Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Television Moral Code

I’m sitting here, in my convalescence from surgery on my deviated septum (no really, I didn’t get a nose job or anything), making my way through season 2 of Beverly Hills 90210 and I got to thinking about the morality on television.  It seems like back when I was a bit shorter (and in exponentially less pain and discomfort) shows always had these blatant morals.  I mean, Saved by the Bell, Full House, Boy Meets World and even 90210, which was so often condemned for being this total corruption of America’s youth, had these very very distinct moral messages.  Sure, when we look back now, they seem, well, antiquated to say the least.  I mean, really, who can forget Jessie’s addiction to caffeine pills on Saved by the Bell, or the fact that Full House always ended with what was painfully similar to a moral of the story from Aesop’s Fables.  But what really got the historian in me going is this notion that youth television programming had to have a moral message.  That is definitely not the case any more (one need look no further than an episode of Gossip Girl to figure that out).  There is no neatly little wrapped up television show telling us why cheating is wrong in some blatantly flat out way.  

Now, back when season 2 of 90210 was airing, and I remember watching religiously, it was 1991 and I was approximately 8 years old.  So I can’t really remember the political and social climate of the time.  What I do know, from reading history books, is that Reagan had recently left office, Bush the first was in, and Clinton had just won the presidency.  To me it sounds like the political and social climate was somewhat conservative and moralistic, not unlike the one four or eight years ago.  I also, however, know my television history well enough to know that FOX (the channel we associate with conservatism actually totally pushed the envelope back then) was brand new, and 90210 actually changed the face of T.V. drastically.  I know that shows like Dallas and Dynasty had been on and shown some pretty racy stuff, thank you Joan Collins.  But why was television so saturated with in your face depictions of morality?  Was it simply that the Reagan/Bush administrations had turned away from the perceived hedonism of the sixties and seventies and wanted to inject some sort of order into society?  But government doesn’t run t.v.  So is that what viewers really want, and was the backswing of the pendulum so strong that by the mid to late-90s these moral driven shows were pretty much completely off the air?  
My question is what happened?  Not that I’m complaining because I think television is in a golden age, but seriously, what the hell happened and why was it just in young people’s programming?
Peace, Love, and Questionable Morals,

June 5, 2008 - Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Television

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