March 3, 2004

Turn Off

I don’t generally watch random TV, and I think that leaves me somewhat sheltered. I don’t have a TiVo—instead I tape the shows I like so that I can watch them while working out and also avoid the commercials.

But I often get exposed to random things then I turn off the VCR at the end of a workout. The TV comes on and suddenly I’m watching some dreck.

Today that dreck was a few minutes of elimiDATE. I can guess what the show is about from the name. They put one person up with a bunch of prospective dates. And after talking for a while, he starts voting people off the island (to use a reference from another show on which I missed the boat).

I was lucky enough to see a reasonably clean-looking fellow introduce himself to three reasonably attractive women with questionable judgment. After hugging each of them, the guy repeatedly commented on how cute they all were and how he had women in all colors (because they were dressed in a variety of hues). He forgot their names almost immediately after and declared that “he’d learn their names if he liked any of them.” A real gentleman, this fellow.

I didn’t stick around long enough to learn much about the women, because I had already eliminated the lot of them. But one woman took the lead by whipping out an issue of Maxim in which she was featured.

I’m not going to use this to predict the downfall of our society, or anything so dramatic as that. But I’m seriously worried that anyone can watch that show all the way through or, worse, on a regular basis. Could their be anything more depressing? It reminds me of being in the waiting room of a hospital or mechanic’s shop, because these are other places where you invariably encounter daytime television. And we all know nothing good ever happens in those places.

Posted by James at March 3, 2004 9:40 AM
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There's another one called "Ex-Treme Dating" that comes on after M*A*S*H at 2:30 in the morning on Channel 25 (or is it 56). I see it a lot because we don't have a remote so I'll work until 2am, crawl into bed for M*A*S*H and fall asleep during this dating show.

Posted by: David Grenier at March 3, 2004 12:44 PM

I don't know if Fifth Wheel is still on, but that was another nasty one. Five people (two of one gender, three of the other) go out on a date. At the end of the date each person says who they liked best. It rarely ends well (at least not of the two episodes I saw).

There are lots of dating game shows on TV. Most are merely silly. Some aren't too bad. I hate this particular kind because it's like a replay of all the ugliest moments of ninth grade.

Posted by: julie at March 3, 2004 1:11 PM

Upon reflection, what struck me most was this slightly-to-medium-smarmy guy. I suspect the format is inane, but I'm not willing to give the show a fair chance.

Obviously, they think it's in their interest to have this smarmy guy as a contestant. Heck, it got me talking about the show, didn't it?

Now I'm about to go out and buy all the products of their sponsors, posthaste!

Posted by: James Burke at March 3, 2004 1:28 PM

That is exactly the reason why my TV has not been turned on in 2 months. What's even more depressing is that people will live their lives in front of it and completely ignore and disregard the beauty of the world around them.

Did you know that more people voted for American Idol than in the 2000 presidential election? I guess it's more important for people to vote who gets a recording contract than who runs our country.

Posted by: Brian Hull at March 3, 2004 2:10 PM

I had to check out the link, because I was curious. I clicked on a couple of the episodes to see what kinds of things the contestants said about themselves. Here are a couple of excerpts from the show synopses for the males:

(David) likes girls with goals, thin gams -- and a nice, fake rack doesn't hurt either

Ideally (Nick) would like to have Pam Anderson on his arm. But this guy is realistic. He will settle for a girl with a nice body.

On this date (Alex) is looking for some cat fights and b*tchy girls. "If a girl gets naked today, yes, it would be a turn on."

That's three for three in my book. These men are all fine catches.

Posted by: briwei at March 3, 2004 2:59 PM

Shortly before I moved, a local celebrity in Orlando was on Elimidate. The girls were so bitchy to each other, he couldn't eliminate them fast enough. Finally it was down to the last girl, who had been the very bitchiest. She told him she knew he would pick her.

And then he dumped her too. From the shocked look on her face, I don't think she'd ever been refused before. :-)

Posted by: julie at March 3, 2004 4:30 PM

Perhaps all these people deserve each other. I don't know if that's comforting or sad.

Posted by: James Burke at March 3, 2004 4:59 PM

Julie and I have been talking about the weird ways that people reach out to other human beings. I think this might be a way to date vicariously. If you watch a TV show the people (or characters... the lines are getting more blurry there!) become part of your village. I think this contributes to womens' general low self-esteem (oh, yeah, that old chestnut) because the women on TV, who become part of our village, are so disproportionately attractive compared to the average gal, who may actually be an interesting person (if she'd just get away from that TV set...).

Sorry if this is all terribly obvious, but the substitutions we make for actual human interaction (or just plain doing something) are interesting to me.

Posted by: Maggie at March 3, 2004 6:49 PM

Sorry to post twice in a row but it occurs to me that this may also have the social value of gossip -- to teach behaviors that are inappropriate, and in a way that really doesn't hurt anyone as gossip does. People can talk about the behavior they consider inappropriate (as some of you have done here with some very funny examples, thanks Bri!) and there is a certain disconnect from the people involved, so no punches need be pulled, but a social lesson is conveyed.

Posted by: Maggie at March 3, 2004 7:01 PM

Interesting point about the gossip... people who behave badly on dates may recognize their behavior on one of these shows and realize how stupid/obnoxious (or at least ineffective) they are and repent.

Eh, it could happen.

Posted by: julie at March 4, 2004 9:29 AM

Wow. I think Maggie has finally come up with a legitimate raison d'etre for these trashy shows. Seriously. I may have just been convinced that they have value. Not enough value for me to watch, but some social value nonetheless.

Posted by: briwei at March 4, 2004 9:38 AM

My God, I've convinced someone of something? Brian, can I adopt you?

Posted by: Maggie at March 4, 2004 12:33 PM

Personally I can't stand most of the vapid garbage that passes for television entertainment these days. Very little of it impresses me and most of it sickens me, like that disgusting reality show hosted by Shannon Doherty where they convince some poor schmuck he or she is in a life threatening situation and then scare the hell out of him or her.

I watched *ONE* episode where a woman was led to believe she was watching her friend being murdered by a gang of thugs. I was appalled and said to myself "Any intelligent person who sees this is going to be likewise appalled."

I was also disappointed with the cable channel involved because it was one with programming I typically thought of as better-quality. So I went to their website to register a complaint, and found a message board there for discussing that show in particular. I went in and found hundreds upon hundreds of people saying how much they liked it, how cool it was to see people scared, and how much they wanted to see more.

Which led me to the conclusion that a vast swath of TV viewers are crude, shallow, and unintelligent.

Therefore, though I will concede that perhaps shows which put the worst humanity has to offer on display may have a positive role in dissuading people (gossip factor included) from that sort of behavior, I suspect those dissuaded are outnumbered by those encouraged, and that the dividing line is based on intelligence.

Hollywood spent decades after blacks won equal rights inundating us with positive images of blacks and whites working together as teammates and friends. I believe that message was received and assimilated by the populace. I think if the populace is inundated with negative images which objectify women, or exemplify cheap or shallow relationships between sexes, or objectify people in general, those messages will be assimilated as well.

I'm not talking about shows like Baywatch where viewers can enjoy looking at attractive men and women scantily clad in a loose-fitting storyline. I'm referring to shows that teach behavior like the one James mentions, or that Doherty show ("Scare Tactics" maybe?), or the Howard Stern show which occasionally offers women the chance to win free breast implants if they will get naked on the air and be (brutally) appraised for their physical appearance. I stopped listening to/watching the show a few years ago because I couldn't take it anymore. On the televised portion of the program I saw women who were not glamor queens, but were still attractive average women, absolutely desperate to win breast implants, and quite willing to debase themselves at length for the chance to have bigger boobs, standing there, naked, and reduced to tears by the commentary they received. Horrifying. And what lessons were both females and males drawing from this program? I shudder to think.

I think there's some beauty in everyone, and I believe in appreciating that beauty, but that beauty is far surpassed by the nature of the individual. I've seen people who were stunningly beautiful to me who became ugly after only a few minutes conversation. That tends to be what these shows are filled with--ugly beautiful people.

I seriously hope that putting such people on display would discourage people from seeing them as the norm, but I worry otherwise.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 4, 2004 1:16 PM

Regarding that "Scare Tactics" show - what do you expect from a network (SciFi) that cancels "Farscape" and airs instead a show wiht a bozo who pretends to talk to peoples' dead relatives?

SciFi indeed.

Posted by: James at March 4, 2004 1:56 PM

All I can say is be glad you are not dating right now. Those shows are not so far off.

Rui

Posted by: Rui Campos at March 4, 2004 6:46 PM

Maggie said:
Brian, can I adopt you?

Ummmmmmm. Are you sure you are up for that? That would make you a grandmother! ;-)

Posted by: briwei at March 5, 2004 1:42 PM

"the dividing line is based on intelligence"

Oh, bullshit. Intellectual snobbery. How long did you watch these shows before you "couldn't take it any more?" When did your intelligence suddenly blossom? (That's a rhetorical question, intended to make you think, please don't respond with a tome.)

It is entirely possible to be average in intelligence, or below average, and have respect for yourself and other human beings; to love peace and value kindness.

It is equally possible to be above average in intelligence and revel in violence, hatred, and prejudice.

Posted by: Maggie at March 5, 2004 2:38 PM

"That would make you a grandmother!'

From what I've seen, that has more perks and less heartache, so call me Bube!

Posted by: Maggie at March 5, 2004 2:52 PM

I have so little free time, I wouldn't think of wasting it on TV, let alone one of these completely stupid shows.

Crap like this is why I don't have cable. If I can get all the crapola that's currently on "regular" TV, why oh why would I pay for more of the same? Then I'd have even *less* time for reading.

I'll never forget when "Survivor" first came out. My co-workers went on and on and on about it. I said the show was beneath me, and I meant it.

If you want to know how difficult it is to survive, live below the poverty line in this country or any other. No one comes on a boat or by helicoptor to take you away to a safe place once you've had your fill.

Disgusting.

Posted by: Patti at March 5, 2004 3:51 PM

> "the dividing line is based on intelligence"
>
> Oh, bullshit. Intellectual snobbery. How
> long did you watch these shows before
> you "couldn't take it any more?"

I've never seen elimidate, I watched Scare Tactics once, and I listened to/watched Stern for perhaps half a year several years ago. For awhile I enjoyed the comedic aspects of the show, but over time I gradually realized that the nasty parts of it overpowered the funny parts of it and left a bad taste in my mouth after listening/watching.

I'm not sure what difference this makes with respect to the thoughts I posted earlier.

> When did your intelligence suddenly blossom?
> (That's a rhetorical question, intended
> to make you think,

Rhetorical questions need not be blunt instruments that we must bash each other over the head with. You don't need to "make me think"--I was thinking before you asked the question, and can see your point of view without it. You'll note I said I *suspect* the dividing line is based on intelligence, I don't know it for a fact, it's just a guess.

Clearly you disagree. You may be right, perhaps I assumed it has to do with intelligence because the people I like to associate with are both intelligent and humanistic. But it does not follow that intelligence dictates humanistic morality.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 5, 2004 5:59 PM

Chuck,

The whole "How long did you watch those shows/when did your intelligence suddenly blossom" went together. You can take them apart and give me your history of TV viewing, but that's missing the point. In your post, you equate intelligence with *not* watching these TV shows, but you describe them in detail and say you watched them in the past, and now you can't take them any more. My point was that a person's intelligence doesn't grow, so either your point isn't valid, or you're on the stupid side of the line. I assume you don't think you're on the stupid side of the line.

While we're still on the subject, I'm also amused by your distinction between "shows like Baywatch where viewers can enjoy looking at attractive men and women scantily clad in a loose-fitting storyline" and "shows that teach behavior." It has been shown scientifically that viewing pornography changes mens' attitude toward women -- it makes them objectify women and lose sympathy with women when they are raped or molested. It has been shown scientifically that video games which include violence as a component promote violent actions and attitudes in children. So why wouldn't a show like Baywatch teach objectifying behavior in people? How can you single it out as a show that doesn't "teach" behavior? I think there's a taught behavior of sitting on your butt appreciating people for their very shallowest qualities. Or perhaps I should say "reinforce," rather than "teach," because those of us who don't have those proclivities don't watch those shows.

Like Patti M., I have no time for television and I'm overwhelmingly bored or disgusted by it when I do see it.

But I don't think this is a result of my superior intelligence. It may be a result of my superior respect for humans in general, or it may be a result of my age and situation in life, which is (relatively) very privileged, as is yours and everybody else whom I personally know posting in this thread.

If you thought for a minute (you may not need my comments to think, but I think you need a little push to think in a different direction), I think you could come up with a very large number of intelligent and despicable human beings. Your drawing of the line at intelligence was thoughtless and superior and offensive.

Posted by: Maggie at March 5, 2004 10:52 PM

> In your post, you equate intelligence with
> *not* watching these TV shows,

No, I suspected that lack of intelligence resulted in believing what is seen in these programs to be acceptible behavior. My reasons for choosing not not to watch them is that they disgust me.

> but you describe them in detail and say you
> watched them in the past, and now you can't
> take them any more. My point was that a
> person's intelligence doesn't grow, so either
> your point isn't valid, or you're on the
> stupid side of the line.

It took one viewing to put me off Scare Tactics, and as I said the things that I found disgusting in the Stern show were not daily features. Surely you would agree that for some programming, you need to "get to know the show". No I didn't become magically more intelligent after listening to/watching Stern for 6 months, I came to the realization that the nastier parts of the program far outweighed the humorous parts, that the things that disturbed me about the show were not aberrations and were not going to stop popping up. It's no big mystery really, with experience we learn, we grow, we change.

> While we're still on the subject, I'm also
> amused by your distinction between "shows
> like Baywatch where viewers can enjoy
> looking at attractive men and women
> scantily clad in a loose-fitting
> storyline" and "shows that teach behavior."
> It has been shown scientifically that
> viewing pornography changes mens' attitude
> toward women -- it makes them objectify
> women and lose sympathy with women when
> they are raped or molested.

I am amused by your comparison of Baywatch and porn. I can tell the difference. A show that features beautiful women and beautiful men in swimsuits saving the lives of beachgoers may be tittilating, but it is not porn as far as I'm concerned. You may feel otherwise. You may argue that it sends the wrong message to young women (and probably young men too) about body image, and you may be right, but I don't believe it objectifies men or women. I should caveat this point by admitting: I was never really a baywatch viewer because I thought the storylines were boring, admittedly I've probably seen less than 3 episodes in my life but from what I saw it was basically a typical soap opera/rescue show. The women weren't all "hot and ready" and having sex with a different guy every day (and vice versa).

Tittilation and porn are not the same thing. TV shows which purportedly teach good humanistic values, such as, say "Star Trek: Voyager" or "Star Trek: The Next Generation" are still chock full of tittilation but with better storylines.

Like most activities that result in a pleasure response, real porn *can* be dangerous, one can become addicted to it, leading to harder and harder porn. Repeated viewing of hardcore porn will objectify sex and people in general. Addiction to porn can slant one's worldview to a point where one no longer understands how to relate to the opposite sex.

But not everyone who watches porn becomes addicted to it, and not all porn is created equal. For example, I've watched some porn in my life. The porn I've found most satisfying is softcore porn in which those people engaged in the sex act are portrayed as loving couples. Hardcore or violent porn in which people are abused (rape/S&M/etc.) has the opposite effect on me and I cannot watch it.

> So why wouldn't a show like Baywatch teach
> objectifying behavior in people? How can
> you single it out as a show that
> doesn't "teach" behavior?

The shows I decried are (a) far worse than "Baywatch" in that they explicitly objectify people and (b) are not fiction.

In my opinion, any objectification of the characters in a show which features physically attractive people leading happy lives and working with others as equals, happens in the mind of the viewer. If you already objectify people in your mind for their physical appearance, then from your perspective the characters in such programming will be little more than flesh. In my opinion, this is very different from a show which explicitly treats human beings as garbage.

Baywatch is fictional, which has far less of an impact than a show which is "real". This is a real (despicable) guy and he is really going to go on a date with one of these women. Those are real women catfighting over this awful man. That's a real person who really thinks that their friend is being killed. Their friend is a real person who is in on the scheme. I believe that these shows teach that such abyssmal behavior is normal and acceptable.

> I think there's a taught behavior of
> sitting on your butt appreciating people
> for their very shallowest qualities.

That's an interesting theory. I'm not sure I agree, since, as I said, I am not a Baywatch fan, or in fact a fan of *any* TV show that displays vapid (or absent) storylines and scantily clad (or naked) characters, and yet I believe appreciating physical beauty is a very natural human trait and one I don't try to hide. I think if you are already the sort of person who appreciates people *only* for their shallowest of qualities, then that's what you'll get out of Baywatch. If instead, you are, say, a lifeguard, or someone who gets a kick out of bad storylines, you might enjoy the show for other reasons.

> Or perhaps I should say "reinforce," rather
> than "teach," because those of us who
> don't have those proclivities don't
> watch those shows.

Yes "reinforce" is probably a more appropriate term. There we are in agreement.

> If you thought for a minute (you may
> not need my comments to think, but I
> think you need a little push to think
> in a different direction)

You'll note that I conceded the point to you after reconsidering it.

What I was trying to say was that from a cogitative standpoint I will respond as well if not better to reasoned discourse as I will to blunt and somewhat rude rhetorical questions.

> I think you could come up with a very
> large number of intelligent and
> despicable human beings.

I can and did, which is why I conceded the point to you.

> Your drawing of the line at intelligence
> was thoughtless and superior and offensive.

I stand corrected and apologize to anyone who was offended by my supposition that level of intelligence was possibly the primary factor in determining whether or not the behaviors portrayed in reality TV are normal or acceptable behavior.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 6, 2004 1:38 AM

I see something new every day when I turn off the VCR. That's how I get my dose of TV "cultcha."

This morning (eek--yesterday morning now) it was the Springer show. "Hillbilly love" was the theme. At some point during an argument, the producer cued up the hoedown music and the audience flooded the stage and began dancing, mocking the people onstage. When the music finished, they returned to their seats. It was surreal--I barely know how to describe it. It was like somehting out of a social science fiction story.

And, in another way, it reminded me of school. Everyone doing something stupid on cue.

Did I mention that two of the female guests were inexplicably topless (blurred out of course)?

Really, sometimes TV is like an alternate universe, and a frightening one at that.

Posted by: James at March 6, 2004 2:15 AM

Chuck, Just one last remark on the original topic -- I did *not* equate Baywatch with pornography. Don't start typing yet! Please read an entire post and get the gestalt before you misinterpret and then spend a lot of bandwidth ripping apart your personal straw man. Second time for me! (Or maybe I'll adjust and start writing my posts as one long run-on sentence...) Your sentence-by-sentence style of response ignores that people usually write a paragraph with several points which lead to a conclusion. It's okay to then go back and see if one of the statements doesn't support the conclusion and criticize it for that reason, but it's not okay to take the sentence out of context, at least it's not productive and it's annoying for the person who's been misunderstood. Wait for it... wait for it... Okay, that's the end of that thought. Related thought following...

Your post would be a lot briefer and easier to read if you said "I agree with 'reinforce' but not 'teach' for these reasons, etc., rather than responding line by line -- it's as if you didn't read my whole post before you started responding, and it makes your post very disjointed and difficult to wade through.

Your post raises an interesting question for me. You distinguish between reality tv and fictional tv as if reality tv were "real." This reminds me a bit of Mel Gibson saying that the holy spirit was channeled through him when he directed the Passion, also his remark that it *is* the gospel, and if anybody has a problem with it, they have a problem with the gospel, not him. I'm sure Mel Gibson, who I think won an academy award for Braveheart, must be aware of the artistry involved in writing a script and directing a movie, in the power of visual imagery and the message that is conveyed when you juxtapose two images, or the message that is conveyed by the order that images are placed together. Does this not also apply to "reality" tv? "Reality" tv is contrived situations with people (at least some of them) who know they're being filmed. That's never happened to me in reality! Since when is that reality? Reality tv is just lazy and cheap tv, because we don't have to hire real actors or very many writers, but it's a far cry from reality. You seem to be making some distinction that reality tv is teaching behaviors, but fictional tv is reinforcing behaviors. That makes no sense to me, and I think the distinction is really that reality tv is not to your taste and the formally fictionalized tv is. I don't see where you get the conclusion that reality tv has more "impact."

Posted by: Maggie at March 6, 2004 10:05 AM

>I'll never forget when "Survivor" first came out.
>My co-workers went on and on and on about it. I
>said the show was beneath me, and I meant it.

Patti, Survivor is actually highbrow compared to some of the reality and talk shows aired during the cesspool known as daytime television. For a glimpse into the culture shared by a significant portion of this nation try hanging around an automotive garage or hairdresser for a few hours and watch the channels their television sets are locked into all day airing shows like Texas Justice.

Lowest common denominator stuff is like crack or good gossip. You can start out trying to ignore it and read a book but after a while it pulls you in like everyone else. Some reality shows can be fun but most of the crap on televison is like watching a slow motion car wreck for eight hours a day. That type of entertainment might as well be fed intravenously for all the participation or thought it requires.

Posted by: Mike L. at March 6, 2004 10:05 AM

> I did *not* equate Baywatch with pornography

I realized that I had misinterpretted your post a few hours ago when I checked back in. Guess that makes me human. Sorry for the error.

I do indeed read the whole post before I respond to the individual pieces I want to comment on.

> Does this not also apply to "reality"
> tv? "Reality" tv is contrived situations
> with people (at least some of them) who
> know they're being filmed. That's never
> happened to me in reality! Since when is
> that reality? ... You seem to be making
> some distinction that reality tv is
> teaching behaviors, but fictional tv is
> reinforcing behaviors. That makes no sense
> to me

I think the examples set by people who are purportedly real people in an unscripted environment are more impactful than actors playing fictional characters in a scripted environment. When a fictional character does something despicable, it's because many good stories need a villain. I'm not disgusted and I don't see him as an "example". When a joe-on-the-street person gets in front of a camera and does something despicable, it isn't somebody acting a part in a story, it's someone (in theory) being themself, and I am disgusted.

I say "in theory" because I am cognizant of the fact that people modify their behavior for the camera. Many people get on reality TV shows in the hopes that in addition to winning a prize, they will also get "discovered" as an acting talent.

I still see a difference. I think an average viewer like myself can make the distinction between televised fiction and televised reality (even if it is warped reality).

> and I think the distinction is
> really that reality tv is not
> to your taste and the formally
> fictionalized tv is.

If you are correct, then I am deluding myself, but I don't think so.

> I don't see where you get the
> conclusion that reality tv
> has more "impact."

Well obviously I'm not a sociologist or a behaviorist so my conclusion is based on anecdotal observation of myself and limited anecdotal observation of others while viewing, or discussing television.

When I see a man shot in the head in a movie, it typically doesn't affect me very much. When I see a man shot in the head in the news or a documentary, the way it makes me feel is dramatically different, there is a much deeper impact. My brain doesn't switch off when I'm watching TV and I am able to differentiate scripted special effects from unscripted "reality" and react accordingly.

From talking to other people about it, and observing other people while watching television, I've come to the conclusion over the years that this is fairly common and not unique to myself.

Therefore since the average person seems to be able to distinguish between reality and fiction, I worry more about shows that depict real people treating each other like garbage (like "Scare Tactics"), than I do about shows that depict fictional characters treating each other like garbage (like "The Sopranos").

My personal belief is those who cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy are far more likely to emulate fictional villains or violent video games, but these people seem to be a small minority. After all, I like many many other children in my community got an enourmous dose of violent cartoons/TV as a child, characters blowing each other up, shooting each other, etc. To date, nobody I've known since that timeperiod has turned into a violent person. So while I believe that such programming can encourage violence/bad behavior, there are a host of other factors that come into play to prevent it (such as, for example, parents talking to their children, or as you note gossip, or peer-pressure.) Mom and Dad made clear to me early on "what you're seeing isn't real, that's just makeup, etc."

Now we have reality TV which says "what you're seeing IS real". It makes me nervous what that teaches people.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 6, 2004 12:11 PM

To me, much of reality TV is like a game. In a way, sports are already reality TV. You're watching other people play a game. There may be quesitons about what people conclude from that game. For instance, in the case of a game show, do they believe that the contestants are not given the answers beforehand? (this has caused scandal in the past)

In sports, are the teams playing fairly? Are unfair tactics being used? Drugs?

In the case of "Survivor" these factors and more are in play.

Posted by: James at March 6, 2004 2:00 PM

Personal anecdotes aside (I'm not really surprised if everyone posting on this blog has seen violent TV but hasn't murdered anybody), "psychological research has shown three major effects of seeing violence on television:

* Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others
* Children may be more fearful of the world around them
* Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others. "

That's from the American Psychological Association website:
http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/violence.html

I have not read this original source, this is a summary from a page about women and violence:
"Over 40 years of scientific investigation has led researchers to conclude that media violence significantly contributes to aggressive attitudes and behavior in society."

http://www.mediascope.org/pubs/ibriefs/vwm.htm

"Mediascope is a national, nonprofit research and policy organization working to promote issues of social relevance within the entertainment industry."

Just google "research violence pornography women," I found a few good resources but many are print, or google "research violence television," or your own combination. Find a resource you trust if you don't like mine.

Personally, I think this is pretty basic. No, people do not make the distinction between the news and "reality" tv and scripted tv, and, yes, the news is entertainment as well. Methods of persuasion are subtle and sophisticated, and I challenge anyone to tell me they have never been affected by a work of fiction. A good author/director (or musician) knows his or her audience, and will take them emotionally and/or intellectually from point A to point B. You can't watch it and not be affected. The APA recommends that you talk to your children if they watch a violent act on TV, but their ultimate recommendation is that you restrict it -- that you turn it off.

And I'll play the human nature card, too. I don't think that because something is "natural," (whatever that means, really!) it's good. I think it's within human nature (meaning typical human behavior) to be violent, to want to eat fats and sugars, to be attracted to members of the opposite sex who have symmetrical features and certain proportions. All of these things had some kind of evolutionary advantage in the past. That doesn't mean that we should indulge them now! We're not apes in the wild. Every impulse should be examined and judged within the context of our current situation. The fats and sugars, I'm afraid, are right out. So is the violence. And if watching television shows is going to make this harder for you, or if it's going to subtly change the way you interact with other people, you need to decide whether you want to risk becoming callous to the opposite sex or violent in general.

Television is just not my taste, but the fats and sugars are a little trickier... ;-)

Posted by: Maggie at March 6, 2004 2:52 PM

> Personal anecdotes aside [...]
> http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/violence.html
> http://www.mediascope.org/pubs/ibriefs/vwm.htm
>
> Find a resource you trust if you don’t
> like mine.

I neither doubt nor disagree with your sources, in fact I'd previously read the APA page you recommended. However neither of these sources mentions any sort of study distinguishing between reality TV and fictional TV, and I'm not sure any such study has even been done. For all the damage fictional TV can do, I suspect reality TV can do more based on my personal observations. I'm not sure on what basis you conclude otherwise (and yes I've read the following paragraphs), but you're certainly entitled to your opinion.

In fact in reading these pages, I'm not sure I see any statement of fact that is in direct contradiction to something I said earlier. Nonetheless they're interesting sources to read and be aware of. Thanks for posting them. If you are so inclined, feel free to point out anyplace where my conclusions about the effects of depicted violence are contradicted by these websites.

Regarding the Donnerstein studies, it is interesting that noted increased aggression toward women was measured in men immediately after they had been exposed to feature-length pornographic material. That is, these men were aroused for 2 hours, and then not offered the opportunity to masturbate and relieve the resulting tension. It would be interesting to see a study that assessed their agreesive tendencies toward other men as well within this timeframe. I suspect that they would be found to be more aggressive in general.

In 1984 Dr. Malamuth (author of an earlier study much like Donnerstein's) did a study of the effect of repeated exposure to violent and nonviolent porn on agressiveness against women, where the exposure phase took place over a period of six weeks, and the agression test came later. (Nobody walked straight from the porn-room to the agression-room.) The results of this study showed no significant increase in aggression (or likelihood to rape) among the test subjects.

Inadvertantly these scientists may have been demonstrating that men are more aggressive when aroused. This study is available on the APA website if you want to check it out:

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div46/articles/malamuth.pdf

The scientists theorize that if the agression test included a "memory cue" that reminded the subject of a pornographic film viewed earlier, then perhaps the aggressive tendencies would be shown to increase.

> I challenge anyone to tell me they have never
> been affected by a work of fiction.

Well I never said I was "completely unaffected", I said that depictions of fictional violence don't seem to affect me very much, or certainly not nearly as much as depictions of real violence. This is my personal observation of how I feel inside, and I think I have a better grasp on my inner feelings than anybody posting here.

> The APA recommends that you talk to your
> children if they watch a violent act on
> TV, but their ultimate recommendation
> is that you restrict it — that you turn
> it off.

No argument here. Put some kids in a simulated playroom and let them watch something violent, and they play more violently--the simulated playroom leaves out the parent explaining to the children that this behavior is unacceptable. On the other side of the coin it's probably just as well that we are exposed to at least some examples of violence (or just mean-ness) as we grow, because there will always be violent and/or mean people in the world and understanding that probably leaves one a little better prepared to recognize violent situations before they occur.

> And I’ll play the human nature card, too.
> I don’t think that because something
> is “natural,” (whatever that means,
> really!) it’s good. [...] We’re not apes
> in the wild. Every impulse should be
> examined and judged within the context
> of our current situation.

Yes, we're certainly not apes in the wild, which is why I don't attempt to copulate with every female I find physically attractive. We're also not asexual cardboard cutouts, either. I think simple appreciation of beauty is a relatively harmless natural tendency that need only be repressed when it is unwelcome.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 6, 2004 7:00 PM

On the subject of violence and children:

Itís never appropriate to expose children to violence. Among the lessons they learn is that the world is a frightening place. Children need security during the years that their brains are developing. Children who have a secure home environment face the world with more confidence and self-esteem and have better coping skills. I donít have that study at hand, I read it a long time ago, but I guess I thought it was pretty basic. In fact, my daughtersí pediatrician said those words to me almost verbatim just last week.

Violence is so pervasive in our media that children are almost certainly exposed to it unless their media exposure is tightly controlled. Some parents donít do this. The television, video games, and computer games are all used as babysitters and placaters, or parents watch television shows that arenít meant for a child audience and let their children into the room while they watch. I understand this. Children can be very tiring. But when you have children you have a responsibility to care for them. (Sorry if itís hard. Thereís much, much harder stuff than just turning off the TV.) To expose them to violence is a form of abuse. Not only are you showing them something that can frighten them, but youíre teaching them inappropriate behaviors at a time when they are very open to learning, and you are teaching them with a very powerful tool; one that is far more powerful than lecturing. There is absolutely no reason that any lesson you think you want to convey by showing them violence canít be conveyed at a much later age when their behavioral patterns are already established and theyíre more able to distinguish between reality and television. (Even many adults canít tell the difference.)

If you want your child to have coping skills, talk out the real interactions that are happening to them in their daily lives. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, and talk about approriate ways to deal with the feelings theyíre having (e.g. being angry that Bobby stole the ball is a normal feeling, but you canít hit Bobby). They donít need to watch somebodyís head explode in a video game to broach this topic.

In response to two points in Chuck's post:
"Iím not sure I see any statement of fact that is in direct contradiction to something I said earlier"

I wasn't responding to you, I was writing a general post about violence and pornography.

"I think simple appreciation of beauty is a relatively harmless natural tendency that need only be repressed when it is unwelcome."

Well, that's an excellent point which speaks directly to my point. The "appreciator" needs to recognize when his "appreciation" is unwelcome.

Pornography promotes the rape myth -- that women, once the sex act begins, will enjoy it because it's what they wanted all along. It also promotes other attitudinal changes. There are numerous studies which show that this is a result of watching violent pornography (Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography).

Go ahead and be frightened that people watching reality TV are learning something that you don't ever define, but that you say scares you. I have a fear based in scientific data that men who view pornography have attitudinal shifts toward women which, even if they don't result in violent actions toward women, result in less sympathy toward the victims of those violent actions and result in putting more blame on the victims for what happened. As a woman with two daughters, that scares *me.*

Posted by: Maggie at March 7, 2004 1:20 AM

I have to admit that I love "Queer Eye." There. My dirty reality TV secret is out.

I've posted more on the "12 Reasons" post.

Posted by: Patti at March 10, 2004 9:32 AM

News is the ultimate reality TV. And it sucks. We were watching a tape Maggie had made the other day for her brownie troop. At the end of the show there was a commercial for the news. The three top stories were:

* The clerical sex-abuse case
* A huge drug bust with bags and bags of pot
* A body recently found, and the possibility of serial killings.

It's sloppy to tar a whole genre. Obviously there is news that is well done. You can't put NPR on the same level as local nightly news. It doesn't compare.

But aside from the argument of different levels of quality in programming, we all have our guilty pleasures. I love crappy horror films and schlocky sci-fi. Everyone needs to relax sometimes.

Posted by: James (DrMomentum) at March 10, 2004 10:02 AM

Queer Eye is great. I love how kind-hearted the show is towards its subjects. It would be so easy for the Fab Five to rip people apart and get higher ratings.

Posted by: Mike at March 10, 2004 10:28 AM

James,

I agree with you on the local news. It's just more of the culture of fear that pervades our society. IMHO, it's irresponsible. Particularly those teasers for the 11 o'clock news that hint that the safety of your family may depend on you tuning in.

Posted by: briwei at March 10, 2004 10:46 AM

Many years ago, a journalism professor of mine said if you took all the sound and pictures out of TV news, you'd have about 10 minutes worth of information.

I watch the TV news mostly for weather (so I know what to wear the next day). For news, I listen to NPR and read newspapers. I augment my news intake with The Economist and various other mags.

Actually, I think I get too much news sometimes. I'm in a semi-news-blackout about the election because I just can't take it.

Posted by: Patti at March 10, 2004 2:04 PM

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