As a young woman, my grandmother worked as a script girl at MGM studios. This was in the 1930s and 40s, when the likes of Lionel Barrymore and Shirley Temple were in their prime. I once told Grandma that I had thought it would be a fun and exciting job, but she quickly burst my bubble. She recalled an experience where a famous male star called for her and when she entered the room where he was, he exposed himself to her. To be fair, my grandmother was probably the MOST proper and, um, private person you’ll ever know. And she was deeply offended. She had seen the seemy underbelly of Hollywood. She said that said she could never respect an industry so full of filthy people.
As a teenager, the magnificence of the epic masterpiece The Ten Commandments was ruined for me when Grandma proceeded to explain sets and trick photography. Of course I knew it wasn’t real, but…she really spoiled the magic! I promised myself I would never let such things get in the way of enjoying good entertainment.
Fast forward to just a couple of years ago, when we were in the hospital (wow, I say that like I was there, which I was…but it was Robert who was IN the hospital, not me, although I was right by his side nearly 24/7), we sort of got out of the habit of watching TV. I know…it sounds crazy, right? I mean, what is there to do when you sit in a hospital room for 43 days in a row? Well, we just didn’t watch TV much. It was probably a combination of a desire to spend our last moments on earth together differently and the fact that high levels of pain meds made it difficult for Robert to concentrate for very long. Then again, we both had a different attitude about the meaning of life and most TV shows we could find on the hospital network didn’t really contribute to feeling peace and comfort. At any rate, we didn’t watch TV much at all during that time.
And after he was gone, I didn’t have much time or desire to watch TV either. So many other things to do, and I wanted things to keep my mind and heart at peace. Activities with family and friends seemed to be much more exciting, so the TV stayed off (we’ve not had cable or satellite for years). Mostly off, that is, until about two weeks ago.
I wanted to watch a fun show that Robert and I had enjoyed before, The Sing Off. The singing, the talent…that was incredible. I LOVE good music! But I couldn’t watch…. I wondered if the suggestive dancing and lyrics full of innuendo were present when we watched it before? Because the way some of the beautiful young people moved their bodies was certainly suggestive. Then one of the judges opened her mouth….and…well, I was a bit surprised to hear a talented and beautiful woman speak so coarsely and use words that made me glad there were no tender ears nearby to hear. I turned it off….I was sad. I wondered what had happened.
A few days later I tried again…this time a program that I had enjoyed watching on the iPad while Robert slept, a popular period drama from Britain on PBS. PBS is good, right? I was disappointed in the way the storyline had moved away from showing the class struggles with real problems to a program so full of (oh my, what word works here?) salacious plot twists it became a completely unbelievable. As in, unreal. I don’t know, maybe my life has been so full of drama that I can call a fake plot twist from a mile away. Or maybe the show was just unreal. I recalled an evening when Robert had awakened by my side while I was watching that show years before and said, in a weakened voice, “Turn it off, it’s nothing more than a soap opera”, and now I realized he was right.
I flipped channels…dark dramas, evil supernatural creatures, murder, rape, crime, cheating spouses, random violence, you name it, it seemed like every show had it. I almost wondered if the news and the TV shows had gotten confused. Oh wait, it had. I mean..what passes for news? Someone’s barely adult son got a DUI and it was news because he has a CD (or two) out? It’s sad is what it is, it’s not news. A bunch of impressionable young women think he’s cool, but if he were to date your daughter, would YOU think it was cool? When did we become so confused? When did we start thinking that watching TV shows about a woman who has been cheated on by her politically motivated husband but then becomes unfaithful to him herself with co-workers is a valuable way to spend our time? What is right or good or even glamorous about that? Why are we sickened and saddened at news stories about bombings and school shootings but then hail as artistic or entertaining the TV shows depicting the same things?
The Apostle Paul counseled the people of his day, but I believe it applies to us here and now, "whatsoever things pure, whatsoever things lovely, whatsoever things of good report; if any virtue, and if any praise, think on these things.” Phillipians 4:8
I love good entertainment. I love good music. Beautiful music and art bring me peace and fill my senses with joy. But there is no joy for me in watching people portray wickedness as acceptable or normal. I cannot feel peace or happiness either. I choose not to seek after these things. Somoene I knew said, "TV is the medium by which we invite characters into our homes with whom we would never associate in real life."
Grandmother was right. There is nothing to respect about an industry that glorifies evil.
And that is why my TV remains dark most nights. Sometimes on a Friday evening my kids bring grandkids and we watch a movie, but they are movies about goodness, families and learning to make good choices. They are movies where wrong is wrong and right always wins. There is so much good in the world, we choose to seek after those things and to feel peace.