ON THE SOAPBOX:
“Candid Camera on Crack,” and Other Social Ills
It's not just that everyone seems to be out for themselves or that "the ends justify the means" appears to have become the new business and political credo. It's more than that. It's a meanness. And it's being televised.
For instance: The people on the television show “Survivor” are starving. They look like survivors from a Nazi concentration camp. Why are these people allowing themselves to be tortured? And why are there people willing to watch them being tortured and calling it entertainment?
There are, I believe, at least five TV shows that delight in other people's pain. “Fear Factor” started it, and I hope it ends with that new show hosted by Shannon Dougherty in which people are scared for the fun of watching them scream and cry and get hurt–“Candid Camera” on crack.
What values do you teach a child as you sit munching chips enjoying someone on television screaming while they're being covered in roaches?
But it's not just the TV shows. We also wonder: Why do our kids think their problems can be solved with drugs?
Gee, maybe it's because literally every other ad on TV is for some kind of medication. And, in between, those are ads that reinforce addictive behavior. "I gotta have my pops" is the first ad that alerted me to this destructive turn in advertising. But there are plenty more.
The next time you watch television, count the number of ads in which someone displays an addiction, or lies, cheats, steals, hurts someone else, makes fun of someone else.
The ad for Honey Graham cereal–I think that's what it's called–teaches true family values. It's the one where the boy is being driven home for his school break and he talks about how the one thing he missed most was his cereal and how he's going to eat it all when he gets home. Because of this, his parents, who want the cereal all for themselves, put him out on the side of the road. (If I'd written that ad, I would have had the parents drive faster to get him home sooner to the cereal he loved and then opened the cupboard to show 1,000 boxes of it–all for him.)
What about the mother who locks her family out of the kitchen so she can eat the last bowl of Chex cereal? Or the mother who lies about how long it took her to make the Rice Crispy Treats?
Even public service announcements are not immune. The PSA in which kids thank their parents for invading their privacy and punishing them is pitiful. And how about the antismoking ad where the father is at the soccer game? He stands apart in order to be considerate of the others at the game, but, as often happens, the smoke blows toward the crowd. And, instead of saying, "Hey, Herbie, could you put that out?," they turn on him with scorn and a visual "tsk, tsk." They look down their noses at him, as if he is a lesser being.
Is that how Hitler started his campaign against the Jews? I’m a smoker: Will I soon have a number tattooed on my arm? Who’s next? Fat people. Old people. Bald people. Crippled people. Anyone who doesn't measure up to some arbitrary standard of perfection.
The truth is that everyone is imperfect in some way; the truth is that kids learn through example; that kindness isn't a bad thing; and that my love for my child is more important than my love for my cereal.
These things, however, you will not see on TV.
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This story was published on May 13, 2003.