Sunday, January 13, 2013

From Barbara's Belly Button to Janet's Boob

Back in August 29, 2011, I asked my readers for suggestions of things to write about. I have since covered almost every topic that was suggested to me. However, I didn't do them all. I was not too worried about this, but one of my friends has been hassling me ever since then as to why I still haven't written on his topic. In fact, he brought it up again today.

My persistent complainer has been Adam Elliott. He had asked me to write about the change in television content over the years. I blew him off again explaining that I would have to do too much reading before writing the post, but decided to tackle it tonight anyway.

Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that I greatly enjoy television. I don't watch a lot of it anymore because I just don't have the time, but I love Dexter, True Blood, The Walking Dead, and Sons of Anarchy when I do watch. Knowing this, hopefully as I start talking about this topic, I won't be considered a prude or sound self-righteous.

When television first came out in the 40's it was mainly used as a propaganda tool to get people to buy war bonds, telecast boxing matches and broadcast the news. Even the news was mainly a recap of the front page newspaper headlines. You didn't discover anything new on television that you couldn't read in that morning's paper. There was no discussion of the dangers of television content for almost twenty years, because there was nothing serious on television to discuss.

Technically, the Flinstones beat them
by 2 years, but that was a cartoon.
Today, it has been almost 10 years (2004) since Janet Jackson boobed us live during the Super Bowl halftime show. Forty years before that (1964), the most controversial and talked about thing on television was the show Bewitched, because for the first time a married couple was depicted as sharing the same bed. In fact, the only reason they were able to get away showing Darin and Samantha in such a suggestive position was because Samantha was a witch. Since she was not human and the show already openly displayed witchcraft, they thought they could get away with it because she was not considered to be human.

Despite that huge leap, the following year I Dream of Jeannie debuts on television and the network decided that her showing her belly button would be too racy. In every episode, they either filled her navel with putty or had her wear a skin colored covering over it.

It was during this period (mid-60's) that the head of the FCC called television "wasteland TV," because it had become a bunch of silly nonsense. What had once been envisioned as a way of better bringing information to people was now showing The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, The Addams Family, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Mother the CarGreen Acres, and Gilligan's Island. As entertaining as they might have been, they were in no way depictions of the real world. For the first time, television was recognized as being an escape.

By the time day time talk shows came around, they focused on bringing the audiences attention to an issue or offering assistance (sometimes useful counseling) to their guests. Today, these shows are to do DNA tests to discover which of the dozen men someone has slept with might be the baby daddy or to celebrate some other family's unbelievable dysfunction. If the family is messed up enough, they might be given their own reality show.

If you call yourself a 'family' channel,
should you really play this show?
Without even turning to cable, I can see more sex, drug use, and violence in one night of prime time programming than was on TV for an entire year when they started pushing the boundaries in the 1960's. Plus, now there is so much more to choose from. Then there were only three networks. Today, there are six plus literally hundreds of cable channels. Some of those channels, it is to be expected. However, when ABC Family puts a disclaimer before a show stating that it may have questionable material, I have to wonder why they use the name they do. I guess giving the warning gets them off the hook rather than just choosing 100% family suitable programming as their name suggests.

In 1951, I Love Lucy was almost cancelled before it even started because when it came time to film the pilot Lucille Ball was pregnant. The producers decided to go on with the show, but always keep her condition hidden from the camera. Years later, when she was carrying Desi, Jr. the network decided to incorporate her pregnancy into the show, but still forbid the use of the word 'pregnant.' Today, you can see outright sex acts on prime time network television. We are not shown full blown nudity, but very little is left to the imagination.

In 1967, the first curse word was used on television. Captain Kirk said, "Let's get the hell out of here" on Star Trek. Today, cursing is so common ABC has had two shows with the word 'bitch' in their titles.
  • GCB - This stood for Good Christian Bitches, which they later changed to Good Christian Belles when it wasn't well received. Only a couple of episodes made it on screen. It was cancelled May 11, 2012.
  • Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 - The 'B' stands for bitch. This one is still on the air today in its second season.
Although, I do not curse myself, I don't squirm at the sound of curse words. I love a good horror movie and watch television that would have given June Cleaver a cardiac arrest to learn the Beaver was watching, but I do recognize that a steady diet of this stuff is probably not good for my brain. There is definitely even more to consider when it comes to what children watch. I am not an advocate for saying that watching a violent show or playing a violent video game will cause someone to use a hatchet on the neighbor's cat or go shoot up the local mall, but I do believe that it is really naive to think that a steady diet of this stuff has absolutely no effect.

Whether you have a problem with this evolution or not, the original point of my post was just to point out the changes. They have occurred and things have changed. Considering how far things have gone, we are left with the question that many have started asking.

Since so much is allowed and we show more and more all the time, should the FCC even be regulating or censoring television any more?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

20 comments:

  1. I used to watch I Love Lucy when I was little, with my mom. The main thing I remember (besides Vitameatavegamin) was that they never slept in the same bed and that confused the heck out of me. My parents slept in the same bed, why didn't they? Didn't they love each other? I didn't know what married couples can do in those beds, besides sleeping, so it only confused me.

    Now, watching TV is the easiest way to learn things. Illegal things, perverted things, creepy things, violent things, etc. I've personally witnessed that a lot of kids, young kids like 6-10, are not monitored when those things are on VT.

    I think there should be some sort of decent line in between those two. A modest line, but not to the point that it doesn't depict "real life", I guess.

    But one thing I don't understand... How is the word "pregnant" bad? What did they say? "With child"?

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    1. Your question shows just how much the times have changed. Using the word 'pregnant', in fact, even acknowledging that she was pregnant, pointed toward sex, which was still a taboo topic that they were not ready to address yet.

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  2. I guess the question is are the changes on TV detrimental to society, or just reflecting what's already in society. I'm personally very anti-censorship, as were my parents when I was growing up. I remember being allowed to watch pretty much anything I wanted to, because my parents thought understand what was at my level, dismiss what wasn't, and ask questions about things I didn't understand. It worked pretty well for us, although I'm sure most parents would have been appalled.

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    1. I am pretty liberal also with what my kids watch.

      Although, let's use sex for an example. Do you think all the sexual bombardment does anything to shape someone's view, perspective or expectation about sex? Could it give someone an unhealthy view of sex or cause them to concentrate on it more than they would have otherwise? If those things can happen, then is the result positive, negative or neither?

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  3. That was really interesting. Well done on your research! My strategy is I watch some crap (like The Bachelor) but try to limit how much tv in general I watch, or balance out the bad with good. Tv is just a form
    if entertainment (sometimes education I gues) but so many people make it their entire life. I think moderation is the key component, whether you watch crap shows or good ones. And that's especially true for kids. I like households that give kids limits a screen time.

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    1. Thank you. I definitely watch some crap. I don't care for any of the 'reality' television. Most of the time when I do watch tv, it is Netflix. I never just sit down and watch whatever is on like I used to. Of course, there are so many options now, I guess we don't have to.

      I was much more selective with what my kids watched and how much when they were younger. Now, I don't worry about it much. Kirsten almost never watches TV anyway. She likes to be on her computer. I should probably cancel the cable since we so rarely use it.

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  4. Good post! I found myself reading paragraphs out loud to my wife because of the information.

    I watch a lot of TV. With the invention of the DVR, I can watch when I want so it doesn't interfere with real life. I'm also pretty free with what my kids watch but I don't really need to do much, they stick to the kids channels in their rooms anyways. Pretty free doesn't mean I won't stop them from watching certain things. As much as I hate to admit it, we still need the FCC. Otherwise there would be porn all over the TV. It's hard enough to regulate the kids on the internet.

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    1. All out, no holds barred, television would be scary and definitely not something that kids should have unsupervised access to.

      I love DVR and Netflix. it totally changed the way I watch television. I never just sit down to see what's on. I know what I am going to watch before I get there and that's what I watch. This also means I haven't discovered any new shows in a while.

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  5. Very interesting post Brett.
    The major shift that I've noticed in the UK, is the 'watershed.' When I was growing up, the watershed meant that any programme containing adult content, be shown after 9:00.

    Now when watching TV with Spawn, I have been surprised to hear certain words, or seen adult scenes shown, from as early as 7 pm.
    In the days when TV shut down at midnight, my mum would leave us in front of the box, (on weekends and holidays) knowing that, apart from the odd horror, we were safe in our television viewing. Whereas now, I wouldn't leave Spawn alone in front of the TV after 9. The boundaries have become so blurred nowadays, as we all have different opinions on what is acceptable offensive/ or not.

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    1. It's crazy what's out there and allowed. Everyone will have their own opinion of what should be allowed and what is offensive, but that line just keeps moving.

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  6. I Dream of Jeannie was much funnier than Bewitched. There. I said it.

    Um...I always offer the simple rule that "If I don't have time to watch it when it's on, I definitely don't have to time to watch it later!" I think ultimately everything will come full circle. The FCC keeps loosening their rules, TV gets crappier, more people choose not to watch, the TV addicts get all fat and lazy and stop having children. The smart people who go for a walk when there's nothing on TV stay fit and sexy... Breed, don't watch crap with their kids, kids grow up and do the same, and ultimately TV will go the way of the dinosaur!

    Survival of the fittest! (...or is that too utopian a view?)

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    1. If it weren't for the popularity of shows like Honey Boo Boo or Jersey Shore, I would have to agree. Unfortunately, people are watching this stuff. If the people watching this stuff were confined to their homes and didn't get to interact with the rest of us, it might work.

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    2. Many people, whom I would consider intelligent and an example of good parents, love the crap reality of Boo and other things. Personally, I think it is a shame that there are enough channels that any profession can get a show made about them (Redneck survivor and duck dynasty come to mind).
      Even if I am sitting in front of the TV during a shows time slot, I won't be watching it. I DVR and then watch and skip commercials:) It is a great way to avoid the additional crap that is being sold.
      TV is very open at the moment overall for the better but it still needs to be regulated. I agree that only certain things should be shown on channels that are described as family, jr or kids, no matter what time of day the show airs.
      Hestia

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    3. I have met many people who like the reality shows that I consider to be great people. Hopefully, I am not sounding too judgmental.

      It is amazing the professions that have shows. Parking Attendants, Tow Truck drivers, Pawn Shop owners, and Court Paper servers get their own shows, but I guess as long as people are watching they will keep making them.

      This is one of the reasons I love Netflix Streaming. I never have to wait for my shows or wonder whats on. It's always available.

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  7. A very informative post, especially for a TV history nut such as myself. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you. I had fun doing the research.

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  8. I didn't know that about I Dream of Jeannie -the part about her belly button being hidden. Wow, interesting. My favorite show from that era was and will always be, I Love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies. Ha! What a great post, thanks!

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    1. Thank you. I had fun doing the research.

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  9. See I told you preach it would be a great post to cover!!!!

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    1. And you were right. I'm sorry it took so long.

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