Watch & Sniff?
If the saying, “art imitates life” is holding true in reality television, we are in desperate trouble. If you browsed through a “People” magazine recently you just might have found an interesting accompaniment for viewing one of cable’s most popular shows entitled, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The show follows a family with an especially precocious little girl whose claim to fame was her participation in child beauty pageants. Honey Boo Boo as she is called was just six when the show first aired. Although, I do not have a television in my home and have not seen an episode of the show in its entirety, it is hard to avoid the barrage of influence that these types of shows have had. And, I have endured a few painful viewings of previews and highlights in researching this article. Most people will readily admit that reality TV represents some of the lowest forms of popular culture, but the advertisement that ran in several magazines, including “People” takes low-class to a new level. It was entitled, “Watch & Sniff” and included a page of fragrances that could be scratched at precise moments in the show so that you could better experience things like the family’s belching and flatulence.
Television programming from the 1950s and 60s has been criticized for its idealization of life, but you have to wonder, given the state of popular entertainment choices today, if that was really all that bad? So, America saw housewives who raised children in adorable little houses with white picket fences and immaculate lawns. So, children looked at mothers who had dinner on the table, perfectly pressed clothing and hair that seemed to never go out of place. What was wrong with a little idealism? The “Leave it to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy” era may have been aspirational, but was that so bad? Admittedly, patriarchal themes, sexism, racism, and other social injustices needed to be rooted out of early TV programming. But, can we truly say that we have advanced? Surely we could have evolved while making better compromises than allowing kids to grow up aspiring to be childhood beauty queens who lack all social graces, manners and for that matter, just general control of bodily functions.
Are we better off letting the “Roseanne Barr” model of femininity downgrade what is acceptable for our daughters? Is this truly a reflection of modern American life? Has the American woman become so weak that she no longer can dress herself, or take out her trash? Furthermore, are we insulted by nothing? Will we just swallow each rancid bite of filthy entertainment that is offered to us? What does it say about a culture that would purchase a scented guide to smell human excrement as amusement? At some point we must encourage our children to stop abasing themselves by falling prey to someone’s attempt to trap them into a cultural war that feeds on the undiscerning.
Neil Postman in his classic book on entertainment entitled, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,” states that, “The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products.” Do we have the character to turn off the programming that has been designed to manipulate our youth? Do we have the character to resist the advertising and the social pressures that glamorize lifestyles that are contrary to God’s word? Do we have the character to insist that our kids not adopt every trend, destructive habit or the bad manners that permeate pop culture? And, if it turns out that we don’t have the character, we must ask ourselves, “Where does it all lead?”
The lack of character, and a moral compass certainly lead this entrepreneur in an interesting direction. A recent article (Sept. 2013) in the United Kingdom’s “Daily Mail” describes how an American toy maker is making quite a fortune selling alternative toys to accompany certain TV series. The latest is a methamphetamine lab custom block set that looks just like Legos. The kit retailed for $250 and sold out very quickly. It was designed to replicate the props from the television series, “Breaking Bad” that chronicles a former science teacher who becomes a successful meth dealer.
When has looking down ever accomplished anything? Yet, continually society pushes and manipulates its youth to set their sights downward, into promiscuity, violence, filthy language, and lifestyles. When will we require that our children look up, aspire up, dream up? Don’t we want more for them, more from them? Will we heed the admonishment found in Philippians 4:8? “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Inevitably, it will be our choices that define us. We must decide if we will look up and begin the trek toward the good things of life — or will we decide to ease into the comfortable pace that comes when walking a downward slope. Postman summarizes the great battle as he compares the writings of the great futurists George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture… As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”