Note: When I submitted this article to the Huffington Post, whom I write for regularly, I was denied publication. No real reason was given. The end result was censorship of a hugely important topic for conversation in this country. If you have any contacts with online publications who might be interested in publishing this article, please contact me directly.
I’m probably the only person in this country that believes that our obsession with the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, which recently aired its final episode, has been one of the lowest points for our nation. Breaking Bad had over 10 million viewers for the finale, received countless Emmys and fans threw blue crystal parties to celebrate the ending of the show (in honor of the crystal meth that was being made and sold by drug dealer, Walt, the main character on the show.) Let me be clear, I am not in any way commenting on the level of talent of the entire cast and crew of the show. But as we continue to see more slaughter and unnecessary violence and killing in this country, I think the following needs to be said.
As a woman, daughter, future mother and concerned citizen, I’m writing to express my sadness at the loss of humanity in our country. The amount of shootings, murders, homicides and other horrific acts in the US surpasses all other countries. A recent survey showed that the United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents. None of the 16 other countries included in the review came anywhere close to that ratio. It’s no surprise; we also own more guns then anyone else. Couple that with the fact that you can’t turn on the TV without being inundated by violence – whether on the news, movies, TV and now even social media, and you have a bad tasting cocktail. We have become a nation obsessed with violence, anger, hate and all things dark and evil. Not only are we obsessed, we are paying to be fed this type of entertainment. Every time you watch a violent TV show, movie or buy a video game for your child, you are supporting the corporations and sending them this message: “Please make more violent media for my consumption. I will pay you a lot of money for it!”
Ever since the deregulation of the major media outlets back in the 80’s and 90’s, our TV programming has gradually disintegrated as corporate cable channels started to spring up. Currently, broadcast television networks are banned from using explicit profanity and “non-sexual” nudity between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. If the networks don’t comply, the FCC is permitted to impose fines of up to $325,000 per incident. This is in contrast to cable networks (FX, Comedy Central, AMC, etc.) who don’t face these same restrictions.
As cable networks continue to push the envelope with violent/sexual/crude humor series like "American Horror Story," and "The League," and “Breaking Bad,” they also see increased ratings according to Nielsen data. With an increase in ratings, advertisers want to advertise on cable networks more than broadcast networks. We are essentially giving advertisers the green light to produce more violent programming for our viewing pleasure.
If you ask a TV writer in private whether they feel good about the garbage they write, I’m sure most of them would say their conscious is eating away at them. But they don’t have a choice. BIG TV run by BIG media decides what sells. Writers like Vince Gilligan feel proud of themselves for coming up with the depraved themes seen on Breaking Bad and are then rewarded by receiving Emmys. The message it sends to the entire industry is that violence sells, and you better come up with something even more depraved if you want to compete. They have absolutely NO incentive to change their programming or to come up with programming that is positive, loving, makes you feel good, uplifting or educational for that matter, and the cycle goes on and on, until you feel your soul leaving your body.
The outcome of all this is that we are becoming more and more desensitized to violence. Our tolerance for violence has gone way up, and so has our appetite for it. We believe that it’s cool to shoot guns, make and sell drugs, kill people for money etc. Our children watch this and think it’s normal – they don’t have the ability to distinguish TV from reality, the way adults can. They are highly influenced, and the video games, TV shows and movies they watch are all sending them the same message. Violence is cool. Violence is OK.
The sad part is that not many of us are linking violence in the media to what’s happening in our society. I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the relationship between violent images and violent behavior. A recent study has now linked "sustained violent video game play significantly related to steeper increases in adolescents' trajectory of aggressive behavior over time." More and more children are turning violent, and now 12 year old children are taking up arms against their fellow students and teachers as we hear of more and more school shootings. Is this the world we really want to live in? Is this the world we want to raise our kids?
I sure don’t, and that’s why I’m asking for women (and men for that matter) in this country to stand up and do something about this horrible problem. It’s up to us to flex the power of our purse string and begin choosing otherwise. We see growing buying power in women, and marketers are targeting women more and more as they become key decision makers when it comes to purchases. With this comes a bigger responsibility and realization that we have more power than we think to influence change. Just imagine, what would happen if women become more conscious and decided not to purchase or view violent TV shows, movies, videogames etc.? This would send a very clear message to those media outlets and cable conglomerates. Instead of sending them the message of “please feed us more violence” we would tell them “stop feeding us violence” and perhaps, just maybe, they would listen. And guess what, once enough of us do this, and their profits start tumbling down, you bet they will listen.
Women have more power than we think in this equation. And I believe strongly that women, who are the givers of life, the caretakers, nurturers and mothers have a responsibility here. Do you really want to live with that terrible thought in the back of your head every day as you drop your kid off to school? What if it turns out to be your kid that’s breaking bad? If we continue on the path we are headed, it very likely could be. It is not normal for a first world, democratic, advanced society like ours to have the rates of violence that we have in this country. We need to wake up to that fact, face the dire situation we are in, and begin to make informed choices that can make a positive impact for all of us. It starts with what we watch, what we purchase, and decide enough is enough. Join me in this conversation and lets make Breaking Bad our nation’s rock bottom, instead of making it just the tip of the iceberg.
What other ways can you think of to make an impact and influence change to stop violence in the media?