Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Defending the Boob Tube

am not shy about my disdain for much of modern TV. I do not like reality TV shows that promote mean-spiritedness, ignorance and just plain idiotic behavior (insert show name here:______).  I am tired of witless sitcoms that rely on joke telling rather than letting the humor come from intelligent and well developed characters like past shows such as Barney Miller, All in the Family, Seinfeld and MASH.

But I had a thought recently on a very positive aspect of TV, even modern TV. Often I will see people posting on comments on Facebook accusing TV of being a mind control device and the programmer of people and our society.  Might be true on the negative side but for this blog I want to defend that power as positive tool for social change.

The entertainment that a nation embraces does more to effect the zeitgeist than does politics or religion. Music, movies and TV is what shapes our values and culture much more than Obama, the Pope or the republican party.  If you go back to the 70s there was a slew of TV shows with all African- American casts. At first some seem to embrace stereotypes but as you watched the shows (like Good Times, The Jeffersons, etc) you saw how they looked deeper into personalities. Into the everyday fears, wants, needs and loves of these people that white American began to see were not that different from their own. Unlike the parents generations at the time, kid's minds were open to people different from themselves and discovered there was nothing to fear. By the time a show like The Cosby Show aired, suddenly America was watching a black family that did not live in poverty but were upper middle class. They were just fellow Americans. This combined with music ranging from blues to rap to hip hop, white American youth embraced African American culture and the result as been a huge improvement in race-relations. The fears and bigotries of the older generations is often mocked and laughed at by people who grew up in the 60s and since. So TV did, in fact, play a sort of mind control role but one that made us better as a nation. 

Since the late 90s or so I have seen this same process being done with gay Americans. Shows like Will and Grace throughGlee, etc. has exposed straight America with examples of both stereotypical gay people to more nuanced, three dimensional aspects of gay life. More and more the youth of America are embracing gay friends and the I believe, little by little, the fear and ignorance that has labeled homosexuals as deviants and perverts or diseased, will fade away.

So once again, TV is serving the betterment of the nation.

What is next? I think Muslim Americans will be next to benefit. Just like African Americans and gay Americans, Muslim Americans have suffered from negative stereotyping in movies and TV but this will change. Much of the fear is driven by government and news media. But I have already seen the start of incorporating Muslim characters that are NOT terrorists into commercials, movies and TV. I  think this will become a trend.

So maybe TV, the boob tube, is not as booby as I thought? Maybe it is a mind control device? Maybe it does mold our culture? Maybe this is a good thing?

In ten years no one will know who Snookie was. But in less than ten years, I can definitely see a Jimmy Mohammed Showabout an Islamic research scientist and his typical American family dealing with typical family problems. And it will be a hit in middle America. And we will be better for it.

Mike DiCerto is a filmmaker and author of books including his latest: THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST: The Adventures of Rupert Starbright.


  1. Uh, have your read the recent news on the one TV show American Muslims? Lowe pulled it's ads as it felt the show was too controversal. I told husband that we won't be shopping there. Why? My adorable brother-in-law Eihab is Muslim. So are my equally adorable nephews Bassam and Khalid. I've watched the show and feel it shows Muslims in a positive light. Some groups are saying it's promoting terrorism. I'm like, yeah, right. I wish there were more shows that promoted positive role models and that advertisers wouldn't bow down to some extremist groups.

  2. I know Kim! I read that story AFTER I wrote this. However, I am projecting to the future re Muslims and still feel my prediction will come true!