Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The Peddler by Richard Prather

Date: 20 Dec 2006

Charles wrote:

"It's a commonplace to lament the degraded state of popular culture and to complain about increasing vulgarity, sexualization and so forth -- but based on at least some of the evidence I've seen, in some ways people are more uptight today than they were fifty years ago."

True, complaints have certainly increased, but a lot of them are about things that could not have legally seen the light of day a few decades ago. Not even going to extreme material, sex scenes in books put out by mainstream publishers are sometimes more graphic than those in books once prosecuted for obscenity. However, there is a very vocal rearguard that is trying to return culture to a, largely mythical, purer time. And they seem to be incensed by what's easily seen. So you can put whatever you want IN a book, but watch what you put ON that cover -- kids might see it.

And we seem to have developed rules about WHO can present certain depictions. For instance, racial depictions that were once commonplace, partcularly stereotypes of the highly sexed, bad black men, now only seem to be acceptable from the mouths of black rappers.

And context seems to make a big difference. We seem to have returned to a Victorian notion that as long as there is an easily read (as in, it hits you over the head) moral message at the end, it's okay to include graphic material along the way. But without that message, everything is read as endorsement -- so Stansberry is promoting, even applauding certain acts; of course, that book also won an award and sold better for the controversy.

Then again, the moral crusaders are more than happy to pull things out of context, so a candidate is accused on being a pornographer for some sex scenes in a book about Marines, and CBS is given a record fine for a hazy, not terribly graphic scene of a teen orgy (admittedly, too graphic to be put on the air even a decade earlier) in an episode of Without a Trace, even though the complaintants (Brent Bozell's Parents Televsion Council, whose click-on forms account for something like 98% of all FCC complaints), fully admitted that the overall message was that this orgy was a terrible thing and everyone involved in it paid by the end of the show -- so much for a socially redeeming message ruling out indecency charges (as is stated in the FCC guidelines).

Maybe that's what's going on here, a symbolic politics where a portion of the population is very uncomfortable with the slippery slope of cultural acceptance of explicitness and a government that is happy to make grand public gestures to reassure them, and ensure their votes? Certainly would go a long way in explaining the seeming contradiction of some of the most popular culture being said to violate the standards of the community that supports it.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox now.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 20 Dec 2006 EST