Like all American citizens, I have been appalled at the increase in the number of mass assaults that have occurred here. The attack on a Jewish Synagogue, with the murder of eleven people, is just one example. Two young girls who brought guns to school with a plan of shooting other children and then committing suicide is another. Twelve people murdered in a bar. Fifty-eight people machine gunned to death.
Mass shootings occur nearly every day. The pipe bombs recently mailed to political figures is yet more evidence that something is very, very wrong in our country.
What have we done to ourselves over the years?
When I was small (1950’s), I watched TV now and then, but especially on Saturday mornings. We had many programs that were shown just for us. Included were The Lone Ranger, Captain Midnight, Sky King, Tom Corbett: Space Cadette, and others. Superman was one that would have appealed to us kids, but for some reason, it was treated as an adult TV series and was shown in the late evening, at least at first.
On The Lone Ranger, the eponymous star and Tonto were always shown as being fair and honest. There was no bad language, no unnecessary violence (The Lone Ranger always shot the gun out of the hand of the bad guy rather than killing him), no sex. He got into fist fights in most episodes rather than gun battles. There was an episode where, at the end, when the bad guys were in jail, the scene had Tonto sitting in the Sheriff’s office. Someone said that the two heroes were not getting much pay for their efforts. Tonto said, “We don’t work for pay. We work for justice.”
Where is that kind of role model now? Where are our values? We don’t have them, at all, anywhere. TV shows are about the undead and devil worship. Movies have horrid-looking monsters. Bad language is the rule rather than the exception. Crime is glamorized. Kids see villains rather than heroes, everywhere. At places where we should be talking to others, we are on our cell phones.
We need to show our children that truth, justice, and a respect for the rights of others, are more important than a rush to obtain money and power at the expense of everything else. This can be achieved in part by putting these values back into television and movie theater entertainment. The problem is that movies are not about stories and good acting anymore. They are all about the sensory experience: computer graphics and extreme surround sound. It will be difficult to go back to the time when the focus was on the characters and what they are doing, rather than what they are experiencing.
Large screen 4K UHD TV is catching up to the movie theaters. Surround sound is a part of TV broadcasts. So, the sensory experience is being felt at home too.
Trying to get producers to invest in the future of our children by spending money on retro-TV programming and retro-movies will be difficult. Perhaps federal assistance can be obtained because it is a critical problem that affects our entire society. Who knows? But, it has to be done.
The other problem, perhaps the most difficult, will be to get youth to be interested in TV shows and movies that have heroes with conscience, morals, and principles. But, how will we be able to do that?
Perhaps we can begin by placing such heroes within the sensory experience and slowly eliminating most of the computer graphics and extreme surround sound over several decades so that the focus is back on the story and acting, with the main character having the principles that everyone admires. That does not mean we have to eliminate sensory experience TV programs and movies altogether, but rather, including some that have what society needs to bring young people along in a proper environment such that they grow up respecting the lives of other people.
It may take two generations, with each generation being 25 to 30 years. A long time? Yes, but it will be worth it. We must invest and begin as soon as possible.