Monday, November 24, 2008

America's Three Favorite Words: Viewer Discretion Advised

How many times have you been about to sit down and watch your favorite channel and have had the phrase “Viewer Discretion Advised” pops up before the opening credits? How many swear words are spoken during that 30-minute sitcom? Today’s television has a decreasing moral standard, but yet an increasing number of viewers. While our mothers are protesting television content, we are sitting down to watch an absurdly crude episode of South Park. Why? According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 75% of the 1,505 adults would like to see tighter enforcement of government rules on broadcast content, particularly when children are most likely to be watching (Parents Television Council) So why then, are rules becoming less enforced and why are we seeing more sexually explicit and violent TV shows?
It seems that more and more American’s, particularly 12-24 year olds are tuning in to at lest four hours of TV a day (Parents Television Council). Are we lured to the TV series because they have such strong messages? Maybe it is for some, but for most of us, its just habit. One explanation of our attraction to visually violent and sexually explicit television shows is that these items no longer phrase us. To our parents, swear word would cost a mouth full of soap—but for our generation a swear word can go as far as a term of endearment. Today’s generation is comfortable with violence, strong language and sex. It’s what we enjoy, its what we’re conditioned by society to like.
Even with there being a line drawn between cable and network channels, like HBO and Starz, the line is quickly being blurred. David Zagorski writes in a journal article titled Pop Culture Limbo: How Low Can We Go? Comments on this blurry line. He remarks that “The comedy sketch series “MadTV” recently ran a dead-on parody of “Sex and the City” retitled “Sluts and the City,” and altered HBO’s tagline to read, “It’s not TV; it’s porn.” Ironically, the spoof is nearly as visually and verbally graphic as its target.” This is clear evidence that all though there used to be a distinction with what was allowed on network versus cable, the network shows are becoming as common and the cable shows.
There is no right or wrong explanation to this question. But it is going to be an interesting trend to watch over the next couple years. How far is our community going to let it go? How long will it take for the FCC to tighten its rules?

Trelawny Buley, Communications 240

Sex, Violence, and Profanity in the Media Fact Sheet, TV Statistics - Parents Television Council. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2008, from

Zagorski, David. (2001). Pop Culture Limbo: How Low Can We Go. Journal of Media Psychology,112,64.