Viewer Discretion Advised: The Slow Death of Self-Responsibility

At some point in the last century, everything that happens to us became the other guy’s fault. We sue McDonald’s because the coffee we ordered was hot. We sue the victims of our breaking-and-entering because we fall through their skylight and get hurt while trying to rob them blind.

Here. Weird Al says it better. I’ll just let him do it.

We all know those stories, and quite frankly lawsuits like this and the increasingly litigious nature of our culture are a huge part of the downfall of our society. Instead of taking responsibility for our actions, we blame the other guy even if it was clearly our fault. Instead of resolving our issues with each other like “civilized” human beings, or better yet HONORABLE MEN, we decide to let the courts handle our problems for us.

It’s embarrassing.

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to be sued.

But all this blaming the other guy is a symptom of something far more terrifying:

The complete abandoning of the concept of SELF-RESPONSIBILITY.

And while our litigious culture is a huge problem and huge example of this, I think a far more subtle, terrifying, and telling example is our apparent need to be told before watching a potentially disturbing or mature-oriented television show that “Viewer Discretion Is Advised”.

That’s right. Our society has fallen so far in the self-responsibility category that we now need to be TOLD to exercise discretion in our viewing habits. Apparently we no longer think about what we put before our eyes and ears or into our bodies.

Like my friend Terrance.

Terrance is a decent guy. Known him for years. Holds down a job. Can’t hold down a relationship (we have this in common). Maybe a little bit lazier than me. But he’s a sensitive soul. In high school, he was the poor guy that fainted during the frog dissection. He’s never been comfortable with language (saw him blush when his mother said “damn” once). And when it comes to violence, he’s really the ultimate “can’t we just get along” guy (it’s a miracle we’re friends, I tell you).

But for some reason, Terrance seems to be THE person that the “Viewer Discretion is Advised” warning was created for. He’s always watching episodes of “House” or “Fringe” or random medical examiner shows (that he’s seen before), and then freaking out when they pull out a needle or shoot someone or start an autopsy (which of course should NEVER happen on a show about medical examiners).

This is terrifying! When did we start needing to be told to use DISCRETION? It’s really simple, Terrance! I’ll teach you how to do it. AGAIN. Here it goes. You ready? Don’t blink now.

“Hmm. I really hate seeing images of dead bodies and needles going into arms and vital organs being extracted from the human body. Should I watch “CSI” or “House” tonight? Probably not.”

WHEW! That was hard.

“Oh my god, is that a needle!?!?!”
“It’s a medical show, you boob.”

I am not alone here. That’s the frustrating thing. A good chunk of us (probably most of you people reading) do NOT need to be told that drinking that seventeenth shot and then driving home isn’t a good idea (don’t worry, Terrance isn’t THAT guy). But our society as a whole has fallen a long way.

…because we now need to be told such things.

So, what do we do? First step, teach our kids, for crying out loud. The reason Terrance needs to be told to use discretion is his “whatever goes” Hippie parents didn’t tell him when such wisdom would actually stick. We need to remedy that. Teach your kids how to use the simple, everyday common sense that seems to evade so many like Terrance. We are given tools, like the TV and movie ratings system (which for the most part are pretty good) to help us use discretion, but Terrance is just one of many who ignores them. Don’t ignore them. Use them.

…and parents need to be told to actually BE parents.

Second, send a message to Hollywood. The sad fact is this: H’wood thinks YOU are an IDIOT. H’wood is convinced that YOU are so dumb that you don’t know how to feed yourself, let alone use discretion in your viewing habits. Prove them wrong. STOP WATCHING CRAP. Don’t watch it on TV. Don’t buy the DVDs. Don’t stream it on Netflix. Drop HBO all together. When H’wood realizes that they’re losing money on the crap they’re putting out right now, they SHOULD stop making it (I’m giving H’wood a LOT of credit right now…more than they deserve).

And finally, break the patterns. See a movie BEFORE your let your kid watch it. Find out what the content of the show is like BEFORE you watch it and spend the next three nights having nightmares of Hugh Laurie holding your brain in front of you telling you what part is missing that makes you such an idiot for watching his show even though blood makes you faint (actual recounting of a dream Terrance had a couple years back).

“Oh look! You’re missing the ‘DUH’ lobe.”

Common sense, people! Discretion should be something we use NATURALLY. We should not need the government to come in and make salt a controlled substance just because we can’t use discretion in our food choices. We should not need to be TOLD to not watch images that will stamp our brains and make us throw up at the mention of innocuous words because they bring to mind images of horror movies that were clearly inspired by actual, legitimate demons.

Viewer discretion should be ASSUMED. Not advised.

What’s your opinion of our society’s current state of discretion? Are YOU like Terrance? Do YOU need to be told to think before you watch something? How did your parents do in teaching you how to use discernment? How are YOU doing teaching YOUR kids?

10 responses to “Viewer Discretion Advised: The Slow Death of Self-Responsibility

  1. I watched an interview one time with Will Smith. He was asked something about kids seeing his new R-rated film Bad Boys. He responded in kind, something to the effect of how kids should not be watching Bad Boys. Because it was rated R and has Violence and Bad Language.

    He responded to the question like the answer was common sense….as if to say, ‘why are parents letting their kids watch Bad Boys?’.

    and I am almost certain that he also stated that his kids were not allowed to see Bad Boys. I couldn’t find the actual interview….I will keep looking.

    • The Fresh Prince is a generally smart dude. This SHOULD be common sense. We should all react with a giant “DUH” when asked these things. Yeah, if you can find the interview, let me know.

  2. I know what you mean about self-responsibility. I am so sick of getting the finger when someone else has cut me off or nearly runs into me in traffic. And I don’t need someone to tell me discretion is advised. I just watch and if there is something disgusting, I don’t look. No big deal.

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