Along with many other types of media, television has changed for the worse. Television now, especially in sitcoms, display violence and sex instead of wholesome morals and values. Television is crass and somewhat degrading when it used to be wholesome and happy. These negative themes harm society, especially children.
Back in the fifties and sixties, even into the seventies, sitcoms were family-based. They presented the morals and values of the time. For example, the 1950s sitcom Leave It to Beaver was an innocent program in which there was no violence or insinuation of sex. The show was based around a young boy and his childhood problems. Parents were loving and neighborhoods were safe.
However, beginning in the eighties, television sitcoms began to become crass. In the 21st century, sitcoms, both live-action and animated, have become based on sex and violence. An example of the increased themes of sex and violence is Family Guy. This is a television program that gets most of its laughs from a baby that plans to take over the world by way of violence and a next-door neighbor who makes it known to the neighborhood that he is a womanizer. Suddenly, these aspects are humorous. It has gotten so out of hand that the United States’ FCC has tightened their regulations; all of the programs on television now are edited for content in some way, on both network and cable television, however, the message of sex and violence is still transmitted.
These changes have occurred because sex and violence has dominated the American culture. Advertisements, video games, and the Internet have already jaded the American public, and television is only trying to keep up. With more and more people watching television, especially children, television would be a fantastic way to instill decent morals and values, however, people are no longer interested in wholesome television. People now want to be entertained mindlessly, they do not want to be lectured to learn a lesson. Because of longer work weeks than in days passed for adults, people want to escape into a world with no stress; they want to trade their stress for someone else’s, and laugh at it. They want a world of mindless entertainment.
Violence on television is harmful. Most television programs contain some violence, however, it is not the actual violence that is shown that is harmful, it is the pattern in which it is shown. For example, violence on television teaches how to behave violently, there is a risk of being more fearful of being attacked, and there is a risk of becoming more desensitized to the consequences of violence. (National Television Violence Study, 1999) This is what America is teaching its children. The more individuals watch television with violence, the more likely these risks will take root. For example, when individuals watch the news on television and see most of the violent stories that headline, it makes one believe that the world is a bad place. People begin to fear walking outside. Every car that passes is one that could contain a hit and run shooter. This is what America has come to; Americans live in constant fear because of television.
According to the American Family Association, individuals in their early teens see 33,000 murders, 200,000 random acts of violence, and 15,000 sexual innuendoes or acts per year. It has also been proven that children who watch violent television become more physically aggressive. For example, a study conducted in 1977 and followed up in 1992 showed that women who watched violent television programs as children were more aggressive as adults. (McNamara, 1999) This is an alarming find. Violent television programs in the 1970s were few, however, if this kind of correlation can be made in that time, there is serious cause for concern for today’s children.
It is also argued that this disturbing realization that only sex and violence can be funny can destroy the ability of an audience to find anything wholesome humorous. (McNamara, 1999) For example, Leave It to Beaver, if shown to today’s audience, would not be funny. The topics discussed in the program are old and boring. Every plot has been done before. It is for this reason that only the vulgar and violent remain funny. Even though vulgarity and violence have been “done” before, seeing half-dressed women and a man getting beat up by a chicken remains hysterical to the jaded American public.
America’s children are being harmed by television. Studies show that children who watch television regularly are more pessimistic, more aggressive, less imaginative, and less capable students compared to children who do not watch television regularly. (Levine, 1999) A solution to this problem lies with the parents. Parents of children who watch television regularly simply do not set restrictions or time limits for television viewing. A simple way to alleviate the problems associated with regular television viewing in children would be to turn the television off. Children do not read anymore and some are obese, this is argued to be the result of watching too much television.
This change, in the long run, will harm America’s television-viewing population. Children who now watch television programs saturated with sex and violence will grow up to value those elements, because chances are if they are watching television enough for them to form the wrong values, their parents are not instilling the correct values, or even trying to. This will create future generations of individuals with terrible morals. Is that something the American public really wants?
Levine, Madeline. (1999) Media Violence Harms Children. In Bruno Leone (Ed.) Media Violence: Opposing Viewpoints. (pp. 29) San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press Inc.
– McNamara, Joe. (1999) Television is Corrupting American Society. In Bruno Leone (Ed.) Mass Media: Opposing Viewpoints. (pp. 36-37, 41) San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press Inc.
– National Television Violence Study. (1999) Television Violence is a Serious Problem. In Bruno Leone (Ed.) Media Violence: Opposing Viewpoints. (pp. 19) San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press Inc.