There has been a great deal of debate since the tragedy at Sandy Hook about the effects that violent video games, movies, music, and television programs have on our culture. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, we do seem to crave violence in our entertainment.
How can constant exposure to acts of violence fail to impact an individual? There seems to be competition among some entertainment genres to have the goriest, bloodiest scenes. After years of such programming (and some so-called reality shows and talk shows also have their share of violence) people become used to them, and so producers of this kind of entertainment have to find increasingly gruesome ways to shock viewers.
I believe that technology has had a great deal to do with ratcheting up acts of violence. Books and newspapers deal with words. Radio added sound. Television, movies, and the internet add sight.
It seems that the farther we get away from processing information using our own brains, our own imaginations, the more desensitized we become.
Lately I have been watching MeTV Boston quite a bit when I want to look at television. I enjoy some of the old shows.
But I would like to make a pitch for an earlier medium -- radio. During the time now known as the "golden age of radio," families would gather in their living rooms or kitchens and listen to a wide variety of programming. It was something that all could enjoy together. And, I believe, it still is.
There were comedies, dramas, game shows, westerns. And at that time there were rules (standards and practices) about what was permissible for broadcasting on the public airwaves.
Most important, though, was the need for the listeners to use their minds and imaginations, and there is something particularly satisfying about that.
So here is a challenge for those who are willing to try an experiment. I invite you to take 30 minutes to listen to an episode of Suspense, a radio drama program that lasted 20 years from 1942 to 1962.
This particular episode is called "Sorry, Wrong Number," and was one of the most popular of the series. It starred Agnes Moorehead. Some TV re-run watchers would recognize her as Endora on the series "Bewitched."
I have provided a few pictures in the following video, but I suggest that you turn the lights down low and simply listen. Perhaps you will become an old time radio fan, too!