Now that summer is nearly here, there are some Americans who will be heading off for weeks away in exotic locations or to endless rounds of golf, unburdened by the cares of life. But for those of us unlucky enough not to the President of the United States, we’ll just have to make do with a few stolen hours at the beach with a good book or two.
One that looks promising is Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. While I haven’t read it, I applaud Mr. Shapiro’s attempt to chronicle instances of liberal bias on TV. Yet, a far more difficult assignment would be to point out the shows in the last four decades where that was not the case.
The mindset that produced the left-leaning tsunami from the late 1960s onward, actually had its beginnings in the Depression era with Hollywood’s promotion of class envy; the idea that “society” was to blame for most crime. You know, all those flicks like I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Angels With Dirty Faces, Manhattan Melodrama, and the classic Dead End, which suggested, sometimes plausibly, that poverty alone was the major determinant for a life of crime.
However, unlike their modern counterparts, old-time studio bigwigs usually balanced the plight of the underprivileged youth-turned-murderer with that of his chum who went on to the priesthood or became a district attorney. In other words, the idea was still maintained that one could rise above the circumstance of one’s birth and make good; in short, the American dream lived in Hollywood.
But after WWII and the era of prosperity that immediately followed, America wasn’t in the mood for victimhood as entertainment. She wanted fare that justified the great sacrifices she had made in defense of our way of life. She wanted mom and apple pie; in other words, she wanted Americana. Television was made for post-war America; and so too, unfortunately, for those who wanted to reshape her.
Before the advent of television, new social and political philosophies were hard to communicate deeply and broadly through entertainment media; people were insulated from radical ideas by immersion in their local cultures. Even the movies, powerful though they were, sent their viewers home each night to their families, churches, and neighborhoods where their values and morals were reinforced. But TV, coupled with the growing number of working mothers and a general improvement in lifestyle, changed the whole ballgame. TV, in addition to providing entertainment, became teacher, companion, confessor and babysitter to the children in the Baby Boomer generation, and all those that followed.
And so the Golden Age of TV arrived; an eclectic mix derived from radio, movies, theater, and vaudeville. The fare was mostly wholesome, with a sprinkling of soap operas; daytime weepers to keep the ladies engaged and coming back for more. The real trouble started, of course, in the 1960s; that decade of depravity where we began to lose our cultural marbles. Emboldened by their success on the big screen, Hollywood executives, who were ever more liberal, brought the revolution to the boob tube, albeit in lower doses.
With few notable exceptions, mostly variety shows and sports, liberal control of the airwaves was well underway. Whether it was the Cartwright boys learning the lessons of tolerance ad nauseam, or Marcus Welby tackling the abortion issue, or a plethora of cop shows portraying criminals as sympathetic victims of police brutality — the 1930s all over again! — one thing was, or should have been, evident to all: a large heaping of liberal ideology was to be served up with your TV dinner.
Those characters who espoused views contrary to the liberal playbook were written to be the foils of their more enlightened betters and the subject of multitudinous lectures from same. Lou Grant and especially Archie Bunker were intended by their creators to be objects of scorn and were thinly veiled and shallow caricatures of the enemies in the “silent majority.” But, to the chagrin of writers like Norman Lear, Americans found more in common with Archie than they did with the leftists on the programs. Yet, by the time their spin-off shows came to an end, these characters, like too many Americans, were won over to the “winning” side of the debate.
And while the downward spiral of sex and violence has soured many folks on the tube, the biggest mystery to me is that white American men continue to embrace a medium that holds them in such disdainful regard; often portraying them as bigoted brutes in drama shows and blundering fools everywhere else. It might shock young viewers to watch some shows from the 1950s where the head of the household was always the father, who was usually an intelligent, well-respected man and source of sagely advice and stable love for his wife and kids.
It is for the extinction of parents like Ward and June Cleaver that the liberalization of television was commenced; and the campaign of their brethren against traditional values in all walks of American life continues apace as well. But how? The problem is that some conservatives, like most other Americans, have been raised on the boob tube and cannot separate themselves from its hypnotic and all-encompassing influence. To just say no to TV and the trash that spews forth from it like a busted sewer pipe seems too much to ask of the average person, and the network executives know it.
But it’s the only way out of our cultural cesspool. As long as capitalism remains a driving force in America, ratings will rule the roost. So, the next time you’re watching TV and the obligatory sex, violence, scatological humor or blatantly liberal messaging — aimed precisely at you, of course — turns up, obey your conscience and turn the darned thing off. You’ll be a happier and healthier person.