Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Taking The Moral High-Ground

Let’s face it – only Britain could produce a woman like Mary Whitehouse.

An ordinary school teacher from middle Britain she became the scourge of TV producers everywhere when she set up the National Viewers And Listeners Association in the 1960s – complaining about sex, nudity, swearing and, quite oddly, about puppet pigs being cruel to one another (no, really)

She believed that young children were at risk of being exposed to images and ways of life that her Christian upbringing didn’t approve of. She was also instrumental in starting the “9 O’clock Watershed” for more adult-themed programmes (a watershed that becomes more and more pointless as the years go by)

Much as Mary Whitehouse was as nutty as a Whole-nut Chocolate bar with extra nuts I do sometimes pause to wonder exactly what values the Idiot Box is teaching our nation.

Take “Golden Balls” (and I wish someone would)

GB is hosted by 80s comedian Jasper Carrott (not his real name) and is shown at 5pm. The idea is that three contestants are given 5 balls – some may contain cash amounts, others contain the word “Killer” (which reduces the prize fund). Only they know which is which and they have to convince their opponents to keep them, and their balls, for the final round – where they will have the opportunity to “steal” or “share” the money.

So effectively the programme encourages the idea that stealing and lying brings instant rewards.

GB is not alone in this – programmes like X Factor and Britain’s (Really Hasn’t) Got Talent encourage people with No Fixed Ability to shame themselves on telly by being useless in the hope of getting a quick route to fame. The same can be said of the Big Brother phenomenon of programming – 10 chimpanzees in a house for umpteen, seemingly never-ending weeks, looking to earn themselves a big cash prize for lazing about, picking fleas off one another and being annoying.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m deeply cynical about censorship. We can’t go around treating people like idiots and trying to protect them from the real world – but there is a thin line between showing the truth (showing scenes of a war) and voyeurism (showing a dying man being handed a phone so he can phone his family one last time) that is clearly aimed at ratings only.

We forget how powerful and seductive the TV is – we invite it into our houses as we would a friend and it informs our view of the world. Gone are the days of the impartial BBC.

In many households it has replaced the babysitter and become the moral compass by which our nation sets its values – with endless soaps showing crimes that go unpunished, crime shows showing corrupt police officers and news programmes that concentrate on celebrity gossip over actual facts.

But I could be wrong – maybe the BBC should organise a phone in vote?


Anonymous said...

How old are the contestants on "Golden Balls"? If they're adults, they should know better than to think it's ok to steal. If they are much younger, then I see your point.

T.V. in general is just being handed over to the idiots, viewers and producers alike. People watch that stupid stuff because anything that enables even the slightest bit of brain activity is no good.

As far as the crimes being unpunished in soaps and corrupt police officers on crime shows, if they are in fictional worlds, then the writers aren't really obligated to moralize. As long as they post disclaimers saying that their shows are for adults.

But other than that, any kind of real-life voyeurism is unacceptable to my eyes.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

The contestants are all adults - so you could argue that the viewers (mainly kids eating dinner) will be re-inforced in the idea that stealing and lying is an acceptable adult way of getting what you want.

I agree that fictional worlds may not be subject to the same morals we would impose on our own families - but again if we show a recognisable world where crime goes unpunished it re-inforces the already prevalent idea that you can do what you want with no repurcussions. For instance - a recent "Eastenders" storyline showed a man being buried alive by his partner. this was shown at 7:30pm and repeated midday on Sunday. The man survived, but no one has been shown to be brought to justice on the show and no disclaimer was posted (or indeed ever is)

But as i say - it's really not up to me to impose my world view on others, so i wouldn't argue that we shouldn't make programmes like this - but maybe we need a little more balance?

Austen Fields said...

I love the concept of your blog...i'm going to post here at 4AM when i have random thoughts from now on.

Honour said...

You know ... I have a TV, but I stopped watching it. I tape only one show ("Lost") and then I watch it on my VCR. That way I can take out the commercials (less materialism), not get swept into the next episode of whatever insane Bachelor is picking his bride (less non-reality) and also don't have to be exposed to fear-based newscast (less hysteria). I am finding my life much more content. But ... when I do turn on the TV when I'm in a hotel room or something like that - I'm pretty shocked at what I see!