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Monday, March 30, 2015

The "Evolution" of Television Over 50 years

Television has changed in many ways over the past 50 years.  The physical TV set itself has gone from a cumbersome heavy glass tube to the thin streamlined monitors we have today.  The clarity of the picture has increased greatly as has the size of the television screens themselves.  In addition TV has gone from having only a few commercial channels and networks to watch, to now having numerous options.

Along with those technological changes has come a change in the content of what is shown on television.  In the early 1960s the content of television in these United States of America was limited to a depiction of the lifestyles of primarily Caucasians.  Color TV was available but the color of the people shown on television was definitely monotone.

As an African American boy, I recall watching such television shows as "Andy Griffith", "Petticoat Junction", "Green Acres" and "The Beverly Hillbillies".  These were entertaining shows, but there was a glaring lack of African American actors and actresses on these shows.  Most of commercial TV did not feature any African Americans to include commercials.  We simply did not exist in the minds of television executives.  It was not important to television executives that African Americans or other minorities were unable to see their existence confirmed through having their image reflected on television.  It was a white world and television existed to confirm who was in charge.

The content of the shows reflected a more conservative United States.  Married couples did not sleep in the same bed.  Any mention of "gay" lifestyles was inferred rather than visually depicted.  An intermingling of races on television was not shown.  Violence was shown on television but it was less graphic and much less gory than it is depicted today on television.  Profanity was not allowed.  Censors existed to protect viewers from immoral words and racy visual scenes.

The latter part of the 1960s saw African Americans getting increased exposure on television.  The Vietnam War, assassination of our leaders, the drug culture, and changing values brought on a different tone to television shows.  Each decade since the 1960's continued with the implementation of different themes and content of television shows.  The mini series was prevalent in the 1970s with one being "Roots" a depiction of how one African American family started from slavery.  Television networks finally aired shows starring African Americans in roles about African Americans.

Fast forward to 2015.  This year there are many television shows that visually show sexual relationships of gay characters.  What would have been impossible to show on public television in the 1960s is now a common place event.  The depiction of the gay relationships takes a little getting used to.  I am struck with the view that these relationships are being pushed out onto the viewer as being the new norm.  As an African American male I have noticed that scenes with gay couples are more prevalent that scenes with African American males, or African American "straight" couples.  So, I wonder what is the message being directed at the viewers by showing more gay relationships?

One thing is still consistent from television of the 1960's.  We always have the right to change the channel or turn off the television set to do something constructive.  That is what  I choose to do more of these days rather than having images bombarded at me that I don't want to see.