One of my children turned the television to a popular children’s program, and a scene soon came on that really disturbed me.
“Yuck,” my 11-year-old said. “That was sick!”
“Yes, it was,” I agreed. I thought about calling the television station and letting 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 really. But this scene seemed particularly inappropriate.
I called the local station and received the telephone number of its national affiliate. After being redirected several times, I finally reached someone who played a part in the program’s production. I explained 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 as I do—that it doesn’t do any good.”
“To tell you the truth,” the man said, “I argued with the writers on that segment, but they insisted we put it in to test the viewers’ responses. 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 thirteenth article of faith came to my mind: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” [A of F 1:13] I realized I could make a difference by becoming more alert and letting my feelings be known not only about entertainment but about my local environment as well.
The first thing I had to do was change my own attitude. I thought of the phrase “Great … except for that one part.” I had heard this phrase numerous times when people were discussing movies and other entertainment. It suggests 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 no one would tolerate contamination of other kinds of products. Would we eat chicken that was “great” except for salmonella? I decided to learn about the contents of movies and television shows before, not after, becoming a consumer. Even then, if I experience a bad feeling, I leave the theater or turn off the television. It has not been easy, but the rewards have been great. I’m better able to feel the Spirit of the Lord because bad images are not clouding my mind.
If something bothers me, I no longer ignore it; I let someone know. Often I don’t know the results of my calls or letters. There have been times, however, when the results were almost immediate.
It bothered me for some time that a grocery store had magazines with offensive covers in full view of everyone in the checkout line. After I returned home one day, I called the manager and explained that I enjoyed shopping at the store, but it offended me that magazines with sexually suggestive covers were in full view of everyone. The next time I shopped there, I was grateful to see that the magazines had been moved to a less conspicuous location.
My experiences have encouraged others to speak up about offensive material. A friend confided that her daughter was embarrassed to wear her dance group’s costumes. Her daughter had even seen members of the audience avert their eyes during her group’s number. I suggested that my friend encourage her daughter to talk to the dance instructor. She did. We were both pleased when the instructor ordered costumes that enhanced rather than detracted from subsequent performances.
It is also important that we speak up when something is positive and uplifting. One night my family and I watched a television program we all enjoyed. 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 we had enjoyed the program. Those who add to the goodness of our society deserve to be thanked.
I’m grateful the Spirit continues to prompt me to reflect on my family’s entertainment choices and to take an active role in making sure the entertainment is in keeping with the spirit of the gospel. I realize now that none of us needs to tolerate anything that makes us feel “sick.” We can make a difference.