I spend a lot of time thinking about the condition of society and how far the morals and ethics of our citizens have digressed. It's far too noticeable to dismiss and too complex to point a finger at any one cause. The recent incident in South Carolina where a passenger hijacked a bus at knife point is a good example, however, of the profound affect that violent movies and television programs can have on people.
According to news reports, the hijacker boarded the bus in the middle of the night. Then by early Saturday morning, he staggered up the isleway and placed a knife under the chin of the bus driver, demanding to drive. Driving more than an hour, the man frightened the other passengers by "ranting about the movie Speed and threatening to drive off a bridge" (USA Today, 20July 97).
Like you, I saw the movie Speed when it came out a few years ago, and it was a good action-packed movie that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Chances are, neither you or I were moved by it like this North Carolina bus hijacker was, and we'll never know for sure why he was, since he died from possible injuries sustained when the other passengers decided to stop him.
My point, hollywood movies and television productions have an affect on people, whether we want to accept that or not. For most of us, the affects have been slow to show, over a couple of generations, a few decades perhaps--who knows for sure; but, if you'll take a look around you, you'll see others who, like you and I, were not brought up to believe or do the things that we now accept and sometimes do ourselves. Can you think of an issue or topic that you now fully accept in your everyday life, even though you know your mother and father taught you not to? I can.
If you are in your thirties, forties or fifties, if you now believe that a woman has the right to choose whether she keeps or aborts her baby--I mean pregnancy, sorry, then think back to our world in the 1940s, 1950s, and most of the 1960s. Sure, there were isolated incidents of abortion at the time, but most of us were raised under the belief that a fetus is a living being.
Somehow, perhaps out of convenience, we changed our minds about this and many other moral issues. Did the masses change their mind over night? Did they change it entirely on their own? Or, did they have some help? After seeing show after show, movie after movie, and news broadcast and numerous newpaper articles on the right of a woman to choose, we slowly but surely changed our stance. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, made in 1972, made it legal for a woman to do so, so now a lot of us accept without hesitation the right of millions of women each year to choose life or death for the unborn life growing inside them--something that only 30 years before the majority of people would never have accepted.
For a moment, think about the billions of dollars spent each day on television advertisements by corporations in and outside of the United States. Those who pay to have their ads aired on television surely would not donate all of their hard-earned money to television stations without expecting something in return. These corporations are selling something and they expect the people who watch their ads to buy it.
The next time you turn on your television and your young children are in the room, consider for a moment the long-term affect of the programming you are about to view. Perhaps, for you and I, there is no cure for what ailes us; but, for our children and little grand children, they still have a chance to make up their own minds about critical issues in life without some hollywood producer or advertiser doing it for them. Especially important are the times you turn on the television and you allow your children to watch without periodically checking in on them to make sure they are watching programs fit for them to see. The road back, if we decide to embark on it, appears to be a long and difficult one, but we have to start someplace, and this is as good a place to start at as any.
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By Alicia Colombo