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.


Corinne Bantum said...

I enjoyed the subject of this blog and its question to how far broadcasting companies will go with sexually expicit conduct and violence on telvision. I think that sometimes it is totally unnecessary the amount of swearing found in one episode of any show. I was also shocked at the percentage of adults who wish that there were stricker rules set by the FCC on the standards of appropriate content shown on television. You would think that with this high percentage, there would actually be something done about all of the inappropriate content on tv. Overall I like the discussion in this article because it is such a hot topic in our society.

Corinne Bantum said...

I forgot to leave my osu id on the first comment...

Sarah Heck said...

Interesting blog.
I agree that the level of sex, vulgar language, and nudity on television has increased DRAMATICALLY since the introduction of the TV decades ago. I can't help but wonder, 'where do we draw the line?' This escalation can't keep going forever; can it? If it does, there could be pure pornographic content on cable that anyone can watch and there would be no regard for clean language. Another thing I find quite comical is the censorship of "hole" in the word (pardon me) "asshole," but no censorship for the word "ass." Same with "God damn;" censor "God" and not "damn." Since when did "God" and "hole" become vulgar words? Don't you think this is a little backwards?


L. Lehky said...

This topic is extremely interesting because it is hard to predict what will happen in the future. Part of me wants to say that, as TV becomes more vulgar, sexual, and violent, viewers will proportionally become more comfortable with these topics. But at the same time, it is hard to imagine TV programs getting any worse than they are today. For younger generations’ sake, I hope that FCC will tighten its’ rules, but I do not think that this will completely change the way society looks at such topics. There are still other ways these messages can be portrayed, such as the media and other forms of advertising. I have a younger sister who knows things at her age that I did not find out until I was much older. Although she watches TV, her viewing is not enough to provide her with all of the information she knows. Although increasing the moral standards of TV can only help, there are too many other factors in today’s society that will outweigh this.


Lisa Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Scott said...

I think this topic was very interesting in terms of bringing attention to our current veiwing standards. In today's generation, it has become acceptable to include lewd behaviors and language into television programming with no consequences. Sitcoms, dramas, and even cartoons (i.e. family guy) have begun to incorporate profanity and have decreased moral standards. It is interesting that half of the programs on the "top viewed" rating lists are those with precautionary advisories. Not only are we being bombarded with this unneccessary content, but we are accepting it by tuning in regularly and supporting what the networks are dishing out to us. I think this topic generates a lot of discussion in society.


Christine Willison's Blog said...

It is not surprising that these types of shows are our favorites. Many of the TV shows I enjoy run this statement before showing. The reason our generation likes these shows so much is due to the fact that we relate to them. The things that they joke about on the shows are things that we have already joked about with our friends. We relate to the humor. Shows like family guy and south park also and a shock factor. Our generation seems to be desensitized to many things so if someone can get our attention it is usually a show with viewer discretion advised.

Christy Willison

Anonymous said...

this was a very intersting blog to read and I totally agree that ciolence on tv has increased and in my opinion it is most of the time disturbing. I dont think that it is such a good thing that people these days get used to see crime scenes, blood, shot people and the like.
adolescents should not be exposed to such violence on tv, becuuse sooner or later it might translate into actions on the streets and everyone should be aware that we dont need that.
so hopefully the media people will do something about it or the FCC.


mynameisjake15 said...

i hope that the FCC doesnt try and send a message to viewers that crude humor shouldnt be allowed. it should be allowed because on ever tv there is a button called the channel button. it magicaly takes whatever is on the screen and changes it if you dont like it. im tired of parents complaining about the content of television shows when its their kids they need to be controlling, not the television. on top of that warning, now cable services provide a way to lock certain channels out as well as block certain programs based on their rating. the reason that warning comes up (viewer discretion advised) is so that if a smaller child is in the room while you watch, its an advanced warning system to change the channel. yes i am desensitized due to graphic games, shows, and movies so if they were all removed from the shows i like, TV would just be used for something a small child would sit in front of. and this is what really grinds my gears...


Paul Lawson said...

I love some of the shows mentioned in this blog. South Park is one of my favorite shows and i feel that parents should watch their kids instead of complaning about what shows are on TV. Now one thing that is taking over TV is sexually explicit content. Commercials and all sorts of TV shows are sexually based. Sometimes when watching TV its crazy to see all of it sometimes its one thing after another. I hope that the trends dont continue with todays kids and TV. They need to get out and play sports instead.