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"Sure, social media can exploit our insecurity and vanity, but at the same time it showcases our need to be able to reach out and feel connected—right now. With tragedy comes a swell of reactions most of us have a hard time sorting out. In such an isolated age, we have few safe places to express them at all. For better or worse, we increasingly turn to technological space as our place of choice to process a world out of our control. Shock, grief, anger, confusion, doubt as well as sympathy are now more readily shared online than in person. In absence of dialog or proximity we find relief in mediated validation and online participation. A collective 'me too' has always been equal parts salve and catalyst—and now social media is where we experience this phenomenon most."

Brian Kammerzelt, writing for Relevant, who also laments how quickly the wave of sharing crests. He writes, "Sadly, it seems only extreme events awaken us to what matters most and now those too are quickly scrolled away. Our reminders become as fleeting as our medium of choice. Unceasing feeds and the built in filters of our limited circles ultimately hide a world of importance." [relevantmagazine.com, 4/22/13]


In the wake of the Boston bombing, the executive producer of NBC's grim drama Hannibal decided to shelve an upcoming episode. Bryan Fuller said of his decision, "I didn't want to have anyone come to the show and have a negative experience. Whenever you [write] a story and look at the sensational aspects of storytelling, you think, 'This is interesting metaphorically, and this is interesting as social commentary.' With this episode, it wasn't about the graphic imagery or violence. It was the associations that came with the subject matter that I felt would inhibit the enjoyment of the overall episode. … It was my own sensitivity."

It's not unusual for the entertainment industry to pull shows or delay films that, if released immediately after a national tragedy might come across as insensitive. But some wonder whether the example of Hannibal's newfound circumspection raises even more questions … about what kind of programming is ever appropriate:

"The example of Hannibal is worth further reflection because it reveals some interesting things about this business of being 'sensitive,' or rather, not being 'insensitive,'" writes Jeff Jensen for Entertainment Weekly. "The move made me reasonably curious… and piqued my interest in a way that makes me ashamed. Just how relevant to the times was the pulled episode? How much more lurid could Hannibal be? Now I must know. Let me see! That line of thinking is certainly flattering to a show like Hannibal, which also got TV pundits talking last week by losing nearly 20% of its audience from week two in the overnight ratings. … So we could be cynical and suspicious, too. Why announce the move? And why not just bench Hannibal altogether for a week? Couldn't we all use a little breather from dreadful drama about man's inhumanity toward man? And while we're going down this wormhole: What's the expiration date on 'sensitivity'? When is it okay to go back to being 'insensitive'? The more you noodle this over, the more meaningless this seemingly thoughtful gesture becomes." [variety.com, 4/19/13; ew.com, 4/25/13]


"Did gay and lesbian characters on TV (and to a lesser extent in the movies) help pave the way toward acceptance of gay marriage and this spring's potential Supreme Court landmark? … Personally, I have no doubt that the biggest single factor that has driven social change on this issue is that almost all the straight people in America have gotten to know someone gay over the last 20 or 30 years, and have not found them fundamentally alien. Whatever biblical disapproval or personal distaste for homosexuality you may feel, your spouse's gay nephew or the lesbian in Accounting probably strikes you as a normal-ish person, not inherently more obnoxious than others. But I think it's equally true that TV has played a crucial role. As any media scholar will tell you, what we know about the world from our real lives and what we experience on TV tend to reinforce each other, and at the level of deep psychology we don't necessarily tell them apart. … Will & Grace marks only one minor milestone in TV's 30-odd-year struggle with representations of sexual identity, during which the box has served both as an agent and a mirror of social change."

Salon entertainment writer Andrew O'Hehir, in his article "Did TV Change America's Mind on Gay Marriage?" [salon.com, 3/30/13 c&e]

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