jennifer's spiritual beauty and purity help people understand that virtue and goodness are lovely and worth pursuing.

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