Is TV Getting More Liberal?

I suppose that television has always been rather liberal. Dallas, for example, presented rich capitalists as a conniving bunch of people. On Thursday night, however, I felt that the liberalism got more blatant.

I watch Eli Stone on Thursday nights. It is about a lawyer with a brain aneurysm who sees visions, which guide him on what to do. He believes that those visions are from God because they equip him to help people. Over the course of the show, he has changed from a self-centered jerk to someone who actually cares for others.

But last Thursday night, I had a difficult time cheering him on. On that particular episode, a teenage girl is suspended from school because she disrupted an abstinence education program. Basically, she played some sexually explicit lyrics over the loudspeaker. She decided to contest her suspension in court, and the foreign singer who wrote those lyrics graciously testified on her behalf. She was restored to school, and she asked for better sex education, the “pass out condoms” kind. The principal said that the school only received money for abstinence education, and so the singer held a concert to raise funds for the pro-condom brand of sex ed. Eli Stone was smiling at the concert, and I suppose that we were all supposed to applaud his heroism.

The liberalism was so blatant. On the stand, the singer excoriated Ronald Reagan for not speaking out against AIDS until it was too late. He also expressed admiration for the American principle of separation of church and state, and fear that it was being undermined. Hmm, I wonder if he was criticizing a certain President when he made that point, one who actually takes his faith seriously. Just a hunch I have.

First of all, most of the federal AIDS programs that exist today go back to the Reagan Administration. But even if Reagan didn’t do as much as he should have, was AIDS his fault? It spread as rapidly as it did because of promiscuous people, many of them homosexual and bisexual. Over time, it entered the heterosexual community.

Second, what is wrong with America respecting Jewish and Christian principles like abstinence? I’d say that we could use more of that value, not less. If more people saw sex as a gift from God for a husband and his wife, then AIDS and other STD’s would not be so rampant. Sex has become cheapened over the years. In one of the sub-plots on that episode of Eli Stone, one of the female lawyers sleeps with a male lawyer because he tells her his father died. When she finds out that his father is still alive, she gets upset. Well, perhaps she should have gotten more acquainted with him before she entered his bed.

At the same time, I think that Eli Stone is longing for better values, on some level. The female lawyer tells the male lawyer, for example, that he has been afraid of truly caring for a woman because he fears that she might leave him. When they are in bed, the male lawyer is disappointed when the female lawyer tries to get up before he does to avoid a deeper commitment. The singer on the witness stand said that he did not view his song as smut because he wrote it when he was in love. In the entertainment industry, there is a hunger for love, caring, and commitment, but a reluctance to embrace the Christian ideas that safeguard those values. Such ideas include the concept that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that a man and his wife are to love each other until death do them part.

So why do I say that television has become more liberal? When I grew up, I watched L.A. Law. At some point in the course of its run, it brought on board a new character: a lawyer with conservative Christian convictions. She held off the advances of one of the male lawyers, as she upheld the value of chastity before marriage. She also bravely defended the right of a schoolteacher to tell his students about creationism. And the show did not present her as a nut job.

But that was before the Republicans took over Congress and, eventually, the Presidency. In those days, we were an interesting bunch with out-of-the-mainstream ideas (well, not really, but the entertainment industry saw us as such). When conservatives got power and started enacting their ideas into public policy, however, the other side viewed them as more of a threat. And that is why I think that Eli Stone attacked them so.

I liked the episode for one reason, though: the person who played the principal was Ethan Philips, who was Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager. I always wondered how he looks without his make-up!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Abstinence, Eli Stone, George W. Bush, Politics, Religion, Star Trek: Voyager, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Is TV Getting More Liberal?

  1. FT says:

    I think you know well James that since the ’60’s television has taken a leftward turn every since. I pray and hope that Hollywood takes a centrist and rightward turn but I think that will be the generation born after 9/11 will probably do that. Yes, that will be a couple to a few decades (or actually circa 2019 when they come of age) for them to be on the scene and make it happen. I think the 9/11 generation will learn about about the excesses of the baby boom generation and the Yers (and we can only hope they will have compassion on us Xers which I still strongly feel that we have had a bum rap) and will in a responsible way be more respectful of tradition and reject violently the emotive liberalistic mentality of throwing the baby with the bathwater and feeling a need to change and redefine things quickly as possible without realizing any cost or consequences of the aftermath which the baby boomers excelled on this point (and this is not a compliment, course). We can only hope this revolution of the 9/11 generation will have a positive trickle down effect in the entertainment industry.


  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Felix,

    Also, some say that conservatives are having so many kids, that we’ll be running the show years down the road (assuming, of course, that the kids follow the conservatism of their parents).


  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for your great post on Eli Stone. My husband and caught the blatant liberalism in this last Thursday’s plot, as well, and we actually turned off the program after the mention of Ronald Reagan. What a farce. We were offended as Christians, as American, and as Conservatives, but *I* was also offended as a writer! Writers are not supposed to cheapen their writing–for novels or television–by engaging in the ‘soapbox’ method of fiction. Obviously, this refers to an author obviously publishing his personal political or religious views via his characters. It’s cheap, it’s transparent, it’s ‘hack,’ and perhaps worst of all–it’s annoying. I mean, do they really think we don’t ‘get’ this? Do they think they can use a TV script as a political platform and we won’t notice? I don’t THINK so!
    They have lost us as viewers and I’m pretty certain they have lost others and will lose even more.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post!

    The attack on abstinence only programs is not an attack on abstinence, but on abstinence only programs. There is a large distinction. Thus to equivocate the two as a rejection of judeo/Christian values is false. This isn’t Big Brother promoting liscentiousness.

    Second, TV shows should, in the spirit of dialogue, promote ideas. Ideas don’t operate in a vaccuum–they are part of the fabric of life–and by creating tense scenes we can address these questions from different angles. I hope that we are all mature enough to consider different opinions and give measured responses (1 Pet 3:15).

    Third, at least TV isn’t as R-rated and X-rated as the Bible. We don’t have to subject ourselves to rape, incest, graphic murder, genocide, execution, prostitution, idolotry, hatred, racism, and slavery on a regular basis. The window into human depravity is considerably muted compared to the Bible.

    My reaction to the show was to praise God for such curageous and inspirational writing. It is a very touching show–that’s why I like it. That’s why my small group loves it; but we’re all Democrats and liberals. 😉



  5. James Pate says:

    Hey there, Anonymous. I’m glad others picked up on that. Today, I was reading Lou Cannon’s book, Reagan’s Disciple, and he shows that Reagan spent millions on AIDS research. So, yeah, that part of Eli Stone was misleading.

    Hey Jake. Long time, no see! I’ll respond to your points one by one:

    1. True, comprehensive sex ed is not totally anti-abstinence, at least not in the eyes of those who create it. That’s why it’s called “abstinence plus.” But I think that it compromises the value of abstinence by presenting it as one of many options. It’s hard to convincingly say “It is moral to save sex for marriage” if you’re giving young people a way to have “safe sex” outside of marriage.

    2. I agree with you there. I’m not Donald Wildmon, calling for a boycott of Eli Stone’s sponsors. I’ll still watch the show. I was just saying that I didn’t care for its liberal slant. And, to be honest, it could have done a much better job portraying the conservative side. All it really gave us for that was “Well, we’d have condom sex ed if we had the money, but Bush only gives us the funds for this abstinence propaganda.” I can think of shows that were also liberal but which made at least some attempt to portray the conservative side. The West Wing, L.A. Law, etc. Eli Stone didn’t even try, and I was disappointed.

    3. You’re right about the Bible. And Eli Stone is portraying how people these days view sex–as recreational, yet they want something deeper. At the same time, I will also say that the entertainment industry in general presents a picture that is not entirely realistic. How many promiscuous people on TV get pregnant, or get STDS? Not too many.

    4. The show can be inspirational, and it was trying to be that night, but I just wasn’t inspired, maybe because of my strong feelings on abstinence education.

    Thanks for writing, Jake. What kind of small group do you attend? Is it liberal evangelical, or evangelicals with liberal politics, or mainline Protestant? I’m just curious. Most of the small groups I’ve been in have been rigidly conservative.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi James.

    It all depends on how you define evangelical. If by evangelical you mean baptist, inerrantist, teetotalers, then no. If by evangelical you mean people that worship Jesus, the son of God, by speading the good news by implementing Kingdom ideals then yes. We tend to take First Isaiah’s injunctions more seriously than Pauline missionary zeal; we tend to discard some of Paul’s teaching on woman (not talking, head covering); we aren’t afraid to disagree with a biblical author(s); we fellowship at the pub over beer.

    I’ve been in enough militantly conservative groups to know that they aren’t fun anymore. While many people are nice, I don’t like the oppressive environment that requires correct answers and cliches (you can tell I’m bit bitter).

    It’s a PC USA denomination and we are all fairly zealous Democrats.



  7. James Pate says:

    Hi Jake.

    Yeah, I have some bitterness myself, as you’ve probably detected.

    When you talk about implementing kingdom ideals or the vision of First Isaiah, what exactly do you mean by that? Does that mean community service, or giving money to charity, or political activism?


  8. Mark says:

    As I’ve been poking around the internet the last day or two, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like Eli Stone last week.

    Like you, I’m not writing it off yet. But if they continue to be preachy, I will turn it off and not turn it back on. I don’t watch TV to be preached at with someone else’s morals.


  9. James Pate says:

    Hi Mark! Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed your review of the episode on your blog.


  10. joy says:

    Hi comrades!! Nice blog tp post for..Relishes while surfing here..Eli stone is one of the best show ever, As a mother of a child with Autism,any show that talks about Autism, whether it is factual or not, is a good thing..Fave episode!!! Catch ur favorite ones Elistone Download here..


  11. Charles says:

    Good to see a few others unsettled by the skewed portrayal of a worldly prophet.

    Did y’all catch the latest episode of Stone? Eli’s client sues a church because he/she was fired after living as a lesbian and then undergoing sex-change operation. Portrayed as a flawless hero/heroine whose opposition lies in the close-mindedness of her congregation.

    Granted, plot did include the ‘awakening’ of a lawyer/parishioner to see that she was just becoming who she was meant to be, as well as a single misconstrued verse to support her/his ‘life change.’

    Also in this episode, it was portrayed as common sense to immediately put serious thought into abortion if your love child has a chance of a genetic abnormality.


  12. James Pate says:

    Thanks for the comment, Charles. My Mom taped it for me, and I’ll watch it soon. Part of me loves the show and is sad to see it go. But those details that you brought up make me somewhat happy it’s going.


Comments are closed.