Lost Lessons from the 90s

Blog Post No. 522

piercingsnarlingarabianhorse-size_restrictedIt’s no secret that people are angry and have been for years. The culture in North America (and seemingly in other places as well) has been leaning towards an atmosphere of meanness, selfishness, pettiness, greed, and spite. This current decade has no monopoly on those feelings, but in the last few weeks I’ve been watching some television shows from my youth and I’ve noticed that, while television now is generally great, there isn’t the same emphasis on the moral message as there used to be. Plus, with so many ways to watch shows from so many services, there’s no general audience like there was in the days of network dominance.

I often like to point out in these posts that I’m a far from perfect person. It’s especially relevant when I write about basic ideas of good and bad and with topics that are a little judgmental. (Though some people deserve to be judged and if not by the great, at least by the good). I was taught basic morality as a child and my parents always had high expectations for my behavior. I did grow up in a middle class bubble, though, and it has taken years for me to grow enough to learn that I have so much to learn from others.

know-youre-defined-any-one-momentThe most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to others. Hearing someone describe their personal experience with a subject that I formerly thought I knew a lot about is always and eye opener. The best I can do is know that I’m not perfect, accept when I’m wrong, and try to be better. All things that were shown to me during my television obsession in the 80s and 90s. Not just in the special message episodes, either.

It was common for the kids on those shows to see their first discrimination in person and have the teacher or parent explain that discrimination is bad. Every episode would end with the protagonist having learned something or having something they were taught reinforced. Even on a show like Perfect Strangers with two adults, the music would swell and one of them would spell out the message as clearly as possible. And that show was a prime time hit, not just family friendly weeknight padding.

ec53fcc510a563b373f9600a24a32cfdThose old messages may have been cheesy and they may not have been subtle, but maybe they had some significance. It’s hard to not look bad at the past (and your childhood) through tinted glasses, and there was a lot of anger, and greed in the 90s, but people didn’t seem to be so proud of it like they are now. Sadly, people replicate what they’ve been taught and close mindedness is priceless for people out there looking to control others with fear and guilt.

I was lucky to learn not to be mean from my parents, but those lessens were all around me too. Maybe someone with less kind parents had their first tastes of morality from television back then. Maybe not and this whole post was nothing more than the rambling of someone too lazy to do any real research. All I know is that there used to be heavy-handed morals on television and now people are opening bigoted. Maybe it’s the rise of social media that spreads the message and reinforces it? I don’t know. Again, I didn’t do any research for this post. All I know is that being kind, patient, and open minded is good and seeing that in the content that I watch not only feels reassuring, it’s a good reminder to check my narrow perspective every now and again.

giphy-3What does any of this have to do with writing? Besides the universality of storytelling in any medium, I suppose I’m a product of my environment and I hope that in my stories, I’m more thoughtful and inclusive in my busy day-to-day life. Also, it’s a good idea to get multiple perspectives from your beta readers and reviewers, so they can help keep you from missing the big things. Though, with all the 90s television I’ve watched, I hope I don’t miss too much.

2 thoughts on “Lost Lessons from the 90s

  1. Vanessa Shields

    great post, ben. i concur. the husband and i have started watching ‘cheers’…goodness, each episode has both a subtle and overt moral moment, the cast was diverse, and the writers/producers seemed fearless in the themes and morally generated ethical messages they delivered in the show. Plus, the wardrobe and hair…so good!

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