Still getting bread, circuses

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If you ever want to see the results of a society that has become entirely too permissive — read: decadent and immoral — look no further than the current crop of television.

I know, I know, it’s been said about the boob tube for years that it’s a barometer of social decline. To my mind, though, it’s gotten worse in the last few years, and it’s missing key elements.

Back in the day (don’t worry, there won’t be snow involved), TV shows rarely showed humanity at its most open or even at its worst, and each television show usually allowed some redemptive arc, that solved all sorts of problems.

Heck, the “Brady Bunch” solved pretty much every Standards and Practices-approved teenage problem in less than 30 minutes. Yes, there weren’t any pregnancy- or drug-charged episodes. Yes, it could be construed as being less than an accurate portrayal of real life.

It really wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to make you think, and feel good, and realize that all is not wrong in the world.

But today’s fare is pushing the envelope of tragic.

“Teenage Mom,” “Little Honey Boo Boo,” “19 and Counting,” “Fear Factor,” or any other number of shows of this ilk are making a spectacle of the bottom of the barrel of humanity.

Moreover, it’s an example of what happens when you glorify the tragic, and the compounding effect of constant exposure to this kind of fare.

In order to keep the masses in line, Roman emperors put on entertainment — or contests, if you will — of men and women slashing and hacking and killing each other. Kinda kept peoples’ minds off of being hungry and poor and generally miserable.

As time went on, things escalated, and eventually, ended up serving no purpose other than distraction.

If this doesn’t necessarily track, we’ll just go to the videotape. Pick a show: “Survivor” is almost like gladiator games, just without the killing. “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” is a prism of heartbreak and searching for love played out on television over successive nights.

Even the scripted stuff has become a microcosm of the worst of us: “Lucifer” has the devil on Earth; “The Big Bang Theory” is the longest running insult to nerds ever; you can fill in your own blanks with whatever show you currently either hate watch or roll your eyes over.

As a society, when these kinds of things happen, we tend to run to the explanation of freedom of speech, or of expression, or of some aspect of liberty that we’ll defend to the death.

What we don’t do, though, is condemn this stuff loudly or with vigor, and shun it with every fiber of our being.

Terrible, disgusting offerings from television, and movies, and books, and what have you keep getting created and keep getting worse because we keep providing a market for it.

If you take away a market, and instead create a market for more wholesome fare, that’s what we’ll get.

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