In a previous post, I claimed that we as a nation are experiencing an invasion of jerks. I also promised to give my opinion about where these misfits are coming from. Here goes…
My short answer is popular media – TV, movies, music, advertising.
Whether you agree with me or not will depend in large part on whether you believe society follows popular media or whether the reverse is true. It’s like the old “life imitates art” thing, but it would be a stretch to call any of this dreck “art”.
Can there possibly be any question that a large percentage of people blindly follow what they see in those media channels? After Tom Cruise wore Ray-Bans in “Risky Business”, everyone wore them. Some hip-hop flash-in-the-pan wears his hat sideways, every kid in town turns his hat sideways. Then there are commercials. I’ve beat that horse before.
Today, the media is filled with jerks. Look at TV. It seems as if most shows are populated entirely with jerks: The Office, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and all the way back to Seinfeld and the Simpsons. Comedy or drama, it doesn’t matter. Even the pseudo-reality shows specialize in antisocial (even psychotic) characters. The scumbags are crawling all over the tube. You can count the number of redeeming characters in the average program on one finger. And you might have a finger left over.
Oh, these folks are bright (sometimes), good-looking (nearly always), cool (gotta be), and driven (unfortunately) but they’re horrible human beings. They’re jerks.
When we choose the friends we want to hang out with, we’re more discriminating. Why are we so quick to hang out with jerks on TV?
Then there are the commercials. Is it just me or does every company have jerks endorsing their products? People who are willing to sacrifice their most intimate relationships for a beer they can buy at the packy down the street. Or those who appear ready to execute family members if they put a thumbprint on their precious BMW, Lexus, or other overpriced car. Watch ads with a critical eye and you’ll see the same phenomenon.
Admittedly, there have always been jerks on TV. There were always a few jerks to spice up the mix: Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore, Frank Burns on M*A*S*H*, and the prototype for all subsequent jerks, Archie Bunker. But most of the other characters on those shows were relatively normal, their light and dark sides revealed in various situations.
Now it’s all nasty, all the time. (I shudder to think what Gilligan’s Island would be like if it was produced today.) Think Sesame Street with nothing but Grouches.
Being bombarded with all those negative images has to have a detrimental effect on the populace. Drive around town and you’ll see it. Everyone trying to be a Soprano or a Son of Anarchy.
Maybe I’m just getting old…