, Research Paper
Coarsening of American Civility in Television
Television programming serves as a catalyst to the coarsening of civility in American society. When children and adults view television programs there is a certain amount of retention that occurs. Those who say that it is just “television” and viewers should know not to carry out what is seen are ignorant towards reality. The show “Married With Children” portrays an excellent example of the coarsening of civility in today’s American society. “Married With Children” contributes to coarsening by allowing society to view a distorted family.
The show centers on a particular family that consists of a father, mother, daughter, son, and of course, the dog. Where we come to a problem is the different portrayals of the characters. The father has a job as a shoe salesman who dislikes his occupation, and when he arrives home every evening, he kicks his feet up on the coffee table, pushes his hands in his pants, and begins watching television. A child or youth viewing this may ponder on the idea that he or she will not have to carry out many responsibilities, only the responsibility of having a job, whether they like it or not. When a father arrives home from work, he does not set an example for his children if he just sits on a sofa with his hands in his pants watching television. The mother is primarily concerned with her beauty and relaxes all day while eating chocolate bon bons. Mothers in today’s society need to show concern for their children’s welfare, not just their own. Additionally, the son and daughter are portrayed as unintelligent, mindless, dim-witted individuals. The son’s primary interest is women, and the daughter is primarily interested in shopping. While viewing this show as a young child I remember being scolded for sitting on the sofa with my hands in my pants, uttering to my mother that I was the father from “Married With Children.” The portrayal of this family tremendously contributes to the coarsening of civility by allowing young children and teenagers to view an alternative way to carry on their daily tasks, which their parents may not agree with.
The body language on the show reflects the lack of respect each family member has for one another. As the father arrives home every evening with a face of disgust, it shows that he is very unhappy, unpleasant, and does not want to be bothered. The mother is always prancing around in very revealing clothing, which depicts her character as an individual who cares only about her beauty. Wearing torn clothing, being represented as not taking baths and a non-caring attitude is what the son’s body language suggests. The daughter gives off the impression that she is an airhead who cannot think for herself, and also wears very revealing clothing. An individual’s body language has to do with how others show them respect. If I were to meet this family, they would receive no respect due to the way they carry themselves. When viewing characters such as these, viewers are shown that they may carry out what is projected from the show. This will vastly coarsen our society.
In the everyday lives of this family we have the father and mother constantly speaking about sexual matters, which seems to be the focal point of their conversations. The son has adapted to his parent’s speaking of sexual matters publicly that he too mixes sexual comments in his everyday conversations. Being surrounded by individuals who do not have valid conversation while around their children, it causes the children to follow what their parents do. If a young individual watching this show were to mimic the portrayals of this family, it may put them in a state of confusion with their own family, if they are not familiar with carrying out their lives the way the show portrays life. Their individual family may not tolerate the portrayals, and the child may say, “Well they do it on TV.” This could create a very big problem for parents to deal with, and it is all because their child was watching a particular show on television.
A prime example of the coarsening of civility in the American society would be that on the show the daughter was babysitting and could have easily corrupted the minds of the children she was babysitting, as well as the mind of the individual watching the show. She began by telling one of the kids that she was sick of them and held his head over the toilet and kept flushing it. This incident caused the child to be afraid of flushing the toilet. Another incident was that she told one child that if he squirted her with the squirt gun one more time that she would kill him. Due to speaking to the children in a harsh manner, they began to pick up on her body language and dialogue. The children took a noose and were struggling with the babysitter to put it around her neck, and told her it was her time to die. Telling an adult or a child that it is time to die is not a pleasant thing to say, and the children who were told they were going to die simply repeated what was told to them. After viewing this particular episode a child may presume that all babysitters take action in this manner, which can effect how they feel about being left with a babysitter.
The coarsening of civility in American society as seen in television programming is happening today as a result of ignorance toward what we are allowing our children to view on television. Television should be a learning tool for individuals of all ages. When young children watch Sesame Street on television, it is with the intent that they may learn and do what they see. So if you put a child in front of the television with the choice to watch other shows, they may learn and do what they view. It is only reality that a child will repeat something they hear on television whether it is coarsening or not. In order to prevent further coarsening of civility of the American society, parents and authority figures need to monitor the content of television shows before allowing children to view.