pecaspers: a Blog in transition

July 30, 2009

Response to “See the Show, Be the Show” on pluggedinonline.com

Filed under: Responses to Articles — pecaspers @ 4:06 PM
Tags: , ,

Find the article I’m responding to at http://www.pluggedinonline.com/read/read/a0004658.cfm

Adam R. Holz states,

“Most of the scientists involved in this research would say that airtight cause-and-effect relationships are notoriously difficult to prove because the mere correlation of two things doesn’t scientifically prove causation. After making that disclaimer, however, the same researchers would have no problem saying that there’s a strong link between the entertainment people consume and the choices they make, especially in the case of young people.”

Let me suggest a bit of an alternative. People most likely to engage in a certain behavior, are most likely to be entertained by that behavior. The results being:

Sex:
Students who are having sex by age 16 are going to be the ones who will also be consuming a lot of sexualized content in movies, television, and music.
Their peers who are more restrained (or even just restricted) in their sexuality are also not going to find sexual humor and/or acts to be appropriate forms of entertainment.

Violence:
Again, flip the assumption of causation around and it makes a safer bet that violent people expose themselves to more violent electronic media because they like violence.

Smoking:
I’ve got to say, this one I’m pretty much on board with. I’m a big fan of old movies…like really old, 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s stuff. I’ve sat there watching Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant smoking a cigarette and thought to myself, “Man, that’s got to be the coolest thing in the world. Why don’t I smoke?” And you think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. I’d love to sit and smoke Marlboro Reds with Clint Eastwood until my lungs turn black if it meant that my voice would be as gravelly and awesome as his.
At the same time, we need to consider the shift of the prevalence of smoking in movies from back then up through the ’80s and those put out in the last twenty years or so. Mostly these days, it seems it’s only the bad guys who smoke. Not that that’s a true solution, Dora’s foxy nemesis rubbed off on the article’s author’s son. Still, I’m holding to it that smoking is less something everybody just does in movies now, and is more often related to the development of the characters themselves–almost universally displaying some flaw.

Now let’s look at how we can easily misread the data if we don’t understand what we’re looking at:

If it seems that not much good comes from much of the media kids consume, well, that’s exactly what researchers at the National Institutes of Health (working with Common Sense Media) concluded after examining 173 studies involving entertainment and behavior. Government researchers found that 80 percent of those studies linked media (defined as TV, movies, video games, music, the Internet and magazines) to adverse outcomes among children, including obesity, sex, smoking, drug and alcohol use, attention problems and poor grades. One of the five study reviewers, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, summarized, “The research is clear that exposure to media has a variety of negative health impacts on children and teens. … We found very few studies that had any positive association [for children’s health].”

I’m constantly amazed at how educated people miss the obvious. Check this out. “…after examining 173 studies…” “…We found very few studies that had any positive association.” Duh! You can’t get grant money for studying to see if kids learn manners from watching Sesame Street. It is FAR more profitable to be against something bad than for something good. They don’t have congressional hearings on how to increase sharing among preschoolers which leads to government funded studies the way they do regarding teen smoking. It’s kind of like saying that more people like Pepsi than Kool-Aid because Pepsi beat Coke in nation-wide blind taste tests. The dataset isn’t what is required to back up the statement being made.

Beyond the Behavior
We can only act on the information we have. No abortion-minded woman ever decided to keep her child without first being confronted with the fact that there was a child to keep and not just a mass of tissue she could have surgically removed. Stories, whatever form they take, have always been a great way to put forth arguments and information in a non-threatening way that by-passes people’s defense mechanisms.
As for the upsurge in the popularity of witchcraft, kids (including teens and adults who have no better way to spend their time) like to emulate their pop-culture heroes. It just so happens (and sadly so) that playing at or reading about being a witch leads you into dark and dangerous places that doing so with cowboys, astronauts, princesses, or kid detectives likely won’t.

And to those who say, “I don’t listen to the words, I just like the beat,” I gotta say that you can find just as good a beat without the vile words. My wife likes pasta, but she doesn’t like tomato sauce. She doesn’t just eat the marinara sauce, disregarding her dislike for it; obviously, she orders alfredo, which she enjoys, instead. That “old saw” is really a cover up for, “All my friends like it, and I am asserting my independence by being just like them.”

Asking Quarrelsome Questions
There is a difference between rejecting the idea that people do bad things because they are entertained by bad things and saying that morally abhorrent entertainment is a societal good.
I’m with Skipknot’s lead singer, Corey Taylor, (and I think it is pretty theologically sound thinking from a worldly mouth) when he says “At the end of the day, there are always going to be mental disorders and people who cause violence for no other reason than the fact that they’re f—ed up and lost.” See folks, we’re born sinners. Cain didn’t need Tony Soprano to make him want to kill Abel. Hitler wanted to take over the world without ever playing Scorched Earth. Men and women are completely capable of inventing all kinds of ways to be evil without any outside influence.

But don’t misread what I’m saying. Eve might not have eaten that fruit if the serpent hadn’t told her lies about it, about herself, and about God. Sometimes we DO do evil things in response to hearing, seeing, or reading about anothers evil actions. That doesn’t mean someone else caused it. See, this argument of causation is based on another cultural lie; it’s a subtle way of mitigating our own (or someone elses) responsibility. “He was a good kid, but those video games he played corrupted him.” “She was such a sweet girl, but then she got into that rap music, and now she dresses like a video-girl, ‘hooks up’ with random guys, and disrespects her parents.” Don’t be fooled. “He” was corrupted before the video games, and “she” was depraved before the first beat was dropped.

I’m also with screenwriter Mike White when he questions the notion that Hollywood should “give life to our most demented fantasies and put them up on the big screen without any hand-wringing.” And I do wish more entertainment providers would, “before cashing those big checks, …at least pause to consider what [they] are saying with [their] movies [etc.] about the value of life and the pleasures of mayhem.” I think we’d be much better off with artists of all kinds self-filtering their work for the betterment of society. But I’m not holding my breath because most people aren’t in business (entertainment or otherwise) for the betterment of society but for the Benjamins. So, it then becomes MY responsibility to not consume soul-destroying entertainment and to confront its influence by offering myself and others something better to think about.

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