Editor’s note: The following column deals with graphic movie themes and may be offensive to some readers.
Friend, do you watch much TV lately? Are you aware of how depraved and immoral much of the prime-time evening programming has become? If it weren’t so slickly, professionally produced, it would be X-rated. And it should be.
Immediately following its 2010 movie awards – which drew the highest number of preteen viewers since 2004 – MTV premiered a new series. “The Hard Times of R.J. Berger” is set in a high-school and, like the execrable and inexcusable “Hung,” features an unusually “endowed” but socially awkward teen boy who becomes wildly popular after accidentally exposing himself to the entire school. The program is shown Mondays at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CDT. It’s well available to the teen audience it’s aimed at.
Just how irresponsible and depraved is this new show? In the first few minutes of the program, the title character is shown “pleasuring himself” in bed. When he is interrupted by his mother, her innocent unknowing touch makes him climax. At school, his sex-crazed classmate, Lily, is shown “pleasuring herself” to his yearbook photo while seated in the school library wearing a shirt bearing his photo and the words “I want U inside me.”
It all seems like great teen fun, like presumably similar everyday experiences common to all high-school kids. In one indescribable (for here) sequence, a Japanese exchange student valiantly tries to “service” Berger in a blatant homosexual encounter. And not only is this expensively promoted to kids, MTV exports it worldwide as a reflection of life in America!
Clearly, there is some kind of motivation for putting this garbage on the air, but it’s not profit – and it’s not ratings.
In an interview with the New York Times, MTV’s senior vice president for series development, a woman named Liz Gateley, crowed, “We want to do stuff that’s rebellious and noisy,” while “R.J. Berger’s” creator/writer/producer David Katzenberg said, “We definitely want to be that show that younger kids have to sneak into their TV room or their parents’ room when they’re not supposed to.”
And actor Adam Cagley, who plays Kevin on the show, recently boasted on his Twitter feed, “‘Hard Times’ has been named ‘Worst Cable Show of the Week’ by the Parent’s Television Council. YES! We p–s off parents!”
The kids – our kids – are proud to be shocking and angering parents and violating all moral boundaries. And MTV is proud, too.
But this is a drop in the bucket. This immature approach to programming espoused by “R.J. Berger” and its creative team is not unique. Far from it. Unfortunately, the desire to shock and provoke – rather than deliver what most audiences are really looking for – is pandemic throughout the entertainment industry.
Hollywood has been telling us for years that they are merely interested in the bottom line – that they are just delivering what audiences want. But this is clearly and demonstrably untrue. The millions of family audiences who really would like to enjoy movies and TV with their kids are being largely ignored, treated as if they don’t exist or don’t really know what they want.
The “bottom line, just give audiences what they want” lie betrays another agenda: a desire, a necessity to be deliberately provocative, to shock TV viewers and filmgoers to the point of numbness where they will be willing to accept anything – and everything.
In reality, the hoary cliché that “sex sells” is little more than the standard fall-back position employed by Hollywood writers, directors and producers who want to push the envelope. These so-called “taste makers” don’t really want to deliver what audiences are looking for. They would have us believe that because something is profane it must also be profound, normal, even valuable and that traditional values and morality are outmoded. Their self-assured, smirking attitude is that we must look to the producers for enlightenment.
Like schoolyard bullies, they mostly just want bragging rights at the next industry cocktail party. If they were truly motivated by profit and profit alone, they wouldn’t be pushing explicit and rotten fare; they’d be trying to compete with the extremely profitable Disney and Pixar studios type of family-friendly content. That’s where the mother lode, the real gigantic profits are – and always were.
I’ve been actively involved in the movie and TV and music business for more than 50 years now. I’m proud of it, and I’ve managed somehow to be quite successful – without having to sell out, to be part of entertainment that I felt would be corruptive of family and traditional morality. I know that the same people who create all this vile and raunchy stuff are capable of creating even more successful movies and TV – if they choose. And if a family public demands it.
I’m also on the board of Parents Television Council, a dedicated group that are valiantly and effectively putting pressure on the industry to “clean up its act” for the sake of our kids, our families and our country. Right now, they’re urging millions of TV watchers to choose not to watch CBS’ new show “$#*! My Dad Says,” the sitcom starring William Shatner as the profane, filthy mouthed dad. We don’t need another “barrier breaker,” another show depicting profanity and other irresponsible behavior as fun and funny. They are not.
Here’s how you can help, if you want to:
- Contact your local CBS station by phone, e-mail or letter.
- Tell them you’re offended by a title clearly meant to signify “S–t My Dad Says.”
- Tell your local CBS affiliate to contact CBS and demand the network change the name of the show – so that your children and grandkids aren’t exposed, nay, habituated – to profanity in prime time. And go to ParentsTV.org to join forces with us. I’d love to have you on board.