Culture War on a Shoe String (Budget)

Over at the blog of the author, Sarah Hoyt, there’s a very good post.

I was going to try to use the theme to combine with some conversations from over at, but then she went and put what I would’ve been pointing at into its own paragraph:

Both of these endeavors will change your perception and you’ll find yourself huffing at sitcoms you used to enjoy.   This is good.  Most of the politics are snuck into stuff like that (hence the directive that came down for more plots about healthcare in sitcoms and episodic dramas) and if you’re not aware of them they’ll insidiously color the way you see the world.  It’s brilliant to sneak them into entertainment because if you complain, you’re a sour puss.  But at this point they’re not even subtle, and you’ll start seeing them if you look: cardboard “conservative” characters who are anything but and who can’t defend their positions.  “Dangerous” tea partiers.  Liberating yourself through having indiscriminate sex and stuff.  The government as a fount of goodness.  It’s all there.  And it’s there on purpose.

There’s more, some general stuff on how the polite refusal to inject politics into everything puts us at a bit of a disadvantage, and it’s quite worth reading.  Now, on to my comments:

She’s right.  My husband is a lot more easy going than I am, but we both can’t watch some shows because of the obvious agenda involved.  Recognizing it isn’t just about paying attention or such– we had a rather long argument with my mother over a TV show that opened with a guy being shot inside his house by a SWAT team called in for a false hostage situation. (Before SWATting got big.)  The show, and the woman who taught me to not trust the story that the news presented, held the SWAT team (personified by the leader) responsible.  TrueBlue and I held those who certified that it was a hostage situation on an anonymous call from a random number as being responsible– there wasn’t any way for the guys who’d been told they were going in to a known hostage situation to know that the guy charging them with a kitchen knife was righteously defending his house.  The guy risking their lives had to be at fault, while the paper-pushers that actually created the entire situation had to be blameless– not even faceless, but as natural a thing as the sun rising, and as unquestioned.  Something goes wrong?  It’s the fault of those uniformed Authority Figure guys. (Who all incidentally looked military.)

Stories set up the way we see the world.

More to explorer


  1. Just gave up cable, and it felt liberating. It’s not that I think we should detach ourselves from the culture – in fact I believe I advocated just the opposite here recently – but if we start making wiser cultural purchases (for lack of a better way to phrase it) then we can start slowly turning the tide.

    You’re right about the little things. It’s easy to just sort of shrug your shoulder at the little digs, but it’s the little things that frame the narrative.

  2. Giving up cable is good. Another option is to get something like netflix – it then tracks what you watch and becomes, in a sense, a Nielsen type rating, but one that gets real input from real viewers, and one you actually control to some extent.

    I have also noticed how shows that have any intelligence whatsoever seem to get cancelled while the most idiotic ones get five seasons. Although it may hae had biases, a show like Caprica explored issues your average viewer never even thought about (what it is to be a person, use and abuse of technological power, etc.). It may have eventually degenerated in unhealthy directions, but at least it was asking the right questions. It seems sci-fi and fantasy are where the real philosophy happens; sitcoms are essentially cultural anesthesia.

  3. Our home has never had cable. Internet, sure, and about two years ago we got Netflix– recently I figured out how to use my husband’s old computer that we use as a back-up system to work with Hulu, so the girls can watch “Where’s Boo?” on our schedule.

    It seems sci-fi and fantasy are where the real philosophy happens; sitcoms are essentially cultural anesthesia.

    Building worlds means that you get to put in a lot more assumptions. *grin* They do inject a lot of BS into the non-fantastic, but it is usually a LOT more obvious. Suspension of disbelief doesn’t require you to be blind when something is required by the world, but sometimes you do blink past it when it’s a “just happens” thing in “real” shows.

    The same lady I quoted often mentions the “Gray Goo” type of scifi– you know, the hopeless, depressing drek that they were pumping out when I was a teen, and have kept doing. Baen pulled a Fox News and filled the niche demands of “people who read scifi for enjoyment instead of the message.” (To be fair, I think Baen got there first, but since they print “anything we think will sell,” it’s a bit less obvious.)

  4. I really liked Hoyt’s article.

    Increasingly, with the ease of access to information, the skill of being able to sort through information critically is becoming ever more important. Even if there were no right/left battle, and no fight between religious tradition and secularization, it’d be important to teach your kids to review things that they hear and read and consider what underlying assumptions they make, what points of view they advocate. That ability to skim, digest, and appreciate information is essential. Of course, as Christians defending a certain framework, those skills are tested every day. So by all means, teach your children to critically analyze their history lessons and their entertainment.

  5. I am never quite certain if they are laughing at me, with me, or for me. It is important to take a stand for the slightest insult, indignity imposed or heresy. This would consume one’s whole day, but one’s children will know where to draw the line when they are being sucked into a black hole. The shows and their sponsors are not invincible and they know they can do better.
    In the old days, the pastor would go down to the moviehouse and turn away any of his parishioners from an x-rated movie.

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