Thursday, April 26, 2007

TV and Cultural Chicken

In the May issue of First Things, there's an article by Ross Douthat on modern TV shows and their spiritual elements - spiritual in the sense of relating to morality, religion, and virtue.

He opens by summarizing the condition of 1950s film culture: two fairly small groups repeatedly clashed over morality in movies.

Certain directors would introduce profanity or other objectionable things, certain "conservative Christian" groups would protest, and the resulting fuss would drive up movie sales. Next time, the directors would introduce worse profanity, or a little nudity - anything to annoy the "conservative Christians."

Douthat doesn't say it, but I will. This was just another version of "Chicken," where winning depends on scaring the opponent. The directors risked financial ruin; the religious groups, the downfall of public morality. In each film, they charged at each other, risking collision to get what they wanted.

Take a look at TV Guide and you'll see who lost the game.