Many Americans find the sexual content of modern media off putting. Many Europeans find the violent content of modern media off putting. Is a sex scene in a movie worse that a brutal violent scene of torture or murder? I am writing this editorial as a follow-up to my previous op-ed piece about online pornography.
My lovely partner Megan Otto lent me a book to read a long time ago, called Deadly Emotions. Dr. Don Colbert said something very interesting in the first chapter of this book.
"By the time the average young American person reaches adulthood, he or she has witnessed more than seventy thousand simulated murders on television. The mind of a child does not differentiate simulated murders from those that are real."
I wonder if the same is true about simulated sexual interactions in media? Does the average American see tens of thousands of simulated sexual interactions on television by the time they reach adulthood?
Killing vs Promiscuity
Which one is worse? I know from watching media that there is a lot of both violence and sexual content in modern media. I was desensitized to seeing murder, kissing, rape, torture, sexual interactions, assassinations and other "adult" content in media when I was a pre-teen. R-rated movies were probably the source of much of my exposure and the resulting desensitization.
The Evening News
The evening news is full of negative editorial content. Stories about natural disasters, vehicular crimes, child abductions, hard drug violence, home invasions, fraud, abuse, neglect, domestic violence, traffic congestion, and other negative concepts and stories are perfectly normal on the evening news. I stopped watching the evening news many years ago because I found that it was frustrating and stressful to watch. I don't care much about sports results, and while I enjoy watching the "weather news" I find that looking such information up online is far more useful. Almost without fail, every single time I have watched the evening news I find myself presented with negative content: much of it violent in nature.
I tune in to watch a TV series called "Revolution" and in the past I watched every episode of "24 (mostly on DVD). Even last night Meg and I watched a movie adaptation of "Of Mice and Men", and even here in a Drama film we witnessed toxic ideas of death: when one of the guys kills the Old mans dog, when Lennie repeatedly kills small animals on accident and then when he accidentally kills Curley's wife, in the end we even watch George shoot Lennie in the back of the head. The TV series Revolution has shown a lot of brutal violence and negative content so far. In reflecting on the time I spend watching episodes of "24" I recall observing a lot of intense violence.
Why the Double Standard
Many people hold a double standard about the ethics of watching "adult" content in media. They shun "sexual" content and almost enthusiastically embrace "violent" content. Is not killing worse than sexual promiscuity? Who is worse, the killer or the prostitute? Who is worse the "player that gets the girls" or the "slut" ? Our culture promotes another strange social double standard about sexuality. Men are almost encouraged to be promiscuous while Women are encouraged to be modest and prude. That sad the bar has been falling for years. I see pre-teen girls dressed like street hookers. Many entertainers like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Katty Perry, produce music and videos full of sexual content. Many rap singers and other music arts produce similar low-brow trashy content, like the lyrics of rapper 50cent.
Football, Boxing, Ultimate Fighting
We are safe behind the glowing screens of media magic that people enjoy their content through. We get to participate in the stories "in our minds" as third party observers the internally take on the mental dynamics of one of the characters with which the person can identify. I took a class called "film studies" in college, where the eccentric professor helped us to look at books, advertisements films, TV, radio and online media with a very interesting perspective. Football is America's most popular sport, and it is an intrinsically violent sport (tackle, sack, block, hit, grab, ect.). Ultimate fighting and boxing shows are more overtly violent than football programming, but when you add these violence containing genres to the others (Iron Man, Spider Man, ect), we can see that violence and the negative ideas that drive violence have become a big part of our culture. Sexuality in medial on the other hand has been demonized in many ways.
What is Normal?
We exist in a word of change, of constant ongoing changes, of shifting baselines and ideas and understandings. Our faith in God and in his holy word is one point of reference than never really changes. The core of Christianity is about Love, and that has never changed. Peoples interpretation and applications of their faith or misunderstanding thereof have done a lot of terrible things throughout history (the crusaders for example). The core of Gods word and the examples given in the bible are designed to encourage use to focus on the positives in life, to choose to do the right things even when those choices are harder. We are called by God to focus on Love, to show every one love, to show all of Gods living creation love. Pollution is a form of violence against nature, against the systems of life that support human life. War is the institutionalization of violence in government.
What About You
Do you think the negative content in modern media is edifying or entertaining? Does a sex or murder scene in a movie make you feel uncomfortable? Do you find that watching senseless violence is easy? Do you find that watching sexual content is easy? What is normal? What is ok?
God's Love is the Universal Reference Point
We have to look to the reference of Love that God set for us to have any grasp of an unchanging reference point. Gods love is eternal, infinite, everlasting and amazing. Throughout time people have been inspired by a love they share with God. God is a loving creator. God is a massive, powerful, star breathing, strong, intelligent, amazing creative, and wonderful entity that always wants to inspire love in every person.
God created life, and the life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe is a reflection of Gods creative love. He gave us not only life, but a system of living beings that inter-depend upon one other for survival. We as people for example depend on our plant friends for food, and the livestock meats we eat come from animals that also eat plants. The plants are dependent on fungi, bacteria and other tiny organism in the soil, the soil itself teams with life of many different kinds. We can look around at anything living to see God's love at work. Even the sickest people have elements of God's creative love in their existence. Every person can be redeemed by accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. God created Jesus because of his love for mankind. Humans have been sinning against God since the beginning of human existence.
God is a merciful, kind, all powerful, ever present and all knowing God. God see's the motives of our hearts. God knows everything about every person. God lives without the constraint of linear time. God knows each of us by name, and knew us before we were born, as we exist and as we will become: God knows everything about everything. This amazing God we love asks us as his people to focus on Love, on positive ideas, on kindness and humility. God asks us to show all living being, all other people and all forms of life love.
God asks us to do "the right thing" even when we desire to do otherwise. Violence and lust are sins of the flesh that we are asked by God to actively deny. God's people die for a lack of knowing. We are called as followers of God to be very careful about what we watch, read and listen too. Show me your friend and I will show you your future, a phrase repeatedly throughout time because it makes solid sense if we consider the words of Wisdom from God in the bible. We become like those people, ideas and understandings that become part of our perspectives, ethics, and morals. We become like that which we do, what we watch, what we listen to, what we think about, what we know and what we understand. The "who's" in our lives are the most important: it is the people, the life and love that matters most. Life exists because of love, because of Gods creative unending and incomprehensible love and grace. In a world where "normal" is constantly change, the only reference that always makes sense is God's love!