I must confess I have been a television snob. I criticized and teased fellow seniors who depended on television for both information and entertainment at all hours. The irony of this is that now I have joined these folks, spending a good deal of each day in front of that box.
Television has become an enjoyable diversion from the discomforts and lack of mobility that many others, and I, endure. I remember as a youngster in the early years of television, my heroes were Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers. They always captured the “bad guys” — all the while crooning a cowboy tune.
When my kids watched television, their heroes were Superman and Flash Gordon. They too always captured the “bad guys,” but they did so minus any crooning.
In recent times, heroes and shows have been far different. People seem to relish violent programs with a passion. Today’s heroes are the “bad guys!” To name a few, there’s Don Corleone, the Godfather; Tony Soprano and his Mafia-style family; and Bonnie and Clyde, bank robbers. They all escaped from the law or violently opposed it. Widely popular these days are shows that elevate the anti-hero to star status and, seemingly, the bloodier the scenes, the better!
The popularity of the anti-hero is also reflected in our politics. Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, 40% of our population supported the re-election of Trump despite his autocratic behavior, incendiary rhetoric, anti-constitutional governing, and the fraudulent use of public funds. Then as now, Trump professes his admiration of murderous dictators such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
I find it shocking that recent national polls show that Trump is the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024, this in spite of his instigating an unsuccessful, treasonous coup in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump was and is a master at using social media and television to his advantage.
Television programming airs violent shows and gives Trump’s antics a platform. The job of producers and news directors is to broadcast programs that will attract and appeal to their viewers and sell advertising time. Gutter-rhetoric, outrageous behavior, and rampant gun use have become the requisite paths to popularity among viewers. Even comedy and family shows these days tend toward vulgarity or demeaning certain groups, behaviors, or cultures.
I’m deeply concerned how viewing violence impacts vulnerable people, especially children who are so often glued to the television. Gun-wielding and shooting are portrayed everywhere, even occurring in some children’s shows where they experience shooting as routine behavior.
I fear that all of us are becoming immune to the violence we ingest. I attribute some of the rapid rise in gun use to this anti-hero worship along with the broad portrayals of violence on television. Most of us are deeply concerned about the lack of legislation on weapons. Polls show the majority of Americans favor reasonable gun control, although this means confronting the powerful and politically connected NRA.
We senior citizens often spend a great deal of time watching television and appreciate its value. However, we also have concerns about how repeatedly viewing violence impacts children and other vulnerable populations. I believe television has the opportunity to make a difference if it emphasizes true heroes and minimizes violence. We must make our concerns known to a greater extent. Perhaps the television industry will realize our pleas are worthy of their attention and are critically important.