Violence, Language, and Sexuality in American Media
I was watching Me, Myself, and Irene a couple of days ago on Comedy Central, and it got me thinking about the way we in America censor ourselves. In the course of the movie, Jim Carrey’s character alternates between two split personalities: a mild-mannered nice guy who can’t do or say anything untoward, and a grinning villain hell-bent on hedonism. For the most part, this means he’s either getting the crap beaten out of himself, or beating the crap out of someone.
Now, for those of you who are loyal Comedy Central viewers, you know that they censor all of their movies. I find this annoying (they are on cable), but I understand that Comedy Central wants to appeal to the greatest possible cross-section of their audience possible, and that means creating content that parents will let their 10-14 year-olds watch. So, when Comedy Central leaves in Mr. Carrey getting his nuts bashed in, but then censors the very image of a dildo, I tend to blame our society, not the TV station.
At this point, some parents will no doubt be up in arms, proclaiming that they don’t want their innocent youthful cherubs to be corrupted by such filth. These are quite often the same parents who have no objection to having their kids watch cartoon characters rip each others’ heads off, or real actors shooting and killing each other. Heck, you can do those things and get a PG-13 rating. But now here’s a question. Which are you more likely to see in the average day: a dildo, or a violent gunfight to the death (Detroit residents need not respond)? In other words, we have chosen to censor the mundane, the quotidian, and to glorify and display the fantastical, even if it is gruesomely violent and wholly unrealistic. Yet, when presented with a harmless piece of molded silicone, the same people who blandly ignore the blood and gore become incensed over the ‘immorality’ of the content they are being forced to watch.
In recent years, our country has seen a rapid increase in the number of school shootings, accidental gun use by children, and other similarly depressing tragic events. Critics of violent video games and movies always echo the same line, namely that exposing our children to all this media violence dulls their ability to distinguish their reality from the irreality of the game or movie, and turns a previously harmless child into a dangerous violent force. But maybe it’s not that complicated. If your kid walks into your bedroom after watching Me, Myself, and Irene, and finds a dildo and a gun in your night table, he’ll pick up the gun. Why? Because he has no idea what the dildo is. He doesn’t recognize it, because it was blurred out in the film.
Maybe the problem isn’t that we pump too much made-up stuff into kids’ minds these days. Maybe it’s that we don’t put enough of the real world into them. Maybe it’s just that, if we remove all aspects of normal naughty behavior, we force people into a box of celibacy and self-destruction which, although hailed as virtuous by the modern evangelical Christian Right, might just push them over the edge into destructive behavior which affects others. If only Junior knew what that dildo was, and how lots of people use them pretty much every day, maybe he or she’d find a better way to relieve stress than killing their schoolmates…