If you were a visitor from another country, say a third world country, say one that has a repressed social system in which gender roles are explicitly specified and delineated, where gender equality is unheard of and personal modesty is of utmost importance, where women hide their hair, faces, arms, legs and feet and certain issues say of a highly personal nature are never discussed, mentioned or described in mixed company under threat of punishment or death. Say one such person has come to America for a visit or on a work visa and happens to turn on a TV? There in High definition brilliance half-dressed men and women prance across 50” flat screens openly displaying nearly every conceivable body part and talking brazenly, publicly about diarrhea, bad breath, body odor, rectal cleanliness, vaginal odor, douching, sex, orgasms, menstrual blood, herpes and impotence as they advertise products manufactured to address these problems. What would that individual think? How would they view the culture that created these sinful images?
And if said visitor from another culture managed to survive our commercials and watched a few of our favorite daytime soap operas they would see exquisitely dressed women doing ordinary things, obsessed with attracting, competing for and holding onto a mate, talking endlessly about sex, pregnancy, drugs, weight and money. What would that person think about us? How would they see the society that created these shows and displays them as if they actually reflect the everyday life of the average American?
And if that visitor were able to be revived from the shock of viewing our commercials and daytime TV and lived to see evening TV shows, what would that person think about our endless gun fights, gang violence, domestic violence, murder and our preoccupation with sexual abuse? Crime, police and detective shows are interspersed with reality TV wherein people are filmed competing and struggling to survive in jungles, deserts or islands perhaps environments that are similar to where the visitor lives. Then there are the irreverent late night talkers who mock and joke and smash every icon they can find in order to keep their laughing audience tuning in.
Of course, we try to soften all this bold nakedness by interspersing it with images of adorable puppies, kitties and babies, lizards selling insurance and bears selling toilet paper. The meta-message is, ‘Hey, we’re not so bad. Look we love our babies and our pets. We believe in cleanliness and being insured. How bad could we possibly be?
Perhaps we should try to see ourselves as others see us, to reverse roles long enough to gain some perspective on our own beliefs and values as we live and present them to others. Only then would we have a chance of understanding why certain other countries see the United States of America as a depraved society and we might from that point begin to discuss our differences.