The Moral-Entertainment Divide

The entertainment industry is constantly under scrutiny―whether it is the sex and violence in movies, the language in music, or the focus of video games. As entertainment becomes more progressive, those who are vocal against that progression try to speak up louder to drown out the noise. For them, it is a seemingly winless battle, though as there are few if any instances in which moral disagreement has had a significant impact on the way the industry operates.

Music

Music has long since settled into a groove in which essentially anything is okay. The result is, a music industry that does not provide nearly as much objectionable and public material as it once did. There was one point in the early 1990s, when it seemed like every day had another music artist’s name in the papers alongside that of an angry senator. While albums are still marked with the Parental Advisory stickers that were introduced in those early days of moral objection, the bounds are essentially gone.

Access to music is as free and prevalent as ever, with services like iTunes and MySpace making it nearly impossible to filter out the unwanted noise anymore, and so, for the most part, the watchdog groups have stopped. It’s an interesting result, and has only occurred in the music industry.

Movies

Film has always been subject to scrutiny. After all, it features graphic images of violence and sexuality that can be offensive for a number of demographics, from children to adults and everyone in between. And while violence and sex have essentially wormed their way into mainstream acceptance, there are still plenty of topics that can bring about an uproar in certain communities.

Consider the recent uprisings in religious groups over what they feel is morally objectionable material such, the most recent example of which is The Golden Compass. The film is based on a series of books that depicts a fractured sector of society acting as a metaphor for the author’s vision of the Church. This sect kidnaps and experiments on children, forcing them to stand up and fight back. The result is a series of books that teaches an alternate view of religion, one in which it is not as cut and dry as organized dogma would have you believe. It is a strictly agnostic approach and one that the Church finds offensive.

Similar to their response to The DaVinci Code in 2006, the Catholic League―with its 350,000 members―has decided to boycott the film in the hopes of convincing other Christians to ignore it. The result is a wash of publicity and controversy over a film which is not supposed to be that good.

It is interesting that the current state of moral ethics provides ample space for protest against films that breach religious and racial boundaries (The Passion of the Christ is a good example), but the long time proliferation of sex and violence that has recently seeped into even the most innocent of children’s films and television programs continues.

Video Games

By far the biggest source of discussion and controversy in recent years in regards to moral obligations is the video game industry. Today, the ESRB rates and labels video games between E (for everyone) and AO (adult only). The rating system is effective in telling parents what their children will be facing in a video game. However, the ESRB is a self-regulatory board run and operated by the gaming companies, which has caused many senators and ethics pounding lawyers to grow even more upset at games like Grand Theft Auto, or the most recent maelstrom in Manhunt 2.

Most recently, senators have called for an overhaul of this system for a particular instance in which Manhunt 2, which originally received an AO rating for its violent portrayal of murder, was rerated with an M rating for Mature. No game console will currently support an AO game, meaning that for Manhunt 2 to be released, it needed to be edited and rerated. However, there has now been additional controversy over the leniency with which the ESRB rerated the game.

For the Nintendo Wii edition in particular, which allows players to act out the specific violent techniques with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, senators are concerned as psychologists have come forward citing the damage this can do to a child’s mind.

While video games have continued pushing the same boundaries of sex and violence as films, they have a slightly different hurdle to overcome. Because they are traditionally considered for children, and because acts are specifically handled by manipulating an on-screen character, they pose a more substantial threat for some individuals to the child’s mind. Regardless of how much they might grow or change, they will always be scrutinized for what they allow you to do.

The moral dilemma that strikes any entertainment medium will continue to strike as long as popular media is available to the masses. While music and film have become more accepted over time, the video game and eventually Internet mediums will probably continue to spark controversy, both in the media and in government.

Computer Illiterates―The New Lepers

We’ve all heard the jokes. The funniest seem to be about those who are computer illiterate to the nth degree, such as the woman who used her mouse like a sewing machine peddle and couldn’t figure out why the computer wouldn’t go; or when the tech asked the customer what kind of computer he had, the customer replied, “a white one.”

These are not people to be shunned. Made fun of, perhaps, but not shunned. We all have things about which we are ignorant. For example, if I were stranded in deep space and the only way home was to repair the heavily damaged Flux Capacitor Model XL960, I’d be in pretty big trouble. Luckily, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

Many people who haven’t had the opportunity to work with computers feel inferior―or worse―stupid. That’s unfair. At parties the illiterates are forced to talk to the stone deaf grandfather or pretend to have a deep fascination for finger foods to avoid admitting their lack of knowledge or to be left out of the latest techno buzz. In order to remedy this growing social stigma, computer user wannabes need look no further than the local newspaper or phone book. Schools, organizations, local governments, and community centers nationwide offer low cost or free computer classes for beginners. The participants range greatly in age, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Another option, if you’re up for it, is to take an introductory course online. There are hundreds, if not thousands, offered by distance learning programs and websites such as www.learnthat.com. They’re also easy to find. A third option is to visit websites such as www.newuserhelp.com to arm yourself with basic terminology before you venture forth.

There is also a faction of frauds who claim to know little to nothing about their computers and will take any opportunity to seek help from anyone stupid enough to take pity on them. Beware―they aren’t as illiterate as they seem; they’re just lazy. Take my former boss. (Please.) We both had computer training at the same time, a hundred years ago. We learned the same things in the same class. He understood it and was able to perform the functions, including a novel new thing called the Internet. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s true that I have a lot more hands-on experience via graphics programs and my insatiable need to e-mail. But somewhere along the way, all the information we’d learned in that class was sucked out of my boss’ head and ended up God knows where. I suspect that it’s somewhere in Iowa.

Over the next decade, I was called upon to help the boss perform the most basic routine functions. I had to re-teach him how to perform various tasks such as how to send e-mail; how to open Word; and how to send attachments. Every day. In his defense, he did have a great deal of responsibility and things to think about―such as how to make my life completely and utterly miserable or what was on sale at Cabela’s.

On the other hand, there are those who think of computer illiterates as the new lepers. The newbies are relegated to a pitiable class lower than TV evangelists. They are to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, a great number of these sadistic techno-snobs work in tech support. The haughtiness of nearly every tech person I’ve ever encountered is enough to make me want to stick sporks in my eyes before actually picking up the phone to ask for help. I’m pretty computer savvy but every time I call, I get the same treatment as a kindergartner who asks his father how the teacher had babies.

One of the most frustrating things to a less-than-savvy computer user in need is to get stuck with someone on the phone who cannot, even for one second, vary from his written script. In one instance, I had to call the tech support center of a very well-known international company. Before the well-experienced tech could grill me on what was wrong or what I’d done, I laid out the entire scenario, including the ten steps I took to determine and solve the problem. He didn’t hear a word. Instead, he insisted on taking me through each step in order to determine the problem. At first I interrupted him and explained, patiently, that I’d already done that step, as well as the other nine steps to follow. Interrupting a tech person is not a good idea. He started from the top of the script and asked me to follow the prescribed steps to determine my problem. He did this THREE TIMES. It was a little frustrating. Oh, and in case you think you have the solution to your frustration, you can forget about ever talking to a supervisor. I don’t think they exist.

Not so long ago, I actually called a repair company regarding a tech that had to come out to my house to replace a modem that had been struck by lightning. (It really does happen.) The tech arrived exactly on time and within 5 minutes, had dismantled my computer, replaced the modem, and had the computer put together. I was astonished. A tech person who knew what he was doing AND was nice? I took down his name and made a call to his boss, giving high praise to the tech’s efficiency, manner, and know-how. I bet he got fired.