Culture Notes


Issue: "The historic Christian faith," May 11, 1996

A set of their own

A new survey of 2,000 children in grades 3 to 12 finds that children watch an average of 21 hours of television per week. Seventy-one percent say their parents set some rules about their TV watching. But the prospect of parents overseeing what their children are watching is undercut by another statistic: Over half of America's children, 58 percent, have their own TV sets in their bedrooms.

Virtual adultery

More and more reports are surfacing of marriages being broken up by the Internet. Some spouses become computer addicts, spending so much time on the World Wide Web that they withdraw from their families. Others are succumbing to the lure of the pornographic chat-lines. Another problem is real-time love affairs, as the intimate, anonymous conversations with strangers made possible by the new communication technology lead some websurfers to fall in love-at-no-sight with someone known only by an e-mail handle. This sometimes leads to a face-to-face rendezvous and, increasingly, to the divorce courts.

Templeton Prize for media

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Philanthropist Sir John Templeton has announced the establishment of the "Templeton Prizes for Inspiring Movies and Television," which will give cash awards each year to the TV program and movie that "best result in bringing the viewer into a closer understanding of and love for God." Although Templeton has been criticized for his openness to non-Christian religions, the awarding of this prize is being assigned to Ted Baehr's Christian Film and Television Commission, which promises to follow the same guidelines used in its publication Movieguide.

Raising your parents

A video series titled "The Power of Choice" is being used in a number of public schools to teach values to adolescents. The series, featuring a comedian/youth counselor talking to teenagers, uses the techniques of "values clarification" and "ethical decision-making" to help young people make ethical choices. The philosophy underlying the series is the existential notion that there are no absolute, objective standards of right and wrong: What makes an action ethical is whether or not it was freely chosen. In the videos, the group discusses ethical dilemmas, but there are ostensibly no wrong answers. Actually, there are many wrong answers, as traditional moral reasoning is skewed as old-fashioned and irrelevant. One of the videos is significantly titled "Raising Your Parents." Fathers and mothers are portrayed, condescendingly, as out-of-touch old fogeys who want to control their children's lives. The consensus of the group is that parents should mention consequences when it comes to sex, but then accept their children's decisions. Having done so, parents should simply "be there" for their children, abandoning their pretensions to authority in favor of being "friends." The only thing worse than public schools' not teaching ethics may be when they do teach ethics.

Logging on, dropping out

Timothy Leary, ex-Harvard professor and LSD guru of the '60s, is bringing together his interest in computers, consciousness, and Dr. Kevorkian. Afflicted with incurable prostate cancer, the 74-year-old futurist is contemplating committing suicide on the Internet. Though no plans for the event are actually in sight, Mr. Leary is busy downloading all of his ideas onto a World Wide Web site, in an attempt to ensure a kind of virtual eternal life. In particular, he is writing about techniques and technologies of suicide for the terminally ill, what he calls "Hi-Tech Designer Dying."

Undermining the integrity of Trash TV

Jerry Springer's tabloid talk show televised an appeal for participants in an upcoming show, featuring guests who had slept with their kids' babysitters. Four Toronto comedians, as a joke, cooked up a story, called up the program, and appeared on the show. The producers had the "husband" admit his affair before his supposedly unsuspecting wife, who broke into tears. Then they brought on the "babysitter." Later, a Toronto writer recognized the comics and exposed the hoax. Now they are being sued for undermining the integrity of Mr. Springer's show. The legal action in U.S. district court in Chicago, however, also uncovered the inner workings of sleaze TV: The hoaxers told of how the producers deceived the "wife" into walking into the ambush by telling her the show would be about how to put romance back into your marriage. The other characters tried to back out, protesting that the revelations would devastate their families, only to be manipulated into appearing. Clearly not relishing the public airing of a trial, the producers are now talking about settling the suit. A reminder that "real-life" TV is not necessarily real.


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