Sunday, June 20, 2004

Honesty and the sitcom mentality

This subject came up at my Bible study on Tuesday: Do sitcoms today glamorize dishonesty? Does this affect the honesty of people who grow up watching them?

The question may be a bit too simplistic. Overall, I think I'd blame moral relativism as the source, and sitcoms as just a vehicle by which popular media helps to disseminate a really bad idea. But it is hard to deny that sitcoms seem to glorify that kind of behavior. The sitcoms I grew up with were shows like Family Ties, The Cosby Show, and Full House. These shows generally featured the cute kid, the rambunctious teenager, and the responsible adult, and numerous variations thereof. Humor more often came from the kids' cuteness and naivete than anything else. When there was lying involved, it was always the kids, they would always be found out, and always learn that lying was wrong. Important life lessons were a staple of the genre.

In edgy modern sitcoms, the humor comes more from misunderstanding and deceit than anything else. Hiding a romantic (meaning sexual) relationship, and the lies that entails, or faking a British accent to get a job, are certainly funny to watch, but if the lying does finally catch up to the culprit in these shows, and that's a huge if, it's generally swept under the rug and trivialized--no criminal charges, barely any hurt feelings, at most some embarrassment. Not exactly life lessons here.

This is of course a massive generalization. There have always been adult sitcoms and family sitcoms on television. Am I just comparing the family sitcoms I used to watch with the adult sitcoms I watch now? Or are adult sitcoms just more common now? Has the adult humor and mindset gradually edged into even the family sitcoms? Any thoughts?

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