“The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.”
1. TV becomes the primary medium of the 20th Century for distributing information. It literally brings the entire world into any home almost instantaneously. And with it comes a load of social changes. It even affects how writers write and how we evaluate writing. The accepted, ‘good’ writing style now is short and scene-driven. And the visual aspects are of the utmost importance. With video, the lesson of “Show, don’t tell!” is unavoidable.
The sitcom is born, and in almost all circumstances is an attempt to reflect the audience through the lens of comedy. The medium is the message and the viewer is the content. (MacLuhan)
2. Despite all the evidence that demonstrates just how little we learn if we only hear something or read something, the sermon and the sacred text continue to be the main tools associated with religious instruction.
Strangely enough, ‘shopping for a good service’ has become the norm for North American families. People try out different denominations, different religions even, until they find something entertaining (“Oh the minister was fired up today!”) or something that gives them what they want (“I loved the singing!” or “The Prosperity Gospel speaks to me like no other!”)
3. Homer Simpson is declared a Catholic by the Vatican. The longest-running primetime TV show has almost always shown the Simpson family attending a “Presbylutheran” church, not a Catholic cathedral. And yet for some reason the Vatican wishes to claim association with and ownership over Homer’s soul. Why is that?
Ok, often enough the plot of an episode of the Simpsons involves Homer doing something selfish, stupid or half-baked. When things go from bad to worse, he admits to his idiocy, often enough publicly or maybe just to his confessor Marge. He usually appears sheepish, even shameful, completely dependent and more or less repentant. Ok, maybe pseudo-repentant. But what’s the difference in a sitcom? And, as if by some miracle, he is shown forgiveness. His family, his friends, even his work, forgive him and embrace him back into the fold. Why doesn’t Marge ever really leave him?
The sitcom may very well do more for encouraging morality because it shows stories and people that the audience will relate to immediately. It does not tell people how they should act, but instead shows them how they are. In a sense, the sitcom shows the viewer to himself or herself in a context or situation and then shows the consequences of the actions in that situation.
- But this doesn’t mean we are better people now – we laugh at a lot together, but it is often enough about meaningless, absurd stuff
Maybe so, but we seem to recognize the idiots in ourselves more. We are able to laugh at ourselves more and thus maybe even admit when we are wrong.
- Television is no longer the primary medium. The sitcom may not last as long as religion
Ah. Yes. Instead we have internet, and we have viral videos. So all the more we are pulled together by the mundane and the absurd. Maybe we aren’t that deep of a species after all. But then again, maybe morality doesn’t need to be that deep either. It is not an academic exercise. That’s the most ridiculous part. Homer doesn’t think his way out of his idiocy.
It is about how well we live our lives.
- [please add your thoughts or consequences here...]