Watching the 85th annual Academy Awards last week, I cringed. A lot. I cringed as host Seth MacFarlane opened up with a musical number called, "We Saw Your Boobs." I cringed during the Lincoln assassination joke. I also cringed during many of the zingers that touched on race, domestic violence and the female sex. Those types of jokes belong in a seedy comedy night club, not in a room full of haut couture and diamonds. But my cringing isn't really new. Lately, I find myself inwardly cringing a lot. It's not just Seth MacFarlane. It's, well, everything.
It was that tasteless Super Bowl ad where a supermodel sloppily kisses a geek for an uncomfortably long period of time (I was watching that with my kids, guys!). It's the reality TV shows where both men and women flaunt their possessions and openly talk about money and how much things cost. (I'm recalled of last season's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where one enthusiastic housewife showed off her new sunglasses and perkily proclaimed that they cost $25,000.)
And let's not forget the violence. A while back, a television ad promoting the reality show, Basketball Wives, came on the air and showcased a bunch of women throwing punches at each other and pulling hair. My two-year old daughter saw the ad, turned to me and asked, "Why are they doing that?" (actually it was more like, "Why dey doing dat????"). I turned the TV off instantly and mumbled something about that behavior being inappropriate, but I was deeply disturbed. Are these the images my little girl will have to see now growing up?
When I was growing up, I don't recall seeing women flagrantly beating each other up as a teaser for a new show. I don't recall people openly talking about how much money they had or how much they paid for something (call me old-fashioned but isn't talking about money vulgar?). I don't recall wincing while watching the Academy Awards and uncomfortably waiting for the next "edgy" (read: crass) joke. Actually, I just remember feeling enchanted as I watched Billy Crystal tap dance across the stage in a tuxedo.
What is happening to our society? Is vulgar the new normal? How do we navigate this strange new world?
There are a few things we can do. We can control what our children are exposed to, up to a point (obviously I'm not going to be watching Basketball Wives with my two-year-old, or at all for that matter). We can discuss what sort of values are important to us as a family. We can lead by example. This is what we can do.
I'm hoping that there will be a tipping point whereby our society becomes bored with the tasteless, the lowbrow, the common vulgarities that have seeped into our popular culture. The catalyst for this tipping point is us. We need to facilitate this positive shift by holding our heads high and walking the walk with the values that are important to us. Let's be the classy change we want to see in this world.