Hollywood’s uniculture

Reniqua Allen, in lamenting the passing of The Bill Cosby Show,  complains about the way television today depicts black families.  In doing so, she makes some observations that have wide applications:

Instead of a real look at black culture, Hispanic culture or any specific culture, we get “uniculture.” That’s how Felicia Henderson, creator of the Showtime series “Soul Food” and a newly minted executive producer of a BET family sitcom “Reed Between the Lines,” describes much of our current television universe. Henderson, who has served as a writer and producer for shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Gossip Girl” and “Fringe,” says the major networks often show diverse casts, but not true cultural differences. “I celebrate multicultural casting, but my concern is that these shows and these characters are only physically multicultural, physically multiethnic,” she says. . . .

The worlds they pretend to inhabit are not ones in which anyone really lives. It’s one TV cultural universe, with no room for ethnic difference, even among ethnic characters.

British journalist David Frost once said, “Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn’t have in your home.”

via Why isn’t the Cosby Show for a new generation on network TV? – The Washington Post.

Exactly!  This applies also to the ways television (and most movies) portray all families and all cultures.  In the Hollywood universe, everyone of every culture embraces extramarital sex, with no qualms, stigmas, or consequences.  No one goes to church, and religion has no influence on anyone’s life.   There are no conservatives, except for villains.  And children are smarter than adults, especially their parents.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    I find virtually almost all mainstream television to be disgustingly P.C., to the point that it’s unwatchable. I watch little TV. There are a few modern-day exceptions that will break these P.C. rules: South Park, Game of Thrones. I’m not saying these are conservative shows, but you actually have a people who aren’t villains who may be anti-feminist, anti-gay, or not believe in premarital sex. It’s a shame that we could no longer have a character like Archie Bunker. To be sure, I would have seriously disagreements with most people on this forum over what is appropriate on television, as I’m sure most of you were offended by Janet Jackson’s bared breast.

  • Michael B.

    I find virtually almost all mainstream television to be disgustingly P.C., to the point that it’s unwatchable. I watch little TV. There are a few modern-day exceptions that will break these P.C. rules: South Park, Game of Thrones. I’m not saying these are conservative shows, but you actually have a people who aren’t villains who may be anti-feminist, anti-gay, or not believe in premarital sex. It’s a shame that we could no longer have a character like Archie Bunker. To be sure, I would have seriously disagreements with most people on this forum over what is appropriate on television, as I’m sure most of you were offended by Janet Jackson’s bared breast.

  • Tom Hering

    TV can shape society. It can be an engine of justice, equality, and enlightenment. TV matters.

    [Cue laugh track.]

    Sheesh. Most of the time, TV can barely manage to do the only thing it’s actually capable of – entertaining us.

  • Tom Hering

    TV can shape society. It can be an engine of justice, equality, and enlightenment. TV matters.

    [Cue laugh track.]

    Sheesh. Most of the time, TV can barely manage to do the only thing it’s actually capable of – entertaining us.

  • Michael B.

    One other bothersome thing is that the consequences of liberal thinking are never shown in TV. It’s a complete double standard. For example, on Sex and the City, each of the women are all but mathematically guaranteed to have an incurable STD. Or take abortion. You’ll see the consequences of conservative thinking — an unwanted child, but they would never show the dead fetus that results from abortion. You’d see women who regret having given up a career, but none who ever gave up motherhood.

  • Michael B.

    One other bothersome thing is that the consequences of liberal thinking are never shown in TV. It’s a complete double standard. For example, on Sex and the City, each of the women are all but mathematically guaranteed to have an incurable STD. Or take abortion. You’ll see the consequences of conservative thinking — an unwanted child, but they would never show the dead fetus that results from abortion. You’d see women who regret having given up a career, but none who ever gave up motherhood.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    What’s ironic is that the people running Hollywood aren’t exactly conservative, and that Ms. Allen’s complaints are usually reserved for those on the R side of the aisle. Poetic justice, I say.

    Back on topic, I watched The Cosby Show because it was funny, not because it was “black” or “cultural.” I enjoyed the show because it made me laugh. And as Ms. Allen stated, culture was a part of their life, but it did not exclusively define them. It walked a fine line between “We are like everybody else” vs. “We are different” and did so quite well.

    For the record, I understand Ms. Allen’s complaint, and to a degree I sympathize with it. However, I also believe that too often the modern trend is to make culture a divisive issue, particularly with regard to entertainment. It’s one thing for me to say “I’m an Italian;” it’s quite another to say “My Italianness is the source of my worth.”

    While homosexuality and ethnic culture are not even on the same level (one being about upbringing, the other about morality), this is one of the problems with the show Ellen; when Ms. DeGeneres decided to follow the “alternative lifestyle” path and publicize it through the show, she lost her audience because, from then on, it became about nothing else but that. A good number of people who initially loved the show complained that the show began to center on that alone, and as a result quit watching the show.

    Again, while homosexuality and ethnicity are apples and oranges for us as Christians (that is, if we have a Scripturally-centered base as we ought), the point is that we don’t want to watch a show about a person being “X”. What we want is to watch a person, who may or may not be “X,” living his or her life. Yes, “X” may play a part in some of that person’s perceptions and decisions, but different people from different cultures still have the same needs, same things that make us laugh, cry, get angry, fall in love, etc. We need to remember that we are people above all else, regardless of our race or ethnicity.

    And finally, as Christians, we need to be above our culture and transcendent with regard to it. We who are American Christians should be most aware of this, as our culture is embracing a great many things that our faith in Christ does not permit us to do. John Stott once remarked that Christianity in one sense should be a counterculture, and he’s absolutely right. Our identity in Christ overrides all other cultural factors. We need to live as such.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    What’s ironic is that the people running Hollywood aren’t exactly conservative, and that Ms. Allen’s complaints are usually reserved for those on the R side of the aisle. Poetic justice, I say.

    Back on topic, I watched The Cosby Show because it was funny, not because it was “black” or “cultural.” I enjoyed the show because it made me laugh. And as Ms. Allen stated, culture was a part of their life, but it did not exclusively define them. It walked a fine line between “We are like everybody else” vs. “We are different” and did so quite well.

    For the record, I understand Ms. Allen’s complaint, and to a degree I sympathize with it. However, I also believe that too often the modern trend is to make culture a divisive issue, particularly with regard to entertainment. It’s one thing for me to say “I’m an Italian;” it’s quite another to say “My Italianness is the source of my worth.”

    While homosexuality and ethnic culture are not even on the same level (one being about upbringing, the other about morality), this is one of the problems with the show Ellen; when Ms. DeGeneres decided to follow the “alternative lifestyle” path and publicize it through the show, she lost her audience because, from then on, it became about nothing else but that. A good number of people who initially loved the show complained that the show began to center on that alone, and as a result quit watching the show.

    Again, while homosexuality and ethnicity are apples and oranges for us as Christians (that is, if we have a Scripturally-centered base as we ought), the point is that we don’t want to watch a show about a person being “X”. What we want is to watch a person, who may or may not be “X,” living his or her life. Yes, “X” may play a part in some of that person’s perceptions and decisions, but different people from different cultures still have the same needs, same things that make us laugh, cry, get angry, fall in love, etc. We need to remember that we are people above all else, regardless of our race or ethnicity.

    And finally, as Christians, we need to be above our culture and transcendent with regard to it. We who are American Christians should be most aware of this, as our culture is embracing a great many things that our faith in Christ does not permit us to do. John Stott once remarked that Christianity in one sense should be a counterculture, and he’s absolutely right. Our identity in Christ overrides all other cultural factors. We need to live as such.

  • Rose

    “Disconnect your television sets and your radios, and begin God’s programs; meditation, prayer, reading of the Gospel.”–Medjugorje

  • Rose

    “Disconnect your television sets and your radios, and begin God’s programs; meditation, prayer, reading of the Gospel.”–Medjugorje

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Two observations:

    1) Why should TV shows accurately depict real life? People get enough of real life just living real life. TV is an escape from that.

    But on the other hand,
    2) The “uniculture” observation regarding major network programs is accurate. TV has become boring. Sitcoms just aren’t funny any more. Drama shows are transparently full of social engineering. South Park and the other “adult” cartoon shows are just disgusting, in my opinion. The talk shows are full of shallow blah, blah, blah…

    Some of the detective type shows are OK, I guess, though I don;t often watch those either.

    Things are so bad on network TV that, for pure entertainment, I’ve taken to watching the stupid stuff on the cable channels, like Pawn Stars, Call of the Wild Man, Storage Wars, etc. My wife watches stuff like Cupcake Wars, Say Yes to the Dress, Hoarders, etc.

    Sheesh. If it weren’t for Fox News (to help me fall asleep at night) I’d just get rid of my satellite TV service.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Two observations:

    1) Why should TV shows accurately depict real life? People get enough of real life just living real life. TV is an escape from that.

    But on the other hand,
    2) The “uniculture” observation regarding major network programs is accurate. TV has become boring. Sitcoms just aren’t funny any more. Drama shows are transparently full of social engineering. South Park and the other “adult” cartoon shows are just disgusting, in my opinion. The talk shows are full of shallow blah, blah, blah…

    Some of the detective type shows are OK, I guess, though I don;t often watch those either.

    Things are so bad on network TV that, for pure entertainment, I’ve taken to watching the stupid stuff on the cable channels, like Pawn Stars, Call of the Wild Man, Storage Wars, etc. My wife watches stuff like Cupcake Wars, Say Yes to the Dress, Hoarders, etc.

    Sheesh. If it weren’t for Fox News (to help me fall asleep at night) I’d just get rid of my satellite TV service.

  • DNeuendorf

    What I find so insufferable about TV is the preachiness. Which is ironic, given my own profession. God save me from coming across with such condescension as the TV shows that seek to “enlighten” me.

  • DNeuendorf

    What I find so insufferable about TV is the preachiness. Which is ironic, given my own profession. God save me from coming across with such condescension as the TV shows that seek to “enlighten” me.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Mike – excellent first observation.

    BTW, if you really wanted to watch more diverse shows, watch British TV: One example – the Crime series, Lewis, which is a continuation of the old Inspector Morse series.
    DI Lewis is a widower, slightly embittered (especially toward religion), working class fellow who became a DI in Oxford. His “reverse snobbery” shows. His DS, Hathaway, is a Cambridge educated, ex-seminary student and Christian.

    The repartee, some quite intellectual, with lots of Classical references, class issues, etc etc is very well done.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_(TV_series)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Mike – excellent first observation.

    BTW, if you really wanted to watch more diverse shows, watch British TV: One example – the Crime series, Lewis, which is a continuation of the old Inspector Morse series.
    DI Lewis is a widower, slightly embittered (especially toward religion), working class fellow who became a DI in Oxford. His “reverse snobbery” shows. His DS, Hathaway, is a Cambridge educated, ex-seminary student and Christian.

    The repartee, some quite intellectual, with lots of Classical references, class issues, etc etc is very well done.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_(TV_series)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, Lewis ans similarly good shows, aren’t what we used to call in SA “Skiet, skop & doodslaan” shows (shoot, kick, and beat to death).

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course, Lewis ans similarly good shows, aren’t what we used to call in SA “Skiet, skop & doodslaan” shows (shoot, kick, and beat to death).

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Sure, cultural observers tend to overestimate the influence of visual media on our perceptions.

    Or do they? There’s a strong case to be made that television shows in the past two decades–Will and Grace, Modern Family, Glee, etc.–hugely contributed to the normalization and public perception of open homosexuality in the United States, especially because the sort of orderly domestic arrangements between the homosexuals on these sitcoms are not statistically typical. TV studios have in fact admitted that there is just such an “agenda” at work with these sitcoms, and I think they’ve succeeded.

    Believe it or not, most people outside “cosmopolitan” cities don’t know any or many open homosexuals, much less living in delightful households. Until I moved to Madison, in fact, I had never known an open homosexual in my life. It’s not like I was sheltered though. Television has been filling in the gaps in this area.

    I’m not gay-bashing, by the way. I just think our perceptions of homosexuality are one realm in which television has had a massive culture-shaping influence. Similarly, we can point to the repeated trope of “stupid dads,” teenage “rebellion,” and normative depictions of adolescence in television as non-trivial cultural influences.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Sure, cultural observers tend to overestimate the influence of visual media on our perceptions.

    Or do they? There’s a strong case to be made that television shows in the past two decades–Will and Grace, Modern Family, Glee, etc.–hugely contributed to the normalization and public perception of open homosexuality in the United States, especially because the sort of orderly domestic arrangements between the homosexuals on these sitcoms are not statistically typical. TV studios have in fact admitted that there is just such an “agenda” at work with these sitcoms, and I think they’ve succeeded.

    Believe it or not, most people outside “cosmopolitan” cities don’t know any or many open homosexuals, much less living in delightful households. Until I moved to Madison, in fact, I had never known an open homosexual in my life. It’s not like I was sheltered though. Television has been filling in the gaps in this area.

    I’m not gay-bashing, by the way. I just think our perceptions of homosexuality are one realm in which television has had a massive culture-shaping influence. Similarly, we can point to the repeated trope of “stupid dads,” teenage “rebellion,” and normative depictions of adolescence in television as non-trivial cultural influences.

  • Larry H.

    I watch too much tv, most/all a waste of time, I would appreciate any comments on how the show Blue Bloods portrays Christians, family, values, etc.

  • Larry H.

    I watch too much tv, most/all a waste of time, I would appreciate any comments on how the show Blue Bloods portrays Christians, family, values, etc.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 10, a lot of people in the TV industry know gays, because there have always been a large number of gays working in the entertainment fields. So it’s not surprising that TV’s content creators would start depicting gays, or start championing their cause. But if we take the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 as the start of gay liberation, it’s clear TV was slow in beginning to depict and champion gays – by a couple of decades. (Whereas TV was depicting and championing blacks contemporaneously with the Civil Rights movement.) So did TV lead the way in society’s acceptance of gays? I don’t think so. I think what lead the way was the rejection of traditional sexual mores that had been underway – throughout society, and not just among youth – since the 1950s at least.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 10, a lot of people in the TV industry know gays, because there have always been a large number of gays working in the entertainment fields. So it’s not surprising that TV’s content creators would start depicting gays, or start championing their cause. But if we take the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 as the start of gay liberation, it’s clear TV was slow in beginning to depict and champion gays – by a couple of decades. (Whereas TV was depicting and championing blacks contemporaneously with the Civil Rights movement.) So did TV lead the way in society’s acceptance of gays? I don’t think so. I think what lead the way was the rejection of traditional sexual mores that had been underway – throughout society, and not just among youth – since the 1950s at least.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@12:

    I suspect this is probably a chicken-and-egg question, but I think it would be foolish to disregard the paramount role television has had in shaping public perceptions of various issues–the (moral and social) status of homosexuals being an example.

    Sure, there have been Court cases, legitimation movements, “uprisings,” and all sorts of events that have aided in the normalization process. But ask the average red-blooded American about any of those events: they won’t care. What changes the perceptions of those who don’t know many homosexuals themselves but who do watch television for 6+ hours per day? I’m going to suggest that television might play some role. Television shows have an agenda, as anyone would admit. And if my primary exposure to gays–even if it’s fictional exposure–is the happy couples of Modern Family, for example, those images are going to infiltrate my thinking at some level. Heck, I’m speaking for myself here. Don’t you think our modern attitudes (statistically speaking) towards homosexuality, gay rights, etc., would be noticeably different if the same endless succession of sitcoms depicted gays as obnoxious, promiscuous, vulgar, or otherwise unlikeable rather than the normalized, well-adjusted, beaming guys-next-door we see every evening?

    Normalization occurs through a variety of media, and it would be foolish to ignore visual media as one avenue. For the average Joe, things like television and movies can play a formative, determinative role in the formation of pre-rational prejudices and preferences.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@12:

    I suspect this is probably a chicken-and-egg question, but I think it would be foolish to disregard the paramount role television has had in shaping public perceptions of various issues–the (moral and social) status of homosexuals being an example.

    Sure, there have been Court cases, legitimation movements, “uprisings,” and all sorts of events that have aided in the normalization process. But ask the average red-blooded American about any of those events: they won’t care. What changes the perceptions of those who don’t know many homosexuals themselves but who do watch television for 6+ hours per day? I’m going to suggest that television might play some role. Television shows have an agenda, as anyone would admit. And if my primary exposure to gays–even if it’s fictional exposure–is the happy couples of Modern Family, for example, those images are going to infiltrate my thinking at some level. Heck, I’m speaking for myself here. Don’t you think our modern attitudes (statistically speaking) towards homosexuality, gay rights, etc., would be noticeably different if the same endless succession of sitcoms depicted gays as obnoxious, promiscuous, vulgar, or otherwise unlikeable rather than the normalized, well-adjusted, beaming guys-next-door we see every evening?

    Normalization occurs through a variety of media, and it would be foolish to ignore visual media as one avenue. For the average Joe, things like television and movies can play a formative, determinative role in the formation of pre-rational prejudices and preferences.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, hmmm. Not real sure about the chicken/egg thing. No executive okayed the first gay kiss on television until he was sure a percentage of the audience would accept it (good for ratings) while knowing another percentage of the audience would howl in protest (good for publicity). Straight society – or enough of straight society – already accepted demonstrative gays when that kiss happened. Or, at least, enough of straight society was ready to feel that sexual/relationship freedom should be granted to gays because sexual/relationship freedom shouldn’t be denied to straights.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, hmmm. Not real sure about the chicken/egg thing. No executive okayed the first gay kiss on television until he was sure a percentage of the audience would accept it (good for ratings) while knowing another percentage of the audience would howl in protest (good for publicity). Straight society – or enough of straight society – already accepted demonstrative gays when that kiss happened. Or, at least, enough of straight society was ready to feel that sexual/relationship freedom should be granted to gays because sexual/relationship freedom shouldn’t be denied to straights.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom:

    At best, you’ve shown that cultural preferences and media depictions are interactive variables. I of course agree. But that still means television plays a role in shaping those preferences.

    Blasphemous or otherwise derogatory depictions of religion and piety became commonplace long after Westerners in general began abandoning the church, but, it’s been argued, no instrument has done so much to legitimize a general attitude of dismissal and disparagement toward traditional religion and the traditional bourgeois virtues that attend such religion than unceasing dismissive and disparaging depictions of religion and traditional virtue in television and movies. I think it’s difficult to debate this claim.

    If you’re a teenager who grew up in a pious home, it’s television shows like South Park and Family Guy that very efficiently legitimate and embolden a “rebellious” posture towards the faith of your fathers. I know this for a fact. Even though I may or may not watch both shows on a more or less regular basis. If you grew up in a small Appalachian town like I did, where all gays (if there were any) were in the closet, it makes a difference that the first mental reference you have of homosexuality is the happy couples you see on network sitcoms. If you are seething under the pressure of strict parenting, the fact that the average television teenager is a back-sassing brat (but otherwise entirely well-adjusted and successful)–well, those images are influential.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom:

    At best, you’ve shown that cultural preferences and media depictions are interactive variables. I of course agree. But that still means television plays a role in shaping those preferences.

    Blasphemous or otherwise derogatory depictions of religion and piety became commonplace long after Westerners in general began abandoning the church, but, it’s been argued, no instrument has done so much to legitimize a general attitude of dismissal and disparagement toward traditional religion and the traditional bourgeois virtues that attend such religion than unceasing dismissive and disparaging depictions of religion and traditional virtue in television and movies. I think it’s difficult to debate this claim.

    If you’re a teenager who grew up in a pious home, it’s television shows like South Park and Family Guy that very efficiently legitimate and embolden a “rebellious” posture towards the faith of your fathers. I know this for a fact. Even though I may or may not watch both shows on a more or less regular basis. If you grew up in a small Appalachian town like I did, where all gays (if there were any) were in the closet, it makes a difference that the first mental reference you have of homosexuality is the happy couples you see on network sitcoms. If you are seething under the pressure of strict parenting, the fact that the average television teenager is a back-sassing brat (but otherwise entirely well-adjusted and successful)–well, those images are influential.

  • SKPeterson

    I remember reading a black t.v. critic singing the praises of St. Elsewhere because Hollywood had finally created a black character who was real enough to be an asshole and not a Huxtable. Not that he didn’t like Cosby – it was just that whites had had multi-faceted characters for decades, while blacks were two-dimensional and flat.

  • SKPeterson

    I remember reading a black t.v. critic singing the praises of St. Elsewhere because Hollywood had finally created a black character who was real enough to be an asshole and not a Huxtable. Not that he didn’t like Cosby – it was just that whites had had multi-faceted characters for decades, while blacks were two-dimensional and flat.

  • Tom Hering

    I would agree there’s a loop. But I’d still argue that the fault, dear Cincinnatus, lies not so much in our TV stars, as in ourselves. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    I would agree there’s a loop. But I’d still argue that the fault, dear Cincinnatus, lies not so much in our TV stars, as in ourselves. :-D

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, obviously, we’re not merely passive sponges of whatever we see and hear. But that’s rather a non-argument. What makes us who we are? The answer to that question isn’t totally divorced from the media we consume and contemplate.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, obviously, we’re not merely passive sponges of whatever we see and hear. But that’s rather a non-argument. What makes us who we are? The answer to that question isn’t totally divorced from the media we consume and contemplate.

  • Tom Hering

    No, not totally divorced. TV is definitely an influence. But it’s an influence on what’s already there in us, e.g., rebelliousness. It doesn’t create bad stuff in us.

  • Tom Hering

    No, not totally divorced. TV is definitely an influence. But it’s an influence on what’s already there in us, e.g., rebelliousness. It doesn’t create bad stuff in us.

  • Cincinnatus

    Though experiment:

    Our culture would be substantially different–better, even–if television (and similar media) were not an undermining influence. Discuss.

    What you’re arguing, Tom, is akin to saying that we’re all lustful creatures anyway, so we shouldn’t be too worried about the utter explosion of internet pornography. Granted, eliminating pornography wouldn’t make us chaste. But…really? Because that’s the logic you’re using. You don’t think pornography hasn’t exercised a deleterious influence on the minds and perceptions of millions of teenagers, for example? That it hasn’t shaped our expectations and preferences regarding sexuality, women, and the place of sex in an ordered life?

  • Cincinnatus

    Though experiment:

    Our culture would be substantially different–better, even–if television (and similar media) were not an undermining influence. Discuss.

    What you’re arguing, Tom, is akin to saying that we’re all lustful creatures anyway, so we shouldn’t be too worried about the utter explosion of internet pornography. Granted, eliminating pornography wouldn’t make us chaste. But…really? Because that’s the logic you’re using. You don’t think pornography hasn’t exercised a deleterious influence on the minds and perceptions of millions of teenagers, for example? That it hasn’t shaped our expectations and preferences regarding sexuality, women, and the place of sex in an ordered life?

  • kerner

    SK @16

    When they do the same for gays, they will have arrived. One of my favorite shows is “The Closer”, which does a pretty decent job of depicting the internal politics of a big city police department. During the first season ot two, Commander Taylor (an African American) was a scheming obstructionist, and our plucky heroine’s enemy all the way, whereas Sgt. Gabriel (likewise an African American) after a few self serving manuevers became her loyal friend and ally. The caucasian characters were similarly divided. But you rarely see more than one recurring gay character on any show, and they are almost always the good guys. In the Closer it’s the gay medical examiner, and he is an unequivocal good guy.

    I suppose there was one exception I can think of. The Wire had a lesbian cop (mostly a good guy) and a gay gangster (but he was the kind of gangster you kind of admired). That’s as close to an exception that I can think of.

  • kerner

    SK @16

    When they do the same for gays, they will have arrived. One of my favorite shows is “The Closer”, which does a pretty decent job of depicting the internal politics of a big city police department. During the first season ot two, Commander Taylor (an African American) was a scheming obstructionist, and our plucky heroine’s enemy all the way, whereas Sgt. Gabriel (likewise an African American) after a few self serving manuevers became her loyal friend and ally. The caucasian characters were similarly divided. But you rarely see more than one recurring gay character on any show, and they are almost always the good guys. In the Closer it’s the gay medical examiner, and he is an unequivocal good guy.

    I suppose there was one exception I can think of. The Wire had a lesbian cop (mostly a good guy) and a gay gangster (but he was the kind of gangster you kind of admired). That’s as close to an exception that I can think of.

  • Tom Hering

    I think we have to ask: when TV shows us dumb parents and back-talking kids, is it trying to corrupt the traditional family? Or is it trying (trying) to be funny? Flawed people make us laugh. Good people don’t. Basic Poetics.

  • Tom Hering

    I think we have to ask: when TV shows us dumb parents and back-talking kids, is it trying to corrupt the traditional family? Or is it trying (trying) to be funny? Flawed people make us laugh. Good people don’t. Basic Poetics.

  • Tom Hering

    @ 20, wow. That’s not what I’m arguing at all. Sheesh.

  • Tom Hering

    @ 20, wow. That’s not what I’m arguing at all. Sheesh.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner – that is where the British productions seem to be better – I’ve yet to see such a one-sided approach as the ones described here. there good religious people and bad ones, good gays and bad ones, good white people and bad ones, good people of colour and bad ones, good immigrants and bad ones, good cops and bad ones, etc etc.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner – that is where the British productions seem to be better – I’ve yet to see such a one-sided approach as the ones described here. there good religious people and bad ones, good gays and bad ones, good white people and bad ones, good people of colour and bad ones, good immigrants and bad ones, good cops and bad ones, etc etc.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@22:

    Right, but think of it this way: When networks began depicting normalized gay relationships in sitcoms in the 1990s, I am quite certain that a majority of viewers were not demanding more likable gay people on television. Maybe 2-3% of the population was, but most either didn’t care, or would have opposed the idea in the first place. Networks (as opposed to AMC and other cable channels that can appeal to more niche preferences) give “the people” what they want, but what they want is merely to be entertained. Entertainment can be provided by a variety of formula.

    Personally, I would find–and many, many other people–would find a show that depicts gay characters as bumbling idiots or offensive horndogs to be hilarious (just as I find Modern Family to be hilarious). But no mainstream show does this. Why? Obviously, an ideological agenda drove the specific decisions in this case. Guess what? Except in places like Madison, Wisconsin, most people can’t identify with a daily life populated with lots and lots of well-adjusted gay people. And yet there they are all over television. And so lots and lots of well-adjusted gay people on sitcoms serve as the primary mental reference that most viewers have when presented with political or cultural questions involving homosexuality. How could I oppose gay marriage? Cam and Mitchell are so wonderful!

    You’d be surprised by how much the human mind operates from subconscious references like these.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@22:

    Right, but think of it this way: When networks began depicting normalized gay relationships in sitcoms in the 1990s, I am quite certain that a majority of viewers were not demanding more likable gay people on television. Maybe 2-3% of the population was, but most either didn’t care, or would have opposed the idea in the first place. Networks (as opposed to AMC and other cable channels that can appeal to more niche preferences) give “the people” what they want, but what they want is merely to be entertained. Entertainment can be provided by a variety of formula.

    Personally, I would find–and many, many other people–would find a show that depicts gay characters as bumbling idiots or offensive horndogs to be hilarious (just as I find Modern Family to be hilarious). But no mainstream show does this. Why? Obviously, an ideological agenda drove the specific decisions in this case. Guess what? Except in places like Madison, Wisconsin, most people can’t identify with a daily life populated with lots and lots of well-adjusted gay people. And yet there they are all over television. And so lots and lots of well-adjusted gay people on sitcoms serve as the primary mental reference that most viewers have when presented with political or cultural questions involving homosexuality. How could I oppose gay marriage? Cam and Mitchell are so wonderful!

    You’d be surprised by how much the human mind operates from subconscious references like these.

  • kerner

    Tom @22,

    Well, yeah, but would it kill a script writer to create a character wh wasn’t a complete fool going to church on a Sunday morning? I have seen it occasionally, but you don’t see it often. On the other hand, people write what they know. So, if the percentage of script writers who go to church is low, I guess we should expect that the percentage of tv. chatacters going to church will be low as well.

  • kerner

    Tom @22,

    Well, yeah, but would it kill a script writer to create a character wh wasn’t a complete fool going to church on a Sunday morning? I have seen it occasionally, but you don’t see it often. On the other hand, people write what they know. So, if the percentage of script writers who go to church is low, I guess we should expect that the percentage of tv. chatacters going to church will be low as well.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner and KK: Kerner already mentioned The Wire–fantastic show. But I was going to submit that AMC and HBO production do tend to be more nuanced than the typical network fare. The audiences for these cable shows, however, is infinitesimal when compared against the network audiences.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner and KK: Kerner already mentioned The Wire–fantastic show. But I was going to submit that AMC and HBO production do tend to be more nuanced than the typical network fare. The audiences for these cable shows, however, is infinitesimal when compared against the network audiences.

  • Cincinnatus

    And speaking of kerner’s request about non-foolish churchgoers, there has to be a reason that some of my colleagues think I must be a raving right-wing radical whenever they find out that I might go to church.

    They’ve been watching too much television. I seldom discuss my politics (or my religion) in public. But what’s the first image these folks conjure in my mind when they learn that one, single identity ascription–that I’m a practicing churchgoer? Obviously, I must be like Ned Flanders.

  • Cincinnatus

    And speaking of kerner’s request about non-foolish churchgoers, there has to be a reason that some of my colleagues think I must be a raving right-wing radical whenever they find out that I might go to church.

    They’ve been watching too much television. I seldom discuss my politics (or my religion) in public. But what’s the first image these folks conjure in my mind when they learn that one, single identity ascription–that I’m a practicing churchgoer? Obviously, I must be like Ned Flanders.

  • Tom Hering

    kerner @ 26, are you saying that very few churchgoers pursue careers in scriptwriting?

  • Tom Hering

    kerner @ 26, are you saying that very few churchgoers pursue careers in scriptwriting?

  • Tom Hering

    Also, if you’re going to show a scene involving churchgoers in a sitcom, you’re going to show them as flawed people, in order to get some laughs. Maybe most producers don’t want their writers to go there, because they get enough grief from the religious population as it is. Too bad. Churchgoing can be funny stuff.

  • Tom Hering

    Also, if you’re going to show a scene involving churchgoers in a sitcom, you’re going to show them as flawed people, in order to get some laughs. Maybe most producers don’t want their writers to go there, because they get enough grief from the religious population as it is. Too bad. Churchgoing can be funny stuff.

  • Tom Hering

    Here’s the rest of the skit (starts at 6:00).

  • Tom Hering

    Here’s the rest of the skit (starts at 6:00).

  • formerly just steve

    No one goes to church, and religion has no influence on anyone’s life. There are no conservatives, except for villains. And children are smarter than adults, especially their parents.

    Especially the father! For the last few decades there have been very few series where the husband/father is not a do-nothing dufus. A big oaf who may have a big heart but just can’t seem to get it together. Why not, if it sells? Television broadcasting is not about celebrating diversity. It’s about getting the most market share.

  • formerly just steve

    No one goes to church, and religion has no influence on anyone’s life. There are no conservatives, except for villains. And children are smarter than adults, especially their parents.

    Especially the father! For the last few decades there have been very few series where the husband/father is not a do-nothing dufus. A big oaf who may have a big heart but just can’t seem to get it together. Why not, if it sells? Television broadcasting is not about celebrating diversity. It’s about getting the most market share.

  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    I like the British shows too, they seem to have a penchant for mysteries, especially murder mysteries – vis-a-vis: Sherlock Holmes, the Lewis series as mentioned above, New Tricks, Cadfael, and one of my faves, MI-5. One of the characteristics that I appreciate in British mysteries is their focus on the complex intricacies of motives (O what a tangled web we weave), rather than glamorizing the act of murder itself, which is Hollywood’s trademark.

  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    I like the British shows too, they seem to have a penchant for mysteries, especially murder mysteries – vis-a-vis: Sherlock Holmes, the Lewis series as mentioned above, New Tricks, Cadfael, and one of my faves, MI-5. One of the characteristics that I appreciate in British mysteries is their focus on the complex intricacies of motives (O what a tangled web we weave), rather than glamorizing the act of murder itself, which is Hollywood’s trademark.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dim, I enjoy all of those, except Cadfael, which I haven’t had the opportunity to see (I have read many of the books though).

    I would add Midsommer Murders, and Frost to that list.

    And not to forget the greatest Sci-Fi show on earth: Dr Who.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dim, I enjoy all of those, except Cadfael, which I haven’t had the opportunity to see (I have read many of the books though).

    I would add Midsommer Murders, and Frost to that list.

    And not to forget the greatest Sci-Fi show on earth: Dr Who.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dim, there are 2 Canadian shows, quite different from each other, which you might enjoy:

    Murdoch Mysteries (takes place in late Victorian Toronto), and Republic of Doyle (contemporary St Johns, Newfounfland).

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dim, there are 2 Canadian shows, quite different from each other, which you might enjoy:

    Murdoch Mysteries (takes place in late Victorian Toronto), and Republic of Doyle (contemporary St Johns, Newfounfland).

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    If you grew up in a small Appalachian town like I did, where all gays (if there were any) were in the closet,

    Okay, this is one of my favorite cartoons:

    http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Were-we-gay-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8545914_.htm

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    If you grew up in a small Appalachian town like I did, where all gays (if there were any) were in the closet,

    Okay, this is one of my favorite cartoons:

    http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Were-we-gay-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8545914_.htm

  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    Yep, they’re not too bad either. I especially like the Murdoch Mysteries. Murdoch is something of a tragic figure, what with his love lost, and failing to be promoted due to his religion – he’s Catholic, Jesuit trained, living in, at that time, Protestant Toronto.

  • http://dimlamp.wordpress.com/ Dim Lamp

    Yep, they’re not too bad either. I especially like the Murdoch Mysteries. Murdoch is something of a tragic figure, what with his love lost, and failing to be promoted due to his religion – he’s Catholic, Jesuit trained, living in, at that time, Protestant Toronto.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Regarding so many depictions of gays on TV even though the % of gays is low.

    Why are there so few hispanics on TV or in movies? It seems like there were more hispanics on TV and in the movies back in the 70′s. There are way more hispanics than gays.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Regarding so many depictions of gays on TV even though the % of gays is low.

    Why are there so few hispanics on TV or in movies? It seems like there were more hispanics on TV and in the movies back in the 70′s. There are way more hispanics than gays.

  • NavyMom

    I can think of two shows that depict intact families who love and respect each other and who actually attend church: On CBS, Tom Selleck’s very fine “Blue Bloods” and on ABC, Patricia Heaton’s sit-com “The Middle”. Granted, the characters don’t always act in loving ways and sin is winked at occasionally, but both shows are a far cry better than the schlock that’s out there.

  • NavyMom

    I can think of two shows that depict intact families who love and respect each other and who actually attend church: On CBS, Tom Selleck’s very fine “Blue Bloods” and on ABC, Patricia Heaton’s sit-com “The Middle”. Granted, the characters don’t always act in loving ways and sin is winked at occasionally, but both shows are a far cry better than the schlock that’s out there.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Obviously, *someone* hasn’t been watching Swamp People…

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Obviously, *someone* hasn’t been watching Swamp People…


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