July 24, 2008

The Brutal Irony of American Media Standards

Through one of those long link chains the internet specialized in, I ended up at a British newspaper article about The Wire airing in Britain, and the 'new wave' of American morally ambiguous cop shows (the article is here for those who are interested). The article acknowledged that The Wire was the best - a statement that, even without watching the other shows, I can state with near certainty is true - but it does praise two other shows, "The Shield" and "Dexter".

So I looked those two up on Wikipedia since, being entirely 'out of the loop' vis-a-vis television, I'd heard nothing of them. This led to one of those beautiful, ironic discoveries that highlights a (maybe the) major element of what's wrong with our cultural standards. Dexter, apparently, is about a forensic analyst who is also, in his spare time, a serial killer. Except he kills criminals who he believes the police won't catch or amass enough evidence to convict. In any case, the morality of this sounds... ambiguous, and for once I share the concerns of those complaining about a show on TV: it does worry me to have a TV show in which the unambiguous protagonist (even if you're supposed to feel somewhat ambivalent about him) is a serial killing vigilante. There is, after all, a reason our justice system exists.

But I digress. Here's what I found so appalling. The Parents Television Council protested the airing of Dexter on public airwaves, as opposed to a pay-for-subscription channel. In response, CBS rated the program TV-14. And also... well, wikipedia contains this gem:

"he show premiered on February 17, 2008 with minor edits, primarily for language, and with scenes involving dismemberment of live victims cut away. Scenes involving sex were also taken out of the broadcasts."

That's right. Sex is on the same level as the dismemberment of live victims.

Do I really need to say more here?

1 comment:

BodhiBadger said...

This reminds me of the mind-bending experience of going to Britain as a teenager, to find that the movie rating is the exact inverse of the US. Violence filled action films that would be packed with kiddies in DeMoines were restricted by age, and I as a thirteen year old, was free to buy tickets to films with explicit sex. Seemed a much more rational system...(still does!)