Articles From the June 1995 Unification News


What Messages Are We Getting From TV?

by Haven Bradford Gow

An article in the February 1995 issue of Movieguide, the publication of the Christian Film & TV Commission (Box 190010, Atlanta, GA 31119), says that in evaluating TV programs and the messages TV writers/producers are communicating to us, we must keep in mind these five questions: "(1) Is it ethical to use communication and marketing strategies to systematically influence societal beliefs and behaviors? (2) Who is best qualified to make the decision about pro-social and anti-social messages in the popular media? (3) Is it ethical to target messages to a particular audience group in exclusion of others? (4) Is it ethical for nations that control the media to export their own cultural values and beliefs? and (5) Should be risk the unintended consequences of media designed to promote social change?"

In his book Taking on Donahue and TV Morality (Questar Publishers, Box 1720, Sisters, OR), Dr. Richard Neill, a dentist and a concerned parent, explains why he was upset and alarmed about the messages communicated by the Phil Donahue talk show, and why he started contacting advertisers and other concerned parents in an effort to have the Donahue program taken off the air. Dr. Neill wrote to advertisers and concerned parents about such Donahue topics as:

* A young girl engaging in oral sex and intercourse with her father in front of her brother who at the same time was engaging in sex with his mother.

* A mother picking up her daughter's boyfriend from school, taking him home and then engaging in sex with him.

* A married couple exploring the possibility of inviting another couple over to their home for dinner and then for sex.

* A young boy engaging in oral sex with his mother, with erections and intercourse with the mother also discussed.

The March 1995 AFA Journal, Tupelo, MS, also provides examples of morally disturbing messages communicated on some popular TV programs. For example, on the January 8, 1995 episode of Married...with Children (Fox network), series hero Al Bundy and friends use several vulgar slang terms to describe the anatomies of women at the strip joint they frequent. On the January 9 episode of Models (Fox), we once again find on this program illicit sex, selfish ambition, greed, drug abuse and a male prostitute who is a regular character on the show. The January 7 episode of Mommies (NBC) focused on the thrill of teenage boys engaging in sex with their girlfriends while their parents are still in the house. The January 4 episode of Roseanne (ABC) focused on spying on next-door neighbors (who happen to be nudists) and on a teenage girl's sexual relationship with her current boyfriend and former lover.

According to an important new study by Children Now, a child advocacy group with offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Washington, D.C. and New York City, "Television is sending mixed messages to children...few role models are presented on television to help teach children how to handle the many important social and family problems they face in real life, with surprisingly few shows offering examples of children coping with such problems."

The study also concludes that "the majority of child characters on commercial broadcast networks were shown acting in an anti-social way. Certain significant anti-social behaviors, including physical aggression and deceitful behavior, are frequently shown to be effective in meeting children's goals, sending a potentially negative message to the children in the audience." Moreover, "the children on television are seen most often being motivated by peer relationships and romance, and least often by...religion."

In sharp contrast to the popular TV shows saturated with sex, violence 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, a young Irish-Catholic girl, and Alan, a young 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-like watching a lovely ballerina dancing at her very 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.

Jennifer Lewis 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 has the kind of beauty and purity that 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.

Mr. Gow is a columnist who has published more than 1,000 articles and reviews in 100 magazines and newspapers.


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