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Volume 4, Number 2
February, 1999

Whatever Happened to Shock Value?

by Craig Hutchison

There use to be something that I like to define as "shock value." What does this term mean? Well, very frankly, there use to be things that would shock the general public. I find this is rarely true anymore.

What can this change be attributed to? I think a number of items can be pointed to. First and foremost is that box most of us have in our homes called a television. I happened to turn it on the other day and caught a show by the name of "Jerry Springer." Up on the stage were a number of people that were suppose to be related to each other in one way or another. Some of the family members had been sleeping with each other, some were screaming at others with profanity-laced tirades, while others were physically pounding their fellow family members with their fists.

What amazed me about this scene, besides the fact that it was going on, was that no one seemed shocked by its occurrence. The audience even seemed to want more. Later in the day, I found out that this show is one of the highest rated on television with millions watching everyday. Obviously, there must be millions of people that are not shocked by this kind of display. I, for one, cannot imagine my parents or grandparents ever watching this kind of show and, yes, they would be shocked and appalled if they saw a second of it.

This is just one example. It seems that most of the programs on television today are filled with violence, sexual situations, and profanity. There use to be a standard that helped people to live on a higher plane. What has happened to us? The same goes for movies. My parents tell me of a time when you did not have to worry about taking your whole family to any movie that was showing. Is this what we have come to as a society, anything goes?

And how about the video games many of our kids play. I saw two kids playing one the other day in which they could maim and torture their opponent. As I watched, I could see and hear the kids as the game heated up and they took great enjoyment out of killing each other.

It is not my intention here to advocate any kind of censure or to say that certain things need to be banned. My point is this: because we have all been bombarded with the kinds of stimuli I mention above, nothing shocks us anymore. You may ask yourself, is this a bad thing? Well, I am not so sure it is a good thing. If our society is to have a quality of life in which we can be proud and one in which we are sensitive to our fellow man, I believe we need to have some things that shock us. What has happened to most of us is that we have become desensitized and that is something that is not good for individuals or society as a whole. Let us all get back to that place where we can be shocked and we might be shocked at how our society changes.
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