I’ve learned that Judge Amy doesn’t need me watching her courtroom.
By Marilyn Mackenzie
The debate rages on about whether or not TV shows, movies and music lyrics influence the lives of our youth. It’s a silly debate, in my opinion. Everything we see and hear affects us in some way. And, as the saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out."
One only has to remember how TV, movies and music affected the lives of Baby Boomers. Oldsters I call this generation to which I belong.
After Mr. Rogers went off the air, Focus on the Family published an article about how wide was his influence on the American public. I realize now that I tucked some of his messages away, not even realizing that I had done so.
I know now that when I came home and immediately traded my business suit for shorts and a tee-shirt and sat on the floor playing with my son, that I was trading one identity for another. Mr. Rogers taught us the importance of doing that each time he shed his suit coat for a sweater, or his dress shoes for tennis shoes.
When I changed clothes, I changed from business manager to mom, and with that change came an attitude adjustment as well. My home was never as organized as my office, at my choosing. In my opinion, real life cannot be orchestrated. Children are only with us for a short time before they are gone and on their own.
When they are young, their minds are impressionable. They learn and remember lessons well as young kids, and parents should never miss an opportunity for a teachable moment. For many, those opportunities are lost as they insist upon a rigid schedule in the home, or they use the home as an extension of the office, never leaving it behind.
I’ve often wondered if parents who bring their work home with them, who make calls and exchange emails, really find their work so important that it intrudes upon their family life. Are they really that overworked?
There were other lessons I learned from Mr. Rogers. I learned that talking softly, not yelling, gets results. Many TV parents in the days of early television used soft voices. It was a lesson I absorbed without even realizing it.
Using a soft voice worked in my home. I discovered it worked with other children as well. Whispering really made kids pay attention, I learned.
When my son was just a toddler, I changed careers and worked in day care so that he could interact with other children while I was close by. In Texas, I was a day care director. But when we moved to Florida, only teacher positions were available.
At one day care center, I was assigned a class of what the owners termed, "unruly 3-year olds." Those little darlings managed to run off three teachers in six months. One of the teachers quit after just one day.
A few hours after leaving me with my charges, who were running around wildly when I first entered the classroom, the assistant director decided to check on me. None of the little darlings had been sent to the office since I arrived, something highly unusual I learned. She feared they had tied me up.
Imagine her surprise when she entered the classroom and discovered all eighteen children sitting at tables and drawing and coloring as instructed. She was curious, all right. She drew me aside and asked what I had done to transform the noisy children.
I smiled and told her that I merely sat in a chair with other chairs arranged in a semi-circle around me and started to whisper. One by one, the children stopped what they were doing and came to find out what they were missing. Using a soft voice worked.
There were other lessons from early television. We learned about the importance of family communication, of family dinners where everyone could share what went on in their lives. We learned that if parents disagree, they should show a united front and disagree behind closed doors. We learned about respect and love.
My son giggles at black and white shows on Nick at Nite and asks if the world was really like that. It was. Children played outside, climbed trees, roller-skated, played with marbles. They used cardboard boxes to build forts and had "boys only" or "girls only" clubhouses. Staying indoors was considered a rainy day activity or a punishment.
The TV shows then probably depicted the average or just a bit above average home, in terms of family love and expression of it. Sure, there were some shows that showed an uglier side of life. Those were the soap operas, and when they started on TV they were only 15-minute shows, aired during the day when only moms and really young children might be near. TV producers would have never aired those shows after school or in early evening hours. And viewers wouldn’t have wanted it to be.
But somewhere along the line, things began to change. I heard one TV executive say that when prayer was taken from schools, it released him from making mention to it in television programs too. Good point.
The question comes to mind, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Did our television programming change because people changed, or were people changed by changes in that industry?
I do know that little by little, the TV producers became braver. They tried a show that went truly overboard for the times, in terms of bigotry. And people laughed.
Movies started using a rating system, allowing them to create movies that depicted the seamier sides of life, for adults to view. Looking back, I find that rather funny. Where I lived, adults very rarely went to the movies. But teens sneaked into the drive-ins, hidden in back seats and trunks, just so they could see "Whatever Happened to the Naked Lady."
Music changed too. Instead of love and lost love, drugs were introduced as a theme. Country Western music went from "I Fall to Pieces," to the topics of drinking too much beer and leaving the wife.
And with each change in these industries, changes occurred in the family structure. Which came first? Were we truly affected by the changes in music, in movies, in TV shows? Of course we were.
Any time we subject ourselves to something over and over again, it affects us in ways we probably don’t realize. If we read good literature and classics, it blesses us. And if we insist on putting negatives, crime, drugs into our lives on a regular basis by watching them on TV or reading about them or hearing lyrics about such things, these things are no longer foreign to us. They are no longer strange to us. They become a part of everyday life.
The extensive coverage of the war right now is a good example of how this happens. Everyone was in shock to see the devastation that resulted when the "shock and awe" program began. As those pictures were shown over and over again, they became less shocking.
Our minds learn from everything around us – whether visual, audible or tactile. My son, while still in the womb, used to kick like crazy to certain classical music. As a toddler, when I played that same music, he took up magic markers and a large piece of poster board and created his first work of art. He was inspired, and I tend to think it was because of the memory of that music he heard before he was even born.
There’s a week in April when everyone is urged to turn off his or her TV for a week. My son and I usually participate, turning off TV, radio, videos and game systems during that week. We read, visit museums, play board games, sometimes just spend time talking during that week. If we feel the need for news, we read it in the daily newspaper. If the house seems too quiet, we do acquiesce. But we’ll put classical or soft mood music on in the background.
That week without news and entertainment bombarding my brain is always refreshing. I’ve learned that Judge Amy doesn’t need me watching her courtroom, and I don’t need reminded of what happens in juvenile justice system.
If only we could continue the noise black-out after the week is over. But music and TV will creep into our lives once more. And, yes, it will continue to influence us.