One of my children turned on the television to a popular children’s program when a scene came on that really disturbed me.
“Yuck,” my 11-year-old said. “That was sick!”
“Yes, it was,” I agreed. I thought I should call the television station and let them know how we felt. If I said something, would it really make a difference?
I wondered. So many popular shows include material that is inappropriate for children—for anyone. And I felt this scene was particularly inappropriate.
I called the local station and received the telephone number of its affiliate in California. After being redirected several times, I finally reached someone who played a part in the program’s production. I explained to him how offended I was and what my child’s reaction had been. I said, “If others haven’t called, it may be that they feel like I do—that it doesn’t do any good.”
“To tell you the truth,” the man said, “I argued with the writers on the segment you’re talking about, but they insisted we put it in to ‘test the waters.’ I was sure a lot of people would feel as you do, but few people call or write. Tell your friends and neighbors to let us know!”
After I hung up, the 13th article of faith came to my mind: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I realized I could make a difference by becoming more alert to my surroundings and letting my feelings be known not only when it came to entertainment but when it came to my local environment as well.
I knew the first thing I needed to do was change my own attitude. The phrase “Great … except for that one part” came into my mind. I had heard this phrase numerous times when people were discussing movies and other entertainment. The phrase seems to suggest we can overlook the bad parts if the overall product is good. I have noticed, however, that more and more “sick” parts are being slipped into otherwise good material. Yet when it comes to other kinds of products, such as food, no one would tolerate contamination. Would we eat chicken that was “great” except for salmonella? I decided I needed to find out the contents of movies and television shows before, not after, I became a consumer. Even now, if I experience a bad feeling, I leave the theater or turn off the television. It has not been easy, but I’ve noticed that it’s easier to feel the Spirit of the Lord when bad images are not clouding my mind.
If something bothers me, I no longer ignore it. I feel it’s important to let someone know. Most often I don’t know the results of my calls or letters. There have been times, however, when the results are more immediate. It bothered me for some time that one of the grocery stores where I shopped placed magazines with offensive covers in full view of everyone who came through the checkout line. After I returned home one day, I called the manager and explained that I enjoyed shopping at the store, but it bothered me that magazines with sexually suggestive covers were placed in full view of everyone. The next time I shopped there, it was gratifying to see that the magazines had been moved to a less-conspicuous place.
I have been able to encourage friends to speak up when they are bothered by offensive material. A friend who was sitting by me at a dance program complained that her daughter was embarrassed to wear the required costumes. Her daughter had told her that she had seen members of the audience avert their eyes during her group’s number. I suggested to my friend that she encourage her daughter to tell the dance instructor how she felt. She did. We were both pleased when the instructor ordered new costumes that enhanced rather than detracted from the girls’ subsequent performances.
It’s gratifying when my comments can be positive. It is also important that people know when something is wonderful. One night my family and I watched a television program that we all enjoyed. While talking afterwards, we realized there hadn’t been anything in the show that made us feel uncomfortable. I wrote to the producers of the show and told them how much I had enjoyed the program. I feel those who try to add to the high quality or goodness of our society deserve to be thanked.
Although I am still making progress, I’m grateful that the Spirit prompted me to call the producer, to reflect on my own entertainment choices, and to recognize I can make a difference. I realize now that none of us needs to tolerate anything that makes us feel “sick.” It feels good that I am making personal changes that help me feel closer to the Spirit and that I am doing my part to contribute to a healthier, more wholesome environment.