Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Blame Game

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Today on my way into work I heard an article on the news report that made me shake my head. The Article said that Facebook was to blame for 33% of all divorces in the United States and that rate was up from 20% a few years ago.  Say what? I readily disagree with the news article. Facebook is not to blame for the divorce. The bad behavior of the other spouse is to blame. Facebook is merely the vessel by which the other spouse uncovered the truth.
Case in point, there was a 99 year old man who filed for divorce from his 96 year old wife a few days ago. The reason? She cheated on him….60 years ago. The man obviously has strong feelings about it and once he found her secret stash of love-letters to her boyfriend he filed for divorce. Sure, in some cases the truth remains hidden, shrouded in lies and divorce never materializes. However, all Facebook does is allow people to find out the truth much sooner. Had this couple had Facebook back then they probably would have been divorced long ago. Is that Facebook’s fault? No, of course not. It’s the cheating wife’s fault in this case.
If anything, the only thing that Facebook is guilty of is providing people with an easy way to see what’s really going on with people. In the old days people still cheated. In fact, according to some lawyers infidelity has been a leading cause for 25% of all divorces over the last 50 years. That number hasn’t fluctuated much. What has fluctuated is the manner in which the evidence is gathered. Private Investigators to follow your spouse to their illicit rendezvous are no longer needed as Facebook often provides the means, especially when people have it on their phones and they auto-enable features like “check-in”.  Susan Smith is at Motel 6  - with Bob Thompson. …Hmmm…that could be slightly incriminating. But, even if Facebook doesn’t report that transgression, that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening or that the truth won’t come out some other way.
So, if Facebook isn’t to blame, who is? Obviously, it’s the lying, cheating spouses. It kind of makes me stop and wonder how many people lie, and how often. I would say that most people tell small on a regular basis. No, Greg, we’re not having a surprise party for you… or how about the lies to your friends when you tell them that their outfits look good? But these aren’t the lies that I’m talking about. I’m talking about serious lies, giant whoppers of the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” proportions. I mean, everyone knows that politicians, even Presidents like Clinton, lie. They definitely have a reputation for that. But what about everyone else? What about the average Joe?
According to television, lies are far too commonplace. Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of my favorite crime-solving series certainly believes this. He routinely says that “there’s no such thing as coincidence”. He’s not alone either. Famous TV doctor of ill-repute, Gregory House, MD, concurs. He’s often been known to say that “everyone lies, the question is about what”. Can this really be true? I used to think that these viewpoints were the exception and that most people were genuinely honest and forthcoming. However, after one bad divorce from a lying, cheating spouse I have begun to question my view as possibly being somewhat naive.
It popular media is to be believed, lying and cheating are all perfectly normal behaviors that should be embraced and accepted by the American people. When most people tune into a “family TV station” they expect to find shows that support good moral character traits; honesty, compassion, chivalry, etc. However, ABC family seems to have taken a much different approach to family TV.
They have one show called Pretty Little Liars. This show features four pretty teenage girls who are united in their lie. The show makes light of the lying behavior and portrays it as the hip thing to do. Rather than come clean about their actions, they tell more lies to cover up the other lies. Here’s an excerpt from the show’s website:
Rosewood is a perfect little town. So quiet and pristine, you'd never guess it holds so many secrets. Some of the ugliest ones belong to the prettiest girls in town -- Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily, four estranged friends whose darkest secrets are about to unravel. One year ago, Alison, the Queen Bee of their group, disappeared and the girls swore they'd never tell what really happened that night. They thought their secrets would bond them together, but just the opposite is true. Then again, who's to say what the truth is in Rosewood. It seems everyone in town is lying about something. Now, as the mystery surrounding Alison's disappearance resurfaces, the girls begin getting messages from "A," saying – and threatening – things only Alison would know. But it couldn't be Alison. Could it? Whoever it is, they seem to know all the girls' secrets, and seem to be watching their every move. The girls are friends again, but will they be there for each other if their dark secrets come to light?
But that’s not all. Literally, right after that show there’s another show called the Lying Game. Really, ABC Family? As if one full of hour of making lying seem fun, exciting and hip wasn’t enough, they put their audiences right through another hour of the same rhetoric. Here’s the description of this show:
Inspired by the Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars) book series of the same name, The Lying Game follows long-lost twins Emma and Sutton. Separated under mysterious circumstances, Sutton was adopted by the wealthy Mercer family in Phoenix, while Emma grew up in the foster system. When the twins reunite as teenagers, they keep it a secret. While Sutton goes in search of the truth, Emma takes over her life and discovers more secrets and lies than she could have imagined.It's a season of secrets, seduction and life-and-death stakes as the twins continue to expose the skeletons in their family closet. Emma and Ethan's love is stronger than ever, but their relationship is tested by questionable motives and accusations. With Sutton's disappeance, Emma and Ethan don't know whether Sutton is missing or dead. Meanwhile, Char's aunt Annie has returned to town after many years, bringing back old memories and secrets that Alec and Ted would like to keep in the past.
And then let’s not forget about Secret Life of the American Teenager. One more show spouting the same rhetoric as the others.
The teens at Grant High are living life in the fast lane. Between their love triangles, secrets, drama, accusations, gossip, confusion, and scandalous rumors, there's never a dull moment. The he-said, she-said gets intense! Their parents' lives are just as complicated. From paternity questions to happy reunions and unexpected romances (past and present), there's always something going on. You can't stop watching, because you've just gotta know what'll happen next.
I mean, sure, everyone knows that an espionage thriller is full of lies. But those lies are sold under the guise of national security, life and death, King and Country, millions of people will die if we tell the truth kinds of lies. And, from a pragmatic viewpoint I understand the need for those lies. Oh, what’s that you say Mr. Terrorist? You’d like to know the exact position of our US troops? Sure. Here you go…  There’s certain information that you just shouldn’t divulge.
My problem with these shows is that there’s no underlying justification for these lies other than they’re fun, or they keep people from facing the consequences of their actions. Is this really the message that we want to be sending to our youth?  And yes, I can hear the critics now;  well, if you don’t like the shows then find something else to watch. I get that, but that’s not my point. I make it a point not to watch the shows in question.
My point is the fact that these show even exist in the first place. In the last 60 years TV has gone from Leave it to Beaver, I love Lucy, Dragnet and Perry Mason to shows about lying, cheating, murder and theft. I understand that society has changed drastically over the last 50 years too and that TV has naturally changed along with it. However, I think that as a society and a culture we need to stop playing games and passing the blame and take accountability for our collective actions. Lying is not fun, and being lied to is even worse. If we want people to stop lying as a behavior, then we need to stop idolizing it with TV and other media. But, I do realize that there’s always the possibility that I’m becoming somewhat cynical too.


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