From the Vault
July 13, 1961
Drew Pearson is not my favorite columnist He had something in a recent column which is worth repeating. In this instance, even if the man didn’t say what Pearson claims he did, he could have. By that I mean, it would have been truth and wisdom.
Pearson claimed that when hearings were held before Sen. Tom Dodd’s (Conn.) Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, TV network officials claimed that crime, sex, and violence shows should be continued because the ratings showed that millions of people want this type of program. (Whether such a statement was made is immaterial. The fact is, these are programmed all too often).
And here is what Sen. Dodd was supposed to have told the executives: “We don’t need ratings to prove that millions of people also want to gamble. Or that millions of people keep up prostitution, the rackets, and other social evils. But we have determined that these desires are inimical to the greater good and have identified them as such and have taken steps to regulate, control, or eliminate them.
“I add that I feel we must determine if this gigantic new medium is now allowing similar human weaknesses to dictate its policies and drag it into the same category as the violent Roman spectacles of 2,000 years ago, which also had high ratings”
– “Up the Street”, written by F. Hornstein
- July 28, 2015
In 54 years we have experienced a vast difference in TV programming. Violence, gore, and sex have all become more and more prevalent on our screens.
If we look through the shows broadcasted in the 1960s, we can see the most popular shows included “I Love Lucy”, “Gunsmoke” and “The Andy Griffith Show”. These shows were focused more on comedy and Western themes. Some positive effects from these shows included the results of “I Love Lucy”, which was considered one of the first shows to show a biracial couple. This show helped people get used to the idea of biracial couples.
But people found problems in Westerns, namely the violence featured in this type of show. Shooting was the prominent feature and the main cause for the disgust with TV at the time. During the 1960s the U.S. government was trying to stop gun violence. At this time, they took a step to try and suppress the amount of shooting on TV, most likely thinking that once kids grow up seeing their TV idols shooting guns, they would want to shoot as well.
Now the mention of sexual references on TV confused me. What on earth could have been on TV at this time that was considered sexual? Most TV couples slept in different beds! There was a figure that stood as one of the main sex symbols of the 1960s, and that was Elvis Presley. If you look at his appearances on TV, you can see they would avoid showing his lower half because of his suggestive dancing style. Now compare that to MTV and Nicki Minaj.
Today, with characters such as Hannibal Lecter and the Winchesters going around the country hunting demons, it’s easy to guess how people from that time would react to today’s programming. But does this type of programming cause the desensitization to violence and sex today? Actually yes, people are starting to see sex as something more casual, and the rate of violence in the U.S. has gone up.
We can’t blame TV on its own, but we must recognize its influence on society.
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