Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm Not a Pervert; I Just Play One on TV

My mother in law visited last week. She lives in Oregon, and came to help us celebrate my daughter's first birthday. A minor consequence of this visit was the fact that my study became her bedroom, making it very hard for me to post.

I've got somewhat mixed feelings about Jane. On the one hand, she voluntarily chose to live in Northern Virginia for over twenty years, and still has a little bit of the superior attitude that is standard for that region. On the other hand, when she lets the attitude drop, she can be a lot of fun to hang out with. Also, she truly adores her granddaughter, likes cooking, and has a moderately bent sense of humor. My wife suggests that, if I continue to dread her visits, then they will continue to be a lot of fun. In all fairness, it's worth noting that this was an outstanding visit.

One thing my mother-in-law said, though, has stuck with me. When I was driving her to Richmond for her flight out, she told me that, in her opinion, most of today's societal ills are due to the fact that the media tends to publicize perversion, extreme viewpoints, and violence. She argued that this overexposure has encouraged people to become perverts, lunatics, and thugs. In other words, when the TV tells us about the bizarre activities and beliefs of others, we feel encouraged to adopt those activities and beliefs.

Well, having read a few "mature" magazines from the 1950's, I'm pretty strongly convinced that mankind needs little education in the art of kink. For that matter, it's worth noting that a large amount of what we would characterize as fetish clothing was standard underwear in the Eisenhower era. Still, though, I think that this misses the point--and, yes, my mother in law had a really good argument in some ways. The media, does, in fact, publicize the lunatic fringe, the sexually adventurous, and the grotesquely bloody. However, I'm not convinced that the world is really a more dangerous place than it was forty or fifty years ago. I think that we just know a lot more about it than our grandparents did. For my grandfather to get the level of news coverage that I experience, he would have had to buy "True Detective," "Crime Scene," and other violence porn. Today, he'd only have to watch CNN.

While we're on the subject, it's worth noticing that it is almost impossible to escape the parade of freaks and nuts that the media churns out. I know why these people end up on the tube--extremism sells. However, I can hardly blame my mother in law for thinking that people are learning extremism from the TV. As hard as I try, I can't escape the parade of lunatics and fringe-dwellers. Why do I need to know that Richard Gere story? Why do I need to know that my president is a fundamentalist? Will I benefit from knowing that a German girl was held in a basement or that a German couple was guilty of vampirism or that a German man consumed another German man?

Actually, never mind. Clearly, some of this knowledge will probably come in handy, at least when I'm making travel plans.


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