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ABC Family Values

You hear about this? It’s a scene from Monday night’s episode of an ABC Family dramatic series called The Fosters. Gay magazine The Advocatehails it like this: Excerpts:

A kiss between two 13-year-old male characters on the ABC Family show The Fosters is making waves for reportedly being the youngest same-sex kiss in American television history.

Ah, progress. Previously, the gay teen kiss youth record was on a 2007 episode of Dawson’s Creek, but those guys were older. What is The Fosters about? Again, the Advocate:

The Fosters, which premiered on ABC Family in June 2013, centers on lesbian couple Stef and Lena (actresses Teri Polo and Sherri Saum) and their family; they are parents to Jude and four other children. The show last year brought in a transgender male character named Cole (played by the nonbinary actor Tom Phelan).

ABC Family values.

Shelley was right: Poets — that is, people who create art — really are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. If you as a conservative parent are not pushing back against pop culture propaganda as pop culture is pushing against your kids, you all are going to get steamrollered. Turning the TV off is a start, but this is where we are now as a culture, and if all you give them is “thou shalt not,” it won’t be enough.

UPDATE: Edward Hamilton writes:

My family started as in a thoroughgoing small-church Midwestern fundamentalist culture, the sort that you can occasionally hear Garrison Keillor gently lampooning (as his real-life own heritage) in the more autobiographical portions of Lake Wobegon. We attended a little Plymouth Brethren-style church with a dozen or so families, and generally had a cultural engagement model that emphasized complete separatism from popular culture. I went to a few Disney movies, and I can distinctly remember our family walking out of the theater in disgust after the first five minutes of E.T., but that’s about it. No television, no music (not even ersatz evangelical imitations of secular music), and strictly religious experiences for summer camps and weekly social activities. We had cultural references from books and old movies, but they all went dark around the 60s. Both parents graduated from a little Bible college that wouldn’t compromise principles, and closed down. My mother had been an ex-missionary for Child Evangelism Fellowship, dirt poor and totally devoted to outreach to urban kids, so she knew what kind of people were being produced by the culture. We wanted nothing to do with it, not at first.

At about age 10, we finally got our first television. Initially it was subject to pretty strict rules. At first it was just for sports and PBS. Then just sports, PBS, and the Wonderful World of Disney, and some cartoons. Then the new Star Trek. Then a few of the less disreputable sitcoms, like Cosby. And so forth, along a gradual trajectory of relaxation. Even then, we never had cable until after I grew up and moved away.

As the oldest child, it always felt like an intrusion on the family life I had known before. When I moved out I never bought one of my own, just as I’ve avoided many other forms of electronic entertainment technology, and have always been totally ignorant of any of the newer “edgy” shows on cable television. But the rest of the family, my younger siblings and even my parents, were completely transformed by it. Even today, they just watch whatever is popular at the moment. The same stuff that would have horrified them back when I was a child, and not just on my behalf. They all hold radically different approaches toward lifestyle and culture, and while all of them are still Christian in one way or another, none of them are the same type of Christians they were before. Except me, the token Luddite.

Not all of that transformation should be regarded as for the worse, I would say. I probably was (am?) too sheltered to effectively understand the formative influences of people around me, which limits my ability (for example) to serve as a mentor for students. But it’s hard for me to come home and feel how much the intrusion of the outside world has changed the things I once found trustworthy. I feel as though television flooded my little world and left it as a swamp inhabited by strange amphibious creatures, comfortably recumbent in thick sludgy waters that they wouldn’t have thought to even sip before. It’s strange to hear my brother and sisters cursing with gusto, or joking lightly about sexual topics, or buying (and enthusing) about frivolous consumer products. My mother can’t even have conversations with many of her old friends without cringing in naivety at their sheltered provincialism. I suspect she couldn’t have a comfortable conversation with herself of 25 years ago — the woman I still think of as “my mother” — for the same reason.

Don’t ever doubt that entertainment media is powerful and changes us. You can argue that’s a good thing, if you want to offer a defense of cultural liberalism. Own that transformation, and be proud of it, and even gloat about how it transforms people even as they insist they aren’t being transformed. But don’t deny it, or pretend that it isn’t your primary engine of social progress. Laws and leaders are weak and ineffectual by comparison.

A reader named Mike, who writes from an academic e-mail address, adds:

I remember in the 80s and early to mid 90s the mantra was “We only want some legal protection and rights where inheritances, hospital visitation, and insurance policies are concerned. Marriage? Are you kidding? Why in the hell would I want to emulate the straight lifestyle/construct? Give me a break!” Around the the mid to late 90s you started to hear about marriage, but more often than not the idea of civil unions was bandied about. Both, but mostly the latter, were still clothed in the same language heard in the 80s–sans the “are you kidding me?” part of the equation. Sometime in the late 90s and early 00s, in academia at least (which is where most public-social policy finds its genesis, by the way), nothing less than a redefining of the term/institution of marriage was put forth. It was/is the only thing on the table. I think we all know the narrative of why one ought to embrace SSM. More are aware of it, than the reasoned positions against SSM. So too does any reader of this blog know where things stand today, where the narrative has taken us. And yes, it is a narrative. It is a narrative that all along I found both convincing, right, and the logical outcome of genuine equality and thus morality. If put into a bottle or frozen as-is, I still am. The problem is, as Rod and others have said, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. We humans don’t, on the whole, operate like that. We, especially in the West, have an insatiable need to both realize any conceivable and theoretically attainable desire and to push it to its limits. Thus the conceivable to some (the inconceivable to others, to most) will come to fruition. All of it. Some of it is already being tested in courts in some European countries and in Canada. There eventually will be polyamorous marriages. Ditto, marriages to oneself; to one’s pet; to one’s sibling(s); to inanimate objects; to flora and fauna (e.g., trees and, say, a wolf pack in the Rockies) and rest assured the age of consent will eventually be all but obliterated in order to accommodate self-fulfilling desires. If you think this is far-fetched, hyperbolic, b.s. from some Ted Cruz lovin’, “Tea-Bag” wearin’, gun-totin’, GOP useful idiot, you my fellow reader are only fooling yourself. I invite you to start reading academic journals in the humanities and to some extent, the sciences. Specially ones that pertain to bioethics, ethics, and queer/gender studies. You have no idea what’s in store for you middle-America, orthodox America (of any religion). I’m not sure even Rod, who is clued into it more than most, does. As I said above, it all begins in the academe. You’ve been warned.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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