So says a recent article. Duh.
But the Man Bites Dog aspect of this story is that it is a liberal who is admitting it, and he has powerful examples. His essay is ostensibly about politics, but it is really about culture: a culture of virtue and family which entertains itself with stories that preach the breaking of homes and the glory of sin. That culture finds itself more and more in the embrace of broken homes and sin, and less what it was.
Here is one example from the essay:
Several years ago, a trio of researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank set out to help solve a sociological mystery. Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. What made the drop so curious is that, unlike the Draconian one-child policy in China, the Brazilian government had in place no policy to limit family size. (It was actually illegal at some point to advertise contraceptives in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.) What could explain such a steep drop? The researchers zeroed in on one factor: television.
Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it didn’t arrive everywhere at once in the sprawling country. Brazil’s main station, Globo, expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to Globo saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t (controlling, of course, for other factors that could affect fertility). It was not any kind of news or educational programming that caused this fertility drop but exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night. The paper also found that areas with exposure to television were dramatically more likely to give their children names shared by novela characters.
Novelas almost always center around four or five families, each of which is usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. Exposure to this glamorized and unusual (especially by Brazilian standards) family arrangement “led to significantly lower fertility”—an effect equal in impact to adding two years of schooling.
I am convinced that most LDS homes know that watching gore and sex for entertainment is a bad idea, though would God that more of them acted on what they knew. But far too many Mormon families spend more time soaking in enemy propaganda then they do with the word of the Lord. They mistakenly believe that listening to the Devil weave yarns does no real harm as long as he keeps his pants on and doesn’t actually show you what he does to kittens.
The problem is that it is very hard to screen your children’s entertainment. It takes too long and it has a dangerous tendency to call in question your own entertainment. But the only alternative is to be some kind of cranky radical who doesn’t watch television and movies, like some kind of Amish or something, and surely that’s too much to ask for the Kingdom’s sake.
One rough compromise is to mainly watch older movies. They have propaganda and questionable messages, but they are the propaganda of another age, orthogonal to that of our own, or several miles back in the road to decline, and therefore much less harmful. Another is to watch classics. Even modern portrayals of classic books or plays will have some of the depth of the original. And even if the values or message of the original isn’t wholly what a parent would wish, that the original has depth means that it isn’t propaganda; its message serves more as an occasion to ponder what is right than to hypnotize you into what is wrong.