For the past couple of month, articles have been popping up all over the place talking about the upcoming fourth season of the “award winning” television show, Mad Men. The show has won numerous awards for its “historical authenticity” and “visual style,” including four Golden Globes and nine Emmys.
I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently the marketing departments for shows like Mad Men customarily send out, in advance, DVDs of the first 4 episodes of each new season to all of the media outlets so that journalists, reporters, and radio talk show hosts will report and comment (favorably) on the upcoming season. This provides free publicity for the shows and builds anticipation for the first episode of the upcoming season.
Mad Men is what is commonly referred to as a “period show.” The show is based in the early 1960’s and is about a group of Madison Avenue advertising men. Even though the story line of Mad Men takes place in the 1960’s, the actual content of the show is nothing more than a rehash of the same content used in all of the other mainstream evening adult oriented soap operas that have been on television since the 1970’s (beginning with the television soaps of Dallas and Dynasty).
The primary content for all of these shows glorifies (or otherwise depicts as acceptable behavior) the routine practice of adultery and other licentious behavior.
A few years ago a businessman that I know asked me what I thought of the television show, Boston Legal. I told him that I had never seen the show. He was surprised by my answer and said, “I figured since the show is about lawyers, you of all people would at least have the curiosity to see what it’s about.” Prior to that, two other people had asked me what I thought of the show.
I thought about what the businessman said and ended up ordering (from Amazon) the first full season of the show. I figured maybe he was right. I didn’t want to be out of touch with (and not have any knowledge about) a popular weekly television show about lawyers.
When the DVD’s arrived, I sat down and watched the first episode with one of my college age daughters. About twenty percent of the show focused on law related content and the remainder of the show focused on three different adulterous affairs that were taking place between various characters in the show. One of the affairs involved the lead character (played by William Shatner) and the wife of one of his clients.
The first episode of Boston Legal was the last episode I ever watched. I ended up tossing the DVD’s in the garbage – $40 dollars down the drain.
Mad Men has followed the same formula as Boston Legal (and the other adult oriented soap operas that have come and gone on American television). About twenty percent of Mad Men consists of advertising content (since it’s a show about advertising) and eighty percent is focused on glorifying adulterous and other sinful behavior.
In addition to the rampant immoral behavior that these shows promote, there is another particular commonality among them. They are all written and produced by men for a primary audience of men. There is never any real courtship or romance shown or encouraged in the shows – just bold, raw, unchaste, sinful behavior.
As devout Catholics, we should resist the temptation to watch these types of shows since doing so: (1) gradually desensitizes us to the gravely sinful behavior depicted in the shows; (2) telegraphs to our children and grandchildren that viewing these types of shows is acceptable; and (3) engraves in our imaginations images and scenes that will later occupy our thoughts when we should be entertaining thoughts related to virtuous activity.
These shows are especially harmful to men because what they see in the shows conditions them to accept and believe (subconsciously) that women are simply objects to be used for their own pleasure.
The human soul was designed by God to be renewed and perfected. Because of our fallen human nature, we need the sacraments (such as Baptism, Confession and Holy Communion) to assist with the renewal process, and we need prayer and sacrifice to assist us in our journey toward perfection.
The renewal and perfection of our souls is a delicate process that comes under attack each time we allow ourselves to view images and situations that cast sinful behavior in an acceptable or favorable light. Since our eyes are the windows to our souls, we need to exercise extreme caution and self-restraint when it comes to what we allow our eyes to view and absorb.
We have to constantly be on guard against anything that can potentially soften our resistance to the moral decay that has become entrenched in our culture. Whether we realize it or not, the viewing of the types of shows that I mentioned above will, over time, not only cause grave harm to our souls, but also alter our own beliefs and behavior.
As a result of all of us growing up with television, we are the most visually stimulated people who have ever walked the face of the earth. This visual stimulation will continue to increase (and accelerate) because we are in the process of going through another technological breakthrough that will soon allow us to access all of the images and videos that are (or become) available on the Internet through our televisions, iPhones, iPads, and other portable devices.
We need to exercise vigilance in protecting and shielding our souls from the harmful images and scenes we are constantly being exposed to on our televisions and other electronic devices. Our eternal salvation depends on it.
I totally agree. And some souls and consciences are more delicate than others. I find that people who are surrounded daily by worldliness can accept a lot more “static” of sinful behavior than those who live in a more protected environment. Sometimes I hear a song I liked in college and I’m astonished at what I accepted as “normal.”
Yet sometimes, as an educator, I need to screen material that might be depicting sin in its ugliness rather than glorifying it (at least, as much as necessary to make a judgment call: if it’s clearly horrible, I stop.)
My rule of thumb: don’t buy it, rent it from Netflix or, even better, borrow it for free from the local library. Then if it turns out to be worth watching, I might consider buying my own copy. No more $40 down the drain and no additional money to the culprits.