“Can They Say That On Television?" Yes, they can, and increasingly they do. The days of television being highly regulated, pure and decent may be over. It looks as if the ever-shifting rules governing what's okay to say on television are made to be broken. The amount of violence, vulgarity, and sexual content that can be found this year on television is unprecedented in the history of broadcasting. Many people wonder how television could have sunk to such a low level of glorifying violence, embracing vulgar language, and expanding sexual content in current programming.
Most viewers are troubled more by violence on TV than by profanity or sexual content. Vulgar language is being embraced faster than we think. There are dirty words, and plenty of them, on prime time TV. (Pennington, 1999) Prime time is also saturated with sex more explicitly than ever. Lusty scenes, partial nudity, free discussions of issues like the president’s oral sex, all show the media's general relaxation of sexual guidelines. There are a few subtle influences contributing to the loosening of broadcast content on television, including: staff cutbacks, which reduce departments responsible for enforcing programming standards; network executives who compete to attract the most talented writers by allowing more creative leeway; writers who resist the shackles placed upon them while competing against pay-TV shows which operate under virtually no content-restrictions. However, the more pertinent reasons for television's increasing boldness in language, violence, and sexuality involve society's steadily increasing overall permissiveness in each of those areas.
How did television get so vulgar? The answer can be seen by looking at 3 main factors. First of all, the standards of what is considered "permissible" in the media are changing at the same rate as our overall cultural permissiveness rises. Writers want to depict current true-to-life pictures of what they believe are fairly common lifestyles. Secondly, since young viewers are being targeted, more is done to attract that audience. High levels of action, violence, foul language and sexuality are accepted and expected by teenagers. (Lowry, 1999). Third, writers are attempting to keep "shockproof" viewers entertained. Viewers who access internet pornography and R-rated movies on cable TV are more difficult to impact than in the past. (Levin, 1999). The standards regarding what is considered permissible on television corresponds closely with our overall increased cultural permissiveness. In order for advertisers to decide to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy time on show that has profanity, heavy sexual content, and shocking violence, they must be fairly certain that the content is not far from what society accepts(Lowry, 1999).
We are a long way from the early days when TV had strict network standards requiring married couples to sleep in twin beds. Other than occasional uproars about taboos, our...