|Entertainment has undergone a major revolution in the last hundred years or so. Before then, our culture's recreational pastimes included the opera, the ballet, the theater and the symphony. All of that changed in 1899 when Eastman Kodak introduced cellulose-based film. Soon after, in 1906, radio that transmitted voices and music rather than just dots and dashes burst on the scene. The entertainment revolution picked up even more momentum in 1939 with the introduction of the television set.|
As a result, entertainers had three dazzling new options for recording and distributing their message to an ever-growing audience. Thankfully, the early years of those new media produced art that was relatively benign, drawing families together around the radio console or television set, or providing the exciting opportunity for an outing to the movies.
Fast forward to today. The entertainment media's preoccupation with sex, violence and profanity would have been unthinkable in the minds of their early pioneers. Even if computer-generated graphics, advanced special effects and digitized audio had been available back then to carry the messages so explicitly, public sentiment wouldn't have embraced music that glamorizes rape, murder and drugs, or much of what appears at the local movie theater. Nor would MTV, The Playboy Channel, Showtime or most major network programming have made the grade.
Though it can't explain our current wallow in the cultural muck, a bit of music trivia at least demonstrates the extent of our fall. In 1967, when The Rolling Stones performed The Ed Sullivan Show, the band was asked to change the lyrics of "Let's Spend the Night Together" to a much tamer "Let's Spend Some Time Together." While they resented the change, they performed it as Sullivan requested. Why? Because society viewed songs about casual sex as—dare we say it?—wrong. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case. Casual sex is not just accepted; in many cases it's expected. And through entertainment, it has even become a spectator sport.
For a broader view, take a look at how these titles of hit songs reveal moral erosion in pop music's romantic relationships over time:
1964 - The Beatles sing "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
1967 - The Rolling Stones make a bolder overture with "Let's Spend the Night Together."
1972 - The Raspberries encourage the object of their affection to "Go All the Way."
1975 - Metaphorically speaking, Jethro Tull looks forward to a "Bungle in the Jungle."
1981 - Even more to the point, Olivia Newton-John beckons a boyfriend to get "Physical."
1987 - Inhibitions and euphemisms disappear with George Michael's brazen declaration, "I Want Your Sex."
1991 - Color Me Badd crudely and unflinchingly declares, "I Wanna Sex You Up."
1994 - Exactly 30 years after The Beatles first proposed hand-holding—R&B artist R. Kelly scores a best-selling single with the sexually descriptive ode to intercourse, "Bump & Grind."
So much for modesty, self-control and God's design for sexuality. Clearly, popular music has been sliding into the sewer since the British Invasion. And music is no different from popular film or television. Other unhealthy agendas notwithstanding, all three seem to be preoccupied with eroticism.
Syndicated columnist Mona Charen may have put it best. She wrote recently, "You cannot experience the thrill of a first kiss when you've heard and seen everything long before you're ready. If the counterrevolution against the sexual revolution is to be won, it will not be a fear of AIDS or pregnancy that will tip the balance. It will be a longing for the excitement, the mystery and the sweetness, which has youthful innocence as its prerequisite."
Indeed, if only we could return to the days when it was a thrill just to hold someone's hand.
Adapted from the booklet What's Up With Today's Entertainment?: Raising Media-Wise Teens, copyright 2001