November 9, 2010

More On Sensitivity

I have a problem when I write. When I sit down in front of a keyboard, all the stuff that's rolling around in my head like gumballs eagerly want to come out. And when you stop by, insert your quarter, you get one - or maybe, if you're lucky, two - gumballs. But rarely does a post represent everything I was pondering about whatever. I'm just not smart or talented enough to articulate everything I'm thinking. And who'd want to read a post that long anyway?

I spent some time over the weekend with your comments about the whole sensitivity issue I wrote about last week. I realized that not all my gumballs came out on that one. I don't think I said quite what I meant. Or, rather, everything I meant.

I do truly believe we're overly sensitive about certain things, specifically the ways in which we communicate. We put roadblocks up that prevent us from effectively communicating, often in the name of political correctness. We censor ourselves to the point at which we're unable to express ourselves. And I have to admit that, while you guys are great, I often force myself to take a step back after I've typed up a post and I wind up censoring myself because once I post something here, I lose control of it entirely and there's something out there that reflects me that I can no longer defend. Apparently the law prevents me from finding everyone who diagreed with me, knocking on their doors and arguing with them. So, that's annoying.

At the same time, we're far too insensitive in many ways. I'm no puritan or prude but look at what we choose as entertainment. The other night on TV I saw a guy get chopped up in a metal shredder. I honestly live in fear of turning on the TV with my kids in the room for fear that there's an ad for CSI on. I try to stand in front of the TV and block it but since we got the big widescreen TV that just doesn't work because my ass isn't big enough. Now, I'm no different. I read grisly mysteries. I've watched Die Hard about 3,000 times and CSI every week. Porn on the internet is not something I've never seen. But still, murder, rape, violence and sex...what more offensive things are there than those? What things could be more fundamentally opposed to those values we claim to hold so dear.

We like to think we can have it both ways. And we can. As long as we admit that, at some point, we're hypocritical.

What do you think? Is there a disconnect between what entertains us and what offends us?

Posted by Chris at November 9, 2010 7:04 AM

I can relate to the hypocritical disconnect.

I have to admit, that I do think Sarah Palin is physically attractive.

I'm not sure if that is offensive, entertaining, or both.

I'm in therapy for it.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at November 9, 2010 7:35 AM

I've been thinking a lot about this as two of the most horrific murder trials have been here in New England.The first has found the defendant guilty and sentenced to death. Thankfully. What he did to that family was more than cruel. The second is a teen-aged boy and his friends, who mutilated a mother and left her daughter for dead.
Now, I have stopped watching CSI and all the spin offs, and I no longer watch any grisly violent shows on the tube. I will only go to see a movie, if I can be assured that I will not have to look away more than I can watch the screen.
Maybe I have become too sensitive. Or maybe I have regained some sort of balance in my life where I reject that sort of violence!

Posted by: Maribeth at November 9, 2010 7:55 AM

The average kid sees thousands and thousands of violent acts on TV and in movies, and nobody gives it a second thought. That same kids sees a 2 second flash of a bare breast and all hell breaks loose.

Maybe we are just nuts in this country.

Posted by: COD at November 9, 2010 8:14 AM

Total disconnect. Case in point - Dexter. I don't know if you have ever seen this show, but I love it! Hubby and I have been getting caught up on missed tv since we got Netflix streaming with the Wii. Anyhoo, in case you don't know Dexter, he's a serial murderer who relishes what he does. And he is a totally sympathetic character and I find myself rooting for him all the time. In season two (which is where we are now), it's looking like he's going to cheat on his girlfriend, and that makes me want to smack him, go figure...

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 9, 2010 8:45 AM

Yes. We are as a country constitute the ultimate example of the word 'hypocritical' and for both the example you provided, as well as the one given in the comment by COD. Our criminal justice system, our political process, every talking head on every cable news network...throw them all into a blender and make yourself the ultimate hypocrite smoothie. Their success, their sway, their popularity exists because a substantial portion of the country flushed the concept of critical thinking down the toilet in exchange for knee-jerk reactions to shit that shouldn't matter. What you get is sex being seen as a mostly shameful act seemingly involved in ~75% of criminal trials these days, while the porn industry continues to thrive and the depiction of violence continues to garner Emmys and huge profits for the video game industry.

So, yeah. There is.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at November 9, 2010 9:21 AM

A disconnect... hm. I think there's a direct correlation. Our morals are straight and narrow, and the extreme difference between those morals and gore/sex is what MAKES the offensive entertaining. We would never do those things, so it's entertaining to simply imagine it.

I really think this is part of the human condition. Our darkside will always be part of us. Most satisfy it with entertainment, whereas the twisted satisfy it with real life.

Posted by: Brad at November 9, 2010 9:35 AM

If you take a look through history, our entertainment has stayed pretty consistent. Violence, murder, incest: well, that's pretty much Greek tragedy wrapped up. Forbidden love, death, deceipt: hello Shakespeare. And have you ever read the _original_ Grimms Fairy Tales? Wow, now there's a bed time story.

I don't know if seeing violent acts on TV shapes a child to be more disposed to violence. I'd have to say I'd rather them see a violent act displayed properly ( for example, hitting someone with a beer bottle killing someone rather than hitting someone with a beer bottle and everyone walking away fine ). If we're going to show violence, then it should not be metered down, because then we give a false impression that a level of violence will cause a level of injury that is not accurate, and I think that is problematic.

If anything my vote for changing something on TV would be in the way that news is reported and covered; a bunch of talking heads being snarky at each other is not news; a 10 second coverage of the economy followed by 5 minutes about the broken up brothel in town is not responsible coverage; we need to seriously focus on getting people to understand the depths of the issues to get us moving towards a country that can reason our way out of our messes.

Posted by: metawizard at November 9, 2010 10:34 AM

In the intrest of brevity, let's just say yes I'm a hypocrit.

Posted by: Jeff A at November 9, 2010 11:04 AM

Great post Chris, and so true!

I don't have a TV and don't care for all the sarcasm, meanness, violence and cheap sex that runs rampant in the media- even reading that sentence about a guy in a metal shredder bothered me. :( So maybe i am too sensitive to violence...

We are too sensitive about our personal egos and our personal "pain" and victimhood, but way too insensitive to other people in general.

Posted by: jessica at November 9, 2010 11:57 AM

I've agreed with both sensitivity posts. I'm really repulsed by violence, whether in real life,on TV, in books or in video games. Being held up at gunpoint can do that to you, I suppose. There is a definitely disconnect in that some of the most moral, upstanding people I know do find violence entertaining - whether it's my parent and in-laws obsessing over whatever crime Nancy Grace is carrying on endlessly about or my husband playing Grand Theft Auto (for Christmas one year all I asked is that he destroy that god-awful game and not purchase any future version).

Whether it's this or something else, we're all hypocrites from time to time. I watch every Real Housewives series, which is all kinds of wrong.

Posted by: Kate M at November 9, 2010 12:57 PM

I have so much to say on this topic - but I can't get it out in writing. It can only be discussed over a few bottles of wine or two six packs with good friends. Because otherwise, it comes out all wrong.

And yes, we are all hypocrites.

Posted by: Mindy at November 9, 2010 1:18 PM

I love when your posts start out about balls.

We are all hypocrits and the ones that are most offended by whatever iut is are usually the biggest hypocrites.


Posted by: William at November 9, 2010 4:28 PM

Hmm, I don't find sex offensive at all. Certainly there are sleazier portrayals of sex, but as long as it isn't violent, I'm not afraid of my kids seeing it. I can explain what they've seen to them, and I doubt they will be scarred.

Do I think there's a disconnect between what entertains us and what offends us? Not at all -- there's a big CONNECTION. We are afraid of our basest human instincts, yet there they are, driving us to watch this stuff.

Humans are merely human, not angels in training. We want what we want; there's no point in moralizing about it. Yet a whole lot of people spend a whole lot of time denying their own nature, rather than take responsibility for it.

Posted by: Laura Gato at November 9, 2010 7:38 PM

Good point, once again Mr. Cactus. I agree that actual violence is more offensive than words.

However, given the recent suicides amongst gay teens that the media has caught wind of, I think that calling something "gay" is out of line. My Grade 3 students were calling each other names, as 8 year olds are apt to do. One group called the other group gay, and then the second group retaliated calling the first (Perhaps not a group of future brain surgeons?) We had to have a big talk about why it is inappropriate to use that word as an insult. How effective am I when Vince Vaughn does it in the movies?

Posted by: Heather at November 10, 2010 12:47 AM

What do you think? Is there a disconnect between what entertains us and what offends us?

Yes. This week, the show Private Practice crossed that line, for me. They showed a rape.
I think the trouble with sex on TV is that it's so, so often violence-driven sex. It's not emotionally healthy people in stable relationships, but rape, abuse, cheating, violence against prostitutes (CSI is particularly bad...) and other sexual's very twisted and contributes to some of the absurdly skewed attitudes some people have about sex.

Posted by: Heather at November 10, 2010 2:52 AM