A young man works hard, practices long hours, disciplines himself in order to make a strong attempt at fulfilling his dreams. With hope in his heart and a prayer on his lips, he walks on the stage, attempting some confidence when inside he’s self-talking "don’t be nervous. don’t be nervous. They’ll love you. You’ll do great." A bit shaky, he steps up to the microphone, looks at those who will be evaluating his performance and he begins. The moment he’s worked so hard for has finally arrived, the moment his family and friends have supported because they knew it was his dream. He says one more prayer in his heart and he sings, pouring out his soul, reaching for the notes, feeling the music in the fibers of his being. This is where he’s happiest, performing, giving the gift of song to others. He sings and he is happy. He forgets those around him, lost in the song, lost in the feeling.
There was a time when nearly all TV shows were suitable for the entire family to gather ’round and watch together. Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, Dick Van Dyke. People on these shows seemed to care about one another, about their well-being, their choices, their path in life. Sure, they weren’t entirely like most people we knew in everyday life (remember Desi and Lucy’s separate beds?), but they shared moral values that included kindness to strangers, sharing with one another, good manners, voices that were gentle and loving, not raised in anger. I loved the lessons learned on Andy Griffith, how Andy would gently counsel Opie after the boy had made a mistake and now had to deal with the consequences. Or how the menfolk on the show would treat the womenfolk, with a politeness and chivalry that is largely absent from shows currently.
One of my favorite shows (next to Kung Fu, of course) was Little House on the Prairie. Children were taught to be respectful citizens; adults were helpful to their neighbors without hesitation. In one episode Laura stood up for a friend who was being mocked by Nellie and her friends, even though it meant that she would be ostracized from that crowd. Peer pressure, even out on that prairie. I think the Divine was well-pleased with the ethics and values shown on these shows.
Too many of today’s shows lack the kindness and goodwill of those old shows. Too many of today’s shows consider it "entertainment" to be hurtful to others, to victimize earnest, well-meaning young people and then to focus the camera on their reaction, watching them squirm and cry, reveling in their misery like a sadistic child pulling wings off a butterfly. Is it entertaining to see someone with hopes and dreams treated with extreme cruelty, to see them told that they look like a jungle creature or that they are delusional? Is the Divine pleased with behavior that hurts others? Are we pleased with ourselves in watching this torture of others?
Too many of today’s shows reflect a coarsening of our culture, a lack of simple, gentle, honest kindness to one another. The 11-yr-old daughter of one of my friends received a death threat because of a school talent competition! Laura Ingalls would’ve wished her competitor "good luck" and given her best to try to win in a fair and honest competition, but in today’s coarser, less polite culture, the response to a competitor is to threaten her. Dating shows have girls going through a boy’s underwear drawer for the cameras; another show is based on "your mama’s so fat"-type of insulting jokes, others are based on "bridezillas" or overly indulged "sweet 16s".
TV programmers say that they only reflect the culture, they don’t create it. I don’t think that’s entirely true. They tend to reflect primarily the coarser parts of our culture because people watch it, and laugh when others are taunted, driving the ratings sky-high. Would we watch shows where the characters are loving and kind to one another, where parents actually parent and children are respectful, not smart-alecky? Nothing Sacred was a wonderful show that aired for a few months, 1997 – 1998, that dealt with real-life issues: charity to the poor, homelessness, AIDs, trust, faith, struggles present in day-to-day lives. It was a beautiful, richly written show, with story lines grounded in love. And it was canceled after one season. Where are the shows based on love, charity and goodness today?
Back to the young man onstage, living his dream, pouring out his heart in song. Will his efforts be respected? Will he be treated with kindness and gentleness? Or will he be derided and ridiculed for trying? Will he be mocked because he isn’t physically beautiful to his evaluators? Will the Divine be pleased at the way this young soul is treated by others? I can’t watch.