• What Does TV Teach About Love?

    by  • January 30, 2017 • Sex, Television • 3 Comments


    In a recent guest editorial for The Hollywood Reporter, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a persuasive case that The Bachelor in all its forms and franchises, is killing romance in America.

    He writes, “As entertaining as these shows are (and they really are compelling fun), there is an insidious darkness beneath the fairytale pabulum they are serving up. … And when we think about where our children learn about the realities of romance, it becomes even more important to question what may influence their behavior in choosing a partner.”

    He’s certainly onto something. Viewers of The Bachelor and Bachelorette shows are subjected to false, unattainable ideals of beauty; a lack of intellectual, racial and appearance diversity on the shows; and unrealistic, “fairy-tale” notions about how love unfolds — finding “the one,” and living “happily ever after.”

    Abdul-Jabbar’s criticisms of these shows are warranted, but when you look at the greater TV universe, they only scrape the surface of TV’s “love” problems.

    It’s not just reality dating shows which ironically are killing romance. The same can be said of much of what’s on television. Savvy TV viewers today derisively snicker at the fact that I Love Lucy’s Lucy and Ricky slept in twin beds, saying it is unrealistic – but enthusiastically embrace programs like Game of Thrones, which depicts incest, rape and orgies as… more realistic?  In an article for Time magazine, an anonymous producer of Game of Thrones told the show’s director, “I represent the pervert side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene.”

    Otherwise compelling historical dramas such as Versailles or Vikings are undermined by their insistence on gratuitous sex scenes which seem to draw their inspiration from modern pornography rather than documented historical fact.

    Sitcoms are not immune from these corrupted and polluted ideas about love and romance. Even Friends, which seems tame by today’s standards, featured constant references to pornography – including one episode titled, “The One with the Free Porn,” in which Chandler and Joey discover they are suddenly getting free pornography and are afraid to turn off their TV and refuse to leave their apartment – to meet and interact with real women, for example — for fear it won’t be there anymore when the return. What does that say about the state of love and romance in America?

    More recently, the creepy broadcast networks have allowed pornified ideas about sexuality to creep into storylines involving minor-aged characters. ABC’s The Real O’Neals, for example, included a scene in which two teenage characters click on a link that launches a cascade of pornographic images onto the screen. One character, says, “Dude, it’s a pornado.” And on Fox’s “The Mick,” after the adult guardian of three children encourages the sixteen-year-old girl in her care to have sex with an adult male, her seven-year-old brother asks about the sounds coming from his sister’s bedroom. He’s told, “Your sister’s getting fu…uuurrniture.”

    A report for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that depictions and descriptions of sexuality on TV are increasing, particularly on the programs teens are most likely to watch, and that most references to sex do not include messages about risks or responsibilities. The consequence? A report from the Rand Corporation found that watching TV shows with sexual content apparently hastens the initiation of teen sexual activity and that sexual talk on TV has the same effect on teens as depictions of sex.

    TV today isn’t just eroding ideas about love and romance. They are toxic to the culture. And our kids are bearing the cost.




    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    3 Responses to What Does TV Teach About Love?

    1. Michael E. Newbury
      February 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

      While reading the news in the room while my wife watched ‘The Bachelor’, I was forced into an LOL situation when the subject of the program, after his THIRD pre-paid and pre-planned (by the writers) one-night-stand in a row stated that “He felt very confused!” ….. Ya think?

    2. Maeve Rhea
      February 10, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      When I was finally able to get my children back from my ex – he stole them from the state I lived in to a state that did not recognize the custody agreement we had worked out – I had to actually throw my tv into the trash and make them read books. We started with Kipling and went on to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I would read a chapter, help them read a chapter, and if they wanted more, (I had two sets, so both boys could read at there own pace) they could read in their rooms We went on to many more books, fiction, history, science, poetry, civics, grammar etc. Now adults, they are voracious readers.
      Today we watch some carefully selected movies and a very little cable. The graphic slow motion, heavy metal reality shows and the dramas are disgusting. The romances and comedies are stupid and violent. Even the innocuous veterinarian and animal shows are awash with blood, guts and wanton murder, not just normal prey behavior. Worse still, the ads sell an unending amount fecal material to brain dead buyers with cruel jokes, nasty icky sexology, blatant pornography, and mind twitching violence.
      Video burns brains. Ever wonder about the correlation between ADHD, the size of the monitor, and the degree of distance the children sit from the screen as well as the loudness of the sound. Even homework assignments can be brutal and sickening. Had to change my granddaughter’s school to get her out of that cesspool. As for love, what the video culture of our time depicts is totally UN-realistic, ignorant of the most basic human mores, and damaging.

    3. February 5, 2017 at 7:05 am

      Hi! Hope to have a chance to continue our conversation about the SMASH Contest and STEM education we started at the Mayflower Luncheon. I’d love see if you would be interested in being a judge in this year’s contest!

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