If you’ve read any of my writing in the past, you may have come across a time or two when I’ve mentioned how my moral compass was developed by television and the like. In a nutshell, I don’t come from the best family. In fact, their morals are very questionable even today. So growing up, they weren’t all that active in my life and I spent a ton of time in front of the TV or with my nose in books. I learned to mimic the things I saw in entertainment and I feel like a portion of my moral fabric was made up thinks to the likes of Stan Lee, Batman, Star Wars, Full House, and the like.
Now this may be a stark difference in writing compared to my recent posts about watching gritty and violent films, but one of the things that I’m discovering as I age is that in order to be whole you need to embrace both sides. For every dark side is a light, and for every up there is a down. I know I’m going all Taoist on yall, so I’ll stop there, but I’m really beginning to embrace this idea of there being being a need for both sides of the spectrum.
Alright, back to the topic at hand… morals and television. Needless to say, I’m not so sure I would have developed a decent moral compass if I was raised on television today. Sure, I love Breaking Bad, Yellowstone, and even the occasional bad reality TV show, but these shows don’t really offer those same positive moral messages that the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s presented. Now, comparing Breaking Bad to The Brady Bunch is not fair, because obviously the audiences are very different, but there really aren’t many run of the mill family sort of a shows. There is no Fraiser, MASH, Friends,* or even Star Trek of this generation (although I have high hopes for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds). The closest I’ve seen to this old school morale storytelling is the CW Arrowverse shows, Stargirl, and random one offs like Fuller House or One Day At A Time.
So, why don’t we have those type of shows anymore? Well, for one, they could be very cheesy. Full House can be sickening sweet at times, and Fuller House wasn’t much better.
Two, they just don’t pull in the ratings like they used to. Everyone wants dark, dreary, and dangerous, and that’s what sells.
Three, optimism for things working out sort of died with 9/11 and as an American society we’ve struggled to grasp ahold of that ideal again.
I’m sure there are other reasons, but those are the three that came to mind.
I wonder if this is a bad thing though. I wonder if the lack of moralistic tales does a disservice to society. I mean, for generations we were raised on fairy tales and mythology that taught us how to act. It taught us what was considered right and wrong. Now, in the world of the anti-hero, things aren’t so clear cut. Being selfish and shitty is commendable and makes for great television (see Seinfeld and It’s Always Sunny).
But what happens to those kids like me, who didn’t have the proper home life to guide them? Is it televisions responsibility to provide inspiration and guidance on how to live? Or did I just get lucky, and was raised when this sort of storytelling was popular? I don’t really know. I wasn’t able to come up with a great argument either way.
I guess, like most of my nostalgia, I feel like we’ve lost a little something with all the changes. I’m sure this is the way that everyone feels as they get older. They miss the “simpler” times, however that can be described for them.
I just know that when I go back and watch an old sitcom, I have this weird, calming sense of peace when its all over. Everything feels like it’s going to be okay and I like that. I hate to think that other generations won’t experience that same feeling.