Morality in Media
By Raymond Shipley
"Leave it to Beaver", "I Love Lucy" and "Father Knows Best" were the epitome of family life in the 1950s. Each showcased a united family that always came together against adversities, and had moral themes such as don't steal and always tell the truth. Today's family shows include "Modern Family", "The New Normal" and "Grace and Frankie" as well as reality shows that thrive on amoral drama. The differences between the 1950s TV family and today's couldn't be more different.
Throughout the history of Television and film one can see a historical record of family portrayal. When statistics of each era are displayed alongside its media, there seems a correlation between what is shown on-screen, and what is taken away as normal and acceptable behavior.
In 1972 "The Waltons" represented the classic example of the extended American family. Just two years later "Little House on the Prairie" added adoption to the mix. By the 1980s and 90s "Full House", "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Married With Children" were taking the idea of family into areas hitherto unimaginable on-screen just decades earlier. The rise in contemporary families that now reflect this change is evident.
Although the nuclear family has managed to remain a constant in American life, the single-parent, and other non-traditional family structures, has more or less become the model for Generation Y and beyond. Although the desire for inclusion is understandable, the consequences of raising children in irregular families increases the likelihood of developmental problems (see here, here and here).
The argument has been made that what is seen on Television and in movies is less an attempt to change the dynamic than to show its actual state. Is media affecting change in our society or society affecting change in media? Conservatives and traditionalists argue media is affecting change, while the progressive/liberal argues the reverse. Since the influence on families and children have been objectively negative, it stands to reason there is a problem that should be addressed. So, which is causing the affect?
To answer either way is to invite the wrath of the opposing side; however, what can be said is those claiming media is merely representing the modern family and has no considerable affect are more often than not the same who claim "body shaming" causes depression and a host of other horrible consequences. This begs the question concerning hypocrisy and double standards. It doesn't make sense that media portrayal of healthy physiques can make someone with an unhealthy body feel and behave a certain way, while showcasing abnormal values and family structures as healthy has no affect. This is ridiculous.
People emulate what they see and this is no different merely because feelings wish it to be so. The desire to live in a moral, prosperous and fulfilling society dictates what is showcased must reflect that desire. Contemporary shows that depict wholesome families are few and far between today, with "Blue Bloods" being a necessary response to the new normal. The output will always be the result of the input, and it is past time we accept this fact and act accordingly. Our children's future depends on it.