by Heather Horrocks
Several conferences ago, Pres. Hinckley said it was time to put filters on our television sets, and he said it just in time. Clicking through channels awhile back, I noticed with dismay that Sex and the City, a sleazy HBO show I thought was contained on cable (which I don’t have) and never wanted to watch or to have my children watch, had oozed onto our regular television screen. And I just learned that what will be crossing over in a couple of years is even uglier. The filth is growing exponentially. It truly is time for filters.
He also told us it was time to stand up with the good people of the earth. So that’s what I’m doing today. Be forewarned that there is one explicit word, used three times below, describing what is headed toward your television screens because it is already on HBO. I was appalled at both the level of filth HBO is spewing and also the response to it in the local newspaper. The word is offensive, the newspaper's response both offensive and condescending, and the implications horrendous.
In his column in the Salt Lake Tribune dated September 7, 2007, reviewer Vince Horiuchi extols the virtues of the latest HBO ‘provocative drama’ in which he states that ‘one actor masturbates another in an unsimulated sex act – a first for television.’ He seemed proud of the fact that it was a first, but it terrifies me. Unsimulated. It took me a moment to realize what that word implied. Let’s see. Simulated is faked so unsimulated would be unfaked or . . . real. This show is currently on cable television. And we’ve already learned that anything on HBO can slither its way onto regular television stations after a few years, so this unsimulated sex act will undoubtedly move to regular television soon.
Then Mr. Horiuchi had the gall to state that this unsimulated sex act wasn’t pornography, but, instead, the "opposite of pornography."
Incensed, I sent a letter to the editor of my local newspaper (they didn’t have the guts to print it). As I want others to become aware of our need to stand up now, I’m going to include the letter here, as part of my blog, along with suggestions for simple steps we can all take that will make a huge difference.
Okay, here’s my letter to the editor (the next five paragraphs):
I’m always on the lookout for media that is the ‘opposite of pornography’ for my family –– and now Vince Horiuchi, reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, has kindly pointed the way. Apparently, I just need to let my family watch HBO’s new ‘provocative’ drama Tell Me You Love Me. Yup, the opposite of pornography for me and my family. We’ll just turn on the set and watch –– an unsimulated sex act in which one actor masturbates another?!?!? Turn off the set, Junior!
Amazing. A generation ago, ‘opposite-of-pornography’ television viewing included the likes of Gunsmoke and Perry Mason (and everyone and their grandmothers understood precisely what constituted pornography); today, HBO would have Festus masturbating the marshall. Please, Mr. Horiuchi, do not condescend to me because I do not choose to watch your version of the ‘opposite of pornography.’
I find it disturbing, on so many levels, that HBO continues to push the limits of graphic sex on television, in opposition to what used to be accepted standards of sexual morality, especially as HBO’s smut seems to slither its way onto the regular channels after a few years. So prepare yourselves, even if you don’t have cable, because the ‘opposite of pornography’ will be showing up on your regular television channels within a few short years.
And thank you again, Mr. Horiuchi, for showing me how very prudish I am (inferred from reading your column). I recently re-read George Orwell’s 1984 and found your command of doublespeak prodigious (opposite of pornography, indeed). Perhaps the newspaper could spring for a thesaurus for your use; contrary to your rationalization, the opposite of pornography isn’t "unsimulated sex act," after all, but, rather, "morality."
While I realize that you, Mr. Horiuchi, do not determine programming on HBO, your attitude is perhaps most offensive of all: "This absorbing domestic drama is as comfortable with the subject of sex as everyone should be." Doublespeak and condescension in one column. I prefer, Mr. Horiuchi, that you not ‘should’ on either me or my standards. I’ve grown weary of having my standards denigrated in the media, in general, and thus my being labeled a ‘prude’ because I don’t care to sit around watching what our grandmothers would have had no problem identifying as pornography. I used to enjoy reading your column, but now I’ll choose to read elsewhere to find someone who isn’t so willing to flaunt their standards at the expense of my own. I may have to subscribe to another newspaper to find what I'm looking for: a paper that has both a thesaurus and a reviewer who knows what the "opposite" of pornography truly means. (End of letter.)
So, though the focus in my blogs is usually going for your dream and/or writing and/or life in general, today it’s on activism and standing up for what you believe. If you believe as I do, perhaps you’ll want to take one of the steps I suggest below (or one of your own).
Perhaps you could call the Salt Lake Tribune’s Reader Advocate, who accepts complaints, at (801) 257-8782 and let them know how disappointed you are with Mr. Horiuchi’s column (and attitude). Or call Mr. Horiuchi directly at (801) 257-8607 and tell him yourself.
Though HBO does not list their phone number on either their website or with toll-free directory assistance, I did find two email addresses: the new CEO of HBO might want to know our feelings (mailto:(email@example.com) and the general email address is (http://www.hbo.com/apps/submitinfo/contactus/submit.door). If you feel so inclined, tell them you’re aware of their smut and, in the future, will work toward keeping it off the air.
Perhaps it’s even time to let your legislators know of your displeasure with the ever-increasing sleaze. You might be surprised at how easy it is to find their phone numbers (I know I was–these sites even list their home phone numbers). You can find your senator at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and your congressman at http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ I’m thinking a nice polite phone call to inform them that we expect them to support standards of decency in television–both regular and cable–might be in order. We are, after all, voters.
You can go online and sign up for newsletters from groups of people who are already watching the airwaves, are appalled at what they’re finding, and are speaking out and taking action. One that I’m aware of is the American Family Association (http://www.afa.net/). Their website says they have over 3 million people subscribed to their newsletter, so when they send out a notice calling for action about something particularly offensive, say a corporation’s sexually charged ads, often there are enough responses that AFA will report back later that the companies pulled those offensive ads. I’m sure there are other groups doing similar things; let’s start watching for them. Let’s stay informed and take action. I like AFA because many times all I need to do to take action is send an email and the text has already been provided (though I can change it if I want) and the links and/or phone numbers to any corporations/legislators needing to be contacted will be provided. They make it easy to get involved.
So . . . where do we buy these filters that President Hinckley said we need to put on our TVs? And how do we use them? A program called TV Guardian mutes the profanity, but is restricted in that it can’t take out offensive visuals. The networks hype the V_Chip (mainly because it allows them to keep broadcasting smut and say it’s the parent’s responsibility to keep it from their children) and the folks at http://www.fcc.gov/vchip/ say that the law provides that "All [television] sets 13 inches or larger manufactured after January 1, 2000 must have V-Chip technology. Set top boxes that allow consumers to use V-Chip technology on their existing sets are now available." (I was unable to find any set top boxes on the internet so I’m not sure how available they really are.) If our TVs most likely already have V_Chip technology, why are most of us not using it? Because, as with anything electronic, most of us would have to get our children or grandchildren to set it up for us (and I’m guessing they could then bypass the system if they wanted to). And, as another informative website (found at http://www.slate.com/id/2095396/) put it: "Since the system does not rate news or live sports, the filter has loopholes large enough for Janet [Jackson]'s breast to slip through." Apparently Janet’s breast was just the tip of the iceberg on the smut to be pushed through onto our television screens.
The rating system used in conjunction with the V_Chip has ‘TV Parental Guidelines’ somewhat similar to movie rating. Equivalent to a movie’s G_rating are TV-Y (young children, no sex or violence), TV-7 (kids seven and up), and TV-G (General Audience, little objectionable). Equivalent to a PG is TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested, contains material parents may find unsuitable for younger children.) Block out the nearly R_rated TV_14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned, not for children under 14). And for those of you would want an X rating (that’s sarcasm, in case you can’t tell), watch for the TV-MA rating, for Mature Audiences Only. (Tell me--why is it considered mature to watch X / NC-17 rated programs? Wouldn’t it be more truthful to label them for Extremely Immature and Lascivious Audiences?)
I’m not really sure what steps to take in my stand – but I’m going to find out. Because it truly is time to stand up for what we believe, to stand with the good people of the earth, to stand up for truth and light rather than someone’s twisted, perverted version of it. It reminds me of the scripture that says in the last days good shall be called evil and evil shall be called good. These shows are evil, but yet are portrayed as enlightened and trendy and (my favorite) ‘edgy,’ and anyone who objects to them is a prude who ‘should’ just be more comfortable with sex.
I’m tired of being made out to be wrong. And I’m tired of being part of the silent majority. Let’s stand up and start making some noise. Let’s start being the squeaky wheel for a change. Let’s create some changes for the good. Let’s be part of what people later say was a call for decency that Congress and the Senate couldn't ignore, a call they had to sit back and take notice of, a acll they had to respond to because it swelled into a roar. Let’s truly stand up for what we believe, alongside the other good people of the earth. Let’s speak up for truth and light. Let the roaring begin.