Reading this post reminded me of something revelatory that happened to me and my local group of homeschooling moms. We recently had a “Mom’s Night Out” (actually a Mom’s Night In, since a homeschooling mom usually hosts it at her home) and the topic of old movies came up. We’re all big fans of period movies: Austen and Gaskell and Dickens, etc. But we also got to talking about movies that we grew up watching, like Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller. And we all burst out laughing at the discovery that we’ve all, at one point or another, shown our kids some movie that we enjoyed 20-30 years ago, only to be shocked — along with our kids — that there actually were some very inappropriate scenes or language. These are scenes we wouldn’t have dared show the kids had we remembered that those scenes were there! Imagine us expecting a movie to be family-friendly as we remembered it to be, compared to the shows that are available now, and then as we sit there together, suddenly from out of nowhere some scene/word comes up and catches us totally unprepared, as if we had never seen/heard it before! The funny thing is that this seems to be a fairly common phenomenon even among us (six moms at the last “meeting”) and we were trying to figure out what it is that made us forget. We’ve talked about the possible reasons for this but it was getting late and we all needed to go, so here I am a few weeks later thinking back and expanding further.
1. It happened so long ago, and we’re so old now, that we’ve simply forgotten how inappropriate it was! 😀
2. The indoctrination has been so sneaky and insidious in coming that 10, 20, 30 years ago, we hadn’t realized it, though even then it was already happening right in front of our eyes.
3. Because it was a more innocent time, the words/scenes just really didn’t have that much bearing on how we lived our lives or conducted ourselves. The society we lived in was more supportive of morality in general, so even though the media portrayed one thing, what we viewed on TV or listened to on the radio was more of an escape for us, “another world” so to speak, not really something we wanted or needed to emulate in our own lives. Contrast that to today’s reality shows that reek of hypersexualized language and actions and dress, and then look around when you walk in a mall and see the tremendous effect they’ve had on our youth.
4. We had enough of a life so far apart from media that our reality vs. fantasy rarely blurred. There was a distinct separation between real and not real — something that is harder to distinguish these days as the youth (and sometimes/often we ourselves) are constantly plugged in to radio, TV, the ‘Net, etc. What was “fantasy” back then is almost nonexistent now; we live a huge part of our lives in cyberspace. No wonder many of our youth are hopelessly lost.
5. TV ratings and editing back then were also very different. The kinds of shows these days that are deemed okay for “Y-7” would not have been considered appropriate for a 7-year-old in the 1980s. Through the years, more and more of the crass language, hyper-sexualized dialogues and scenes have received the “okay” for progressively younger segments of the population. Conversely, what used to be considered childhood entertainment, such as cartoons and brainless shows, are now regular fare even for adults who supposedly should be past the stage of being sucked into this kind of pastime.
We’ve created a media culture where we encourage children to grow up quicker than they normally would, and at the same time we keep adults from ever growing up. With this media culture being so pervasive, many people find it difficult to keep these external influences from getting into their psyche. As a result we’ve got this society now where most people are operating at an adolescent level, both young and old. One very obvious manifestation of this is dress. You’ve got toddlers and young girls dressing up like lingerie models, and you’ve got 50-year-olds wearing skin-baring, tight clothing that would truly look less disgusting (though not much more modest) on women 20 or 30 years younger. It’s not as bad with the guys, but every now and then I see young boys dressed up like gangsters and body builders, and 50-year-old men who look like they still need their moms to shop for them.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of this discussion and I’m sure we’ll be talking about it again in future Mom’s nights. I am very lucky to have this group of moms to share insights and experiences with. Since we tend to be on the same page on a wide variety of family concerns, it’s easier to plan activities that offer our children the kind of shared experiences we would like them to have. A blessing for sure.
The most apparent effects of media in culture aren’t really surprising, when you’re looking through the macro lens of right-here-right-now. It’s when you shift to the wide-angle lens that you get a more proper sense of how things changed over time, both locally and globally. And I’d be failing my kids miserably if I don’t give them a chance to look at the view from both lenses.