What Passes as Mainstream TV Programming

Monday, January 23, 2006

What Passes as Mainstream TV Programming

An excellent Sunday editorial from the New York Times:
The news that "American Idol" has started a new season with ratings even more enormous than last year's reminds us of an old query. In a nation with a disquieting surplus of moral arbiters, why isn't there a call to clean up television programs that specialize in humiliating the weak?

People devote untold hours to worrying about the sexual orientation of cartoon characters, but nobody seems disturbed that more than 30 million American households watch a "family" show that picks out hapless, and frequently helpless, contestants solely for famous and powerful judges to make fun of them on national television.

... Most [contestants] are extremely young, naïve and deluded. Many appear terribly vulnerable and some seem to border on mentally impaired. The fun is supposed to come from seeing the celebrity judges roll their eyes, laugh, and tell them that they are tone-deaf, fat, funny-looking or, in the case of one young man, "atrocious" and "confused."

.... one judge, Simon Cowell ... said an overweight woman would require a bigger stage in Hollywood, ... (and Fox) used it to promote the segment.

... No one wants to censor Fox's money machine, but it does seem peculiar that a nation so torn apart over what message gay marriage or prayer in school will send to impressionable youth is so unified in giving a pass to a program that teaches young people that it's extremely cool to be mean.

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