Saying No to Your TV Set

Okay, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say Television is a powerful medium. But just how powerful? Well, perhaps more powerful than most us give it credit.

It’s my belief that television shapes our world more than politics and our collective years in school combined. Although I can’t prove it directly, there’s a boatload of indirect evidence. That’s why I often refer to our TV sets (and other delivery screens) as “teachers.” These electronic-professors figuratively walk to the front of the class every time we hit the remote’s “on” button and begin going through their lesson plans.

Occasionally these digital tutors make positive differences in our lives. Consider Grayson Wynne. Back in 2009, 9-year-old Grayson got lost in Utah’s Ashley National Forest. What could have been a tragedy had a happy ending. Why? Grayson used survival skills he’d learned from the Discovery Channel program Man vs. Wild. The program showed him he could leave clues behind to help searchers find his trail. Taking lessons from this “teacher,” Grayson tore his yellow rain slicker and tied pieces to trees. He was found just a day after going missing.

I’m glad Grayson paid attention “in class.” But I’m not nearly as excited when television’s lessons run counter to Judeo-Christian values.

For instance, a few years back, Michael Jensen, editor of the gay media website, made this observation about how the television program, Ugly Betty was “helpful” in helping the general public accept homosexuality:

I don’t remember [Betty’s co-worker Marc] at any point saying, “Yes, I’m gay, I’ve got a boyfriend” or something like that. It’s just completely woven into the fabric of the show in a completely natural way. And I think that’s how you get to people. You slip in the side door without making a big deal out of it.

Jensen credits television with a huge cultural shift. And I agree with him. TV is very good at slipping its own values through the side door.

In the pilot episode of ABC’s Quantico, two FBI recruits have fairly explicit sex in a car. While Alex Parrish (played by actress Priyanka Chopra) pulls up her panties from around her ankles, her paramour Ryan (actor Jake McLaughlin) asks, “Can I get your number or email, your name?”

“You’re not my type!” Alex says.

“Said to the man you just had sex with,” Ryan retorts.”

“Well, if you were, I wouldn’t have,” Alex says. “I would have gotten to know you first.”

Now, just for a minute, let’s assume Grayson, who would now be 15, is a fan of Quantico. I hope this isn’t the case, but to make a point, let’s just assume he is. Instead of learning survival skills, what would he be studying this time around? The answer, of course, is that sex is such a casual pastime that even knowing a person’s name is irrelevant. Being someone’s “type” is not essential either. Following this train of “logic,” what does that leave for young Grayson to latch onto when forming his own moral boundaries? Not much. Not on television, anyway.

In a recent Vanity Fair article titled, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” a man called Alex boasts how today’s hookup culture has been a boon to his libido. Alex says, “[Dating apps] set up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, [I’m] sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.”

It’s a bit of chicken-and-egg thing here. Has television made the hookup culture more permissible? Or are people like Alex the reason today’s television can depict a scene like we saw in Quantico with nary a gasp from the American public? Personally, I think it’s both.

So, what should we do about it? As you know, Jesus often said things that weren’t popular. One of his statements along that line is that we, as his followers, should “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.” Denial has never been fashionable, and this has never been more true than today. But I submit to you, that when it comes to problematic television (e.g. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, etc), denying ourselves and saying no may be absolutely the only option we have. Unless it’s a show like Man vs. Wild. Your thoughts?

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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