Unification News for

February 1998


TV’s Decadence & Power for Good

by Haven Bradford Gow

A 1997 survey of 1,258 adults conducted by the Los Angeles Times found that 54% think the content of TV programs is getting worse; 70% say the TV industry has different values from their own; 71% insist that the way TV programs depict nudity and sex fosters immorality; and 50% think current TV programs portray families in a negative light.

A 1995 survey of 750 young people aged 10 to 16 conducted by the Children Now organization revealed similar results: 82% said TV should teach right from wrong, while 77% said TV shows too often portray sex outside of marriage. More than 50% said TV programs make parents appear less intelligent than they really are in real life, while 50% said prime-time TV makes them think most people are dishonest.

Significantly, the young people polled also said TV sex does influence teens to engage in premature and irresponsible sex; and they also complained that TV shows depict violent or deceitful conduct as being rewarded.

Concerning the matter of TV violence, an article in the May 1997 Atlantic Monthly pointed out that many studies have shown a link between TV violence and real-life aggression and violence. For example:

* "In 1981 Brandon Centerwall, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, hypothesized that the sharp increase in the murder rate in North America beginning in 1955 was the product of television watching."

* "In 1960 Leonard Eron, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, studied third-graders in semi-rural New York. He observed that the more violent television these eight-year-olds watched at home, the more aggressive they were in school.... In 1993, at a conference of the National Council for Families & Television, Eron estimated that 10% of the violence in the United States can be attributed to television."

* "In 1971 Monroe Lefkowitz published Television Violence and Child Aggression: A Follow-Up Study, which confirmed that the more violence an eight-year-old boy watched, the more aggressive his behavior would be at age 18. Lefkowitz controlled for other variables, directly implicating media violence as the instigator of violent behavior."

L. Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center in Alexandria, Virginia has published several significant and thought-provoking studies confirming anti-religious hostility in several TV programs and movies. Like TV and movie critic Michael Medved, Mr. Bozell’s group insists Hollywood has been waging war against traditional Judeo-Christian moral and religious standards and values.

A 1997 study by the Media Research Center also concludes that TV sitcoms, dramas and movies overwhelmingly are anti-business people. An article in the June 28, 1997 Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi explained: "Just how bad is TV’s portrayal (of business people)? Of the 514 criminal characters found during the survey period, nearly 30% were business owners or corporate executives. By comparison, less than 10% of the criminals were career scofflaws; lawyers were just 1%."

Social critic Marva Dawn, in her new work Is It A Lost Cause? (William B. Eerdmans Co.) provides this insight regarding the impact of TV on the thinking and behavior of young people: "When parents watch television with their children, they should stop and discuss anything that is offensive immediately, so that youth understand how directly opposed to the things of God much of our culture is and how vigilant we must be to avoid polluting our minds." She points out that, one evening, she was "astounded that seven out of eight stations featured programs during that prime-time hour which were glib about sexuality o were downright immoral-or else were extremely violent." She adds: "I cannot imagine that parents can presume that their children could watch such programs and wind up with Christian values for their sexuality. When I think of the amount of promiscuity, adultery, fornication, flimsy clothing or downright nakedness, cheating and abuse that are shown on television, I cannot imagine owning one in a house where there are children (or adults)."

In sharp contrast to TV programs and movies saturated with sex, violence, exploitation and anti-religious hostility is the Odyssey 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 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 qualities of each other’s religious and ethnic identities.

Jennifer Lewis, who also has performed admirably in the movies Troop Beverly Hills, A Friendship in Vienna, Danielle Steel’s Daddy, Perry Mason: Case of the Defiant Daughter, Talk to Me and Foxfire (1996), possesses a purity of heart and soul, and that purity is reflected in the beauty and tenderness of her eyes and in the graceful way she does and says things. Jennifer possesses the kind of beauty that causes one to think of Christmas and of Easter and-ultimately-of God. Jennifer’s splendid portrayal of spiritual beauty and purity in Brooklyn Bridge helps people understand that virtue and goodness are lovely and worth pursuing.

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