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This Column Will Never Have a Rating - March 11, 1997

Richard Brian McCarty

Have you noticed those annoying little boxes in the corner of your television screen lately? The creation of Jack Valenti, these little boxes, labeled Y-7, TV G, TVPG, TV 14, and M are to be used tell us what is decent to watch. And, with every program you see, the little box is there to guide you, to comfort you, to think for you. Hollywood will make sure no one will be offended.

It is hard to decipher the little boxes. Y-7 means suitable for children under seven. These are usually the gentler cartoons and educational programs that tell children what the programmer thinks they should be. So, go ahead parents, mow the lawn, we'll take care of the kid and make sure he gets the right lessons in life. The lists go on, each one assuring us that everything is okay.

I don't really know what offends me most about those cursed boxes in the screen. I hate the fact that Hollywood wants to think for me. And, I am disgusted they hide behind the little boxes to cover the things they do on television. But, deep down inside, I really am outraged at the laziness of the American people. They control the television programmers with the press of a button, yet they clamor for someone else to do something.

I picture some artsy do- gooders with blow dried hair and loud clothes sitting around a table in Hollywood trying to figure out what the standards are for us "common" Americans. Perhaps we as a nation deserve it. We have gotten lazy, and let's face it, we watch whatever shows they put on as zombies. Further, we as a nation, have made television the almighty informer, companion, and baby sitter.

Then, when we actually take a look at what is on the channels our children can watch, we feign outrage. Letters are sent to Congressmen. Interest groups fire up their campaigns. Yet, the television ratings stay high because many of us are too lazy or hooked to simply turn the set to another channel or turn the set off.

It is easy to blame Hollywood. Shows now seem to champion issues that are not healthy to society, and they are not what a majority of society is like. Violence is portrayed as quick and easy. Sex is portrayed as simple. Homosexuality is portrayed as hip and funny in shows like Ellen. Political commentary about liberal issues is given through characters, such as in Murphy Brown's outrages against Republicans. Never do we see a conservative, family-oriented show in which very sensible people comment against living together without marriage, homosexuality, and non-violence. Whenever that point of view is expressed, it seems to come from an Archie Bunker type.

But, none of the above could last if the nation's viewers would simply turn the sets off or change the channel. No rating system is needed. The first time you see a program that makes fun of religion, or shows quick and easy violence, just turn the set to another channel or turn it off. There is no law that one has to watch television.

But you would think that there is. And, just as with every other major issue in America, Americans now turn to something greater than themselves to help them. There is an almost pathetic need for someone to think for us and solve our problems. After so much dependency on the television for our thoughts and information, how could we expect anything different?

Just imagine if the dependency could be broken. For example, if a show about homosexuals is geared for the affirmation of the very small percentage of society that is homosexual, then let them watch it alone. Turn Ellen off, in other words, if it offends you. Write sponsors of the show, and Walt Disney, letters about how you will not use their products or visit their parks because of it. Hollywood is driven by dollars, and when the dollars stop, due to the reduced ratings, then the nonsense will stop.

But, that is hard to do. For then, we may offend someone. Well, what's wrong with that? Some people need offending. The little boxes, I fear, will defuse any anger the people may have over indecent programs. The average American will just sit and watch because the little box tells him it is safe to.

We should have learned our lessons from movies. When the "R" rating first came out, it was used for movies such as "Walking Tall." That movie showed violent scenes that a real-life Sheriff in Tennessee lived through. It had cussing and adult issues, such as prostitution, etc, but no sex scenes and quick and easy violence. Yet, that movie, which was nominated for an Oscar, was considered to have the "R" rating.

But, look at some of the more recent "R" ratings to see how the movie makers hide behind it. Recent movies such as "Night Eyes" now have the "R" rating. There are quick and easy graphic sex scenes, and quick and easy violence behind a weak plot. Such movies would have been rated "X" when the movie ratings first came out.

Why should we expect anything different from television ratings? Why let crappy work hide behind the little boxes?

I do not propose censorship. I think every adult has the right to view whatever he wants to on the television. I just think it is time for the American people to walk tall themselves, and not be afraid to turn off Hollywood's ideas of what life is like when they are wrong. No government or industry action will do it. It must come directly from us.

As for my column, well, it will never be rated. You can choose to read it or not. If I write something indecent, than tell me to remove you from the list. I know that will get my attention far more than if I rated my columns AC(anti-Clinton), NPC(not politically Correct), and SC ( safe column for all to read without offense). Then, you could ignore them from the start without taking me to task for what I wrote. Would you really want me to do the thinking for you? If not, then why give your right to think up to the little boxes on your television screen?

Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes humorous, and sometimes all three.


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