A Brief Follow-Up Note On Pop Culture, “The Walking Dead,” Civility, And Related Matters…

Stay classy, AMC...Chris Hardwick...America...

Stay classy, AMC…Chris Hardwick…America…

Last night, at exactly 11:02 PM EST AMC’s “Talking Dead”  host Chris Hardwick had his live audience scream out in unison “Suck my nuts!,”  a quote from the just completed premier episode of  the seventh season of “The Walking Dead, apparently the most popular TV show right now. This occurred slightly after an animated discussion about an actor having to cope with a tick on his penis, or a “dick tick” according to Hardwick (to BIG laughs).

Boy, that Donald Trump sure is vulgar when he doesn’t know he’s being recorded…

I am reasonably confident that this cheery gutter level discourse would have been deemed unacceptable as recently as last year. This is how fast basic levels of decency, restraint and civility are declining, although I give AMC credit for not having another “Flip another man’s meat”commercial during the breaks: maybe that’s just for baseball games.

I eagerly anticipate the explanations of why this nosedive in public decorum is unrelated to having a Presidential candidate talk at length about his penis size (I didn’t intend to have it come out that way, but hell, I’ll leave it; it’s 2016, man!) during Republican debates (you know, the conservative, family values party).

Heck, why not? Here’s that link again.

You see?

Just the campaign was enough…

50 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

50 responses to “A Brief Follow-Up Note On Pop Culture, “The Walking Dead,” Civility, And Related Matters…

  1. Rick M.

    When you continually lower the bar it is almost impossible to raise it again. I noticed – as many others most certainly have – the wearing down tactics as described by the “dick tick.” The erosion of language and topic.

    My spouse – The Lovely Cynthia – wanted to see The Accountant and I warned her. The three areas she hates is gratuitous violence, language and sex. As the body count multiplied she said nothing. Afterwards she commented on how well done the plot was and the great character development.

  2. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    It would be easy to attribute this to Trump. After all, the devolution of behavior, dress and language has been going on for years. But this new low may well reflect the omnipresence of a crude adolescent running for what even recently was a respected and revered public office, one who speaks before he thinks, and disappoints and reviles even when he has thought out a response or comment. Aaugh!

    • Chris Marschner

      E2
      C’mon now. ” . . . easy to attribute this to Trump. I could easily attribute this to the Kardashians, Brittany Spears, Rap Lyrics or female empowerment. I have not seen Trump feign fornication on stage as did Mily Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, or the originator of lewd sexually explicit videos Madonna.

      What you have said – perhaps not intentionally – is that it is possible to use pop culture and its ideals to show empowerment when women do it but evidence of male subjugation of women when men do it.

      Irrespective of who does what it still demonstrates one thing: to get ratings today you must be a bit more provocative than yesterday.

      What is omnipresent is not a crude adolescent running for office it is a crude, often politically illiterate populace, that wants more for less, while it claims to stake a moral high ground by pushing the opposition further into the mud.

      • Other Bill

        Very well said, CM.

        • E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

          Did I blame it on Trump? Didn’t mean to: just said one could do so. Did say, and agree with you, that this goes deeper than Trump. And on that basis, is not his success thus far more a symptom than a cause?

          • Chris Marschner

            If I misunderstood, my apologies. It just seems that he is being pillioried for behaving in a fashion very similar to that encouraged in pop culture.

  3. Patrice

    As Rick said, it’s nearly impossible to go back once lines have been crossed. Think about the last 50 years. With each “freedom” we have become more any more impervious to the effect of them on our psyches. Almost nothing is taboo now. What will be interesting in the coming decades (if any of us in this group are still alive) will be to see if the pendulum swings way over to the other side in the wake of having nothing further to shock us, or perhaps when one final shock leaves us in such disarray that we have no choice but to button it up.

  4. deery

    People just watched two men get their heads literally bashed in, one whose head was bashed in so hard his eye popped out. The “villain” character also cussed up a storm, with no bleeping. People knew what they were tuning in for if they watched The Talking Dead. You can’t voluntarily watch a porno and then clutch your pearls at all the graphic depictions of sex. You can’t watch The Walking Dead and its companion show and then bemoan graphic violence and language. You signed up for it, and there are plenty of other shows to watch instead if that understandably isn’t your cup of tea.

    • Do I really have to explain the difference between drama and actions and dialogue acceptable within the frame work of dramatic exposition, and gratuitous obscenity for no purpose other than to be obscene? See, deery, it would also be unacceptable if Hardwick really beat someone’s brains in, even though that’s what happened in the show. The “pearl clutching”—that’s a sexist cliche, by the way—is being engaged in phony vulgar liberals who claim that Trump’s private language is horrifying while they encourage public utterances that are no less ugly.

      • deery

        The audience was repeating verbatim what the character just said. Now if they were actually sucking nuts, that would be something different altogether. If Hardwick bashed a dummy’s head in with a bat, which is what happened in “real life”, that would be fine, they’ve had macabre things on that show before.

        As I’ve stated before, I dont have a problem with profanity/vulgarity. I’m not one to faint over the word “pussy.” So Trump uttering the word pussy is not the problem for most of the people I know. It is the sexual assault aspect that people have been objecting to. Even Howard Stern, Mr. Lewd himself, has stated Trump boasting about sexual assault is too much for him.

        • “As I’ve stated before, I don’t have a problem with profanity/vulgarity.”

          Which means you have no respect for people who do. See, in private, like, say, Trump and Billy Bush thought they were, you can make sure you don’t offend people who did not expect to be assaulted by verbal ugliness and rudeness. In public, you can’t, which is why public standards are different.

          The host urged a crowd to shout the words in unison , obviously simply because they were vulgar. He has never asked his audience to shout any other lines from the show. Are you insulting our intelligence by arguing that this was just a coincidence?

          • deery

            This wasn’t in public.. This was a highly sought after event, attended by rabid fans of the show. The crowd gathered there had just literally finished watching the show where that exact phrase(as well as many other vulgar ones) was used. Everyone there signed up for it., especially by the time the host repeated the phrase.

            The character who died was known and beloved for his salty turn of phrase, and “suck my nuts” were his last defiant words. I thought it was a proper send off for that particular character.

            • On TV, live, watched by millions of people, is “public” by any definition.

              • deery

                On cable tv, a companion show to dissect the show where that very phrase was just used. It’s hard to lament the repetition of phrase without also lambasting the original use of it as well.

                But given the show is full of blood, gore, profanity, and the rare sex scene, it can hardly be a shock to anyone who tuned into the show. Besides, they also make sure to warn people beforehand and after commercial breaks just to be super cautious. People signed up for it. I can’t feel much sympathy for anyone who did so, and now wants to complain.

      • Chris

        The “pearl clutching”—that’s a sexist cliche, by the way—is being engaged in phony vulgar liberals who claim that Trump’s private language is horrifying while they encourage public utterances that are no less ugly.

        As deery pointed out, this comparison is nonsensical. You yourself have described Trump’s words as “describing sexual assault.” Do you really believe it’s hypocritical for liberals to be offended by descriptions of sexual assault, but not vulgar language? If so, why?

        • I’ve covered this in the “flip another man’s meat’ post and others. Of course its hypocritical. Forcing someone to “suck my nuts” is also a sexual assault, or was this over your head?

          • Chris

            I’ve covered this in the “flip another man’s meat’ post and others. Of course its hypocritical. Forcing someone to “suck my nuts” is also a sexual assault, or was this over your head?

            Neither the character nor the audience quoting the character were literally forcing anyone to “suck their nuts.” It was clearly figurative language. “Just grab ’em by the pussy” is not.

            • Again, I covered this. “Just grab ’em by the pussy” is figurative language as well, and physically unlikely. You can’t make that distinction.

              • Patrice

                Um, sorry, have to disagree. “Just grab ’em by the pussy” in no way is figurative nor physically unlikely. I think you’ve just been hanging around with such genteel gentlemen that you are unaware of just how horrible a sexist pig pervert can be.

          • deery

            Of course its hypocritical. Forcing someone to “suck my nuts” is also a sexual assault, or was this over your head?

            I think that was more of a request.

            But in all seriousness Trump seemed to be boasting of sexual assaults that he had performed, in real life. Movies and tv depict fictionalized sexual assaults, murders, batteries all the time. Depending on the context, people can approve or disapprove of the situation depicted. But there is definitely a line in the sand between real assault and fictional ones. Hopefully.

  5. THE Bill

    I’d be more concerned that people actually think that show is any good. The best actors in the show ARE either get killed off , the magnificent Scott Wilson as Hershel, or shuttered off to minor rolls such Lennie James as Morgan. While allowing a hack like Andrew Lincoln to have the lead. The man has an acting range from A-B.

  6. Since you are an ethicist, obviously, your concerns will always revolve around the ethical. But to speak of the ethical means, just as obviously, to define an ethical platform and to have knowledge of what that it. In my present view, this is more complex than it appears. In fact, my thought is that *everything hinges on this*. You said once that your ethics ‘does not depend on formal philosophy’ (or places little emphasis in it) which, I must admit, puzzled me. I came to understand that in this way your ethics is one that on a certain level is based on ‘contingency’ (what goes on in the moment and what is determined by or develops out of the moment) and less in ‘principle’ and ‘idealism’.

    You notice, as everyone notices, that *things are descending downwards*. You notice this in the area of lack of civility and because vulgarity is far more common. I am sure you can offer an exposition, based in observations over time, that supports your view and also reveals the areas you see decline as occurring.

    But what I am always caused to think when I read your statements about the importance of ethics and their relationship to America is that your essential position is not ‘anchored’ as it were in some ‘timeless vision of morality’ or in Idealism, but more or less within a contingent definition. You allow for, and you welcome, all manner of different innovations and you make statements about that too: speaking of ‘evolution’ of values, of getting better, of learning. Essentially realizations that occur in a trajectory and which presuppose an upward ethical development. So, you yourself, as I see things, allow for ‘innovation’ which, to you, is not regression or decadence, but moral advancenment. While I understand, I think, how you define moral evolution, I have noticed that in numerous senses your definitions are similarly arbitrary. What is an ‘advance’ for you and according to your system may well be defined as a descent or devolution for someone else.

    I have one very clear and rather easy example. Homosexuality. You have absolutely no doubt that social permissiveness toward it, and as well the ‘normalization’ of it, is a moral advance. My point is not to debate homosexuality since I only feel it should remain a private affair. It is merely to point out that, in my view, you ‘argue from contingency’ and not, necessarily, from some concept of universal principle.

    In order to notice decadence and descent and devolution in many different areas requires, however, some sort of stance. Some principle or platform which, I suggest, cannot ever be sufficiently defined through mere assertions of ‘contingent’ value, but have to be defined aprioistically at an ideal level. (I suppose that I have lost 3/4ths of any reader who has dared to plunge this far into such *demanding* fields of thinking)(and I am being ironic).

    But I suggest that the question you are basically asking, or that you seem to ask, requires such a platform. One has to 1) have already established it and to refer to it, or 2) to set to work in getting it established.

    I will further — and this is a jump — say the following. There are some political philosophers who notice that the US as a system and as an entity is directly involved in criminal activity. It has a vast war-making machine that, according to this view, seeks out conflicts in order to perpetuate itself. I need only mention the neo-conservative influence on our foreign policy and the tremendous physical harm that this has brought to millions and millions of people.

    I am always concerned and interested by this fact (and I do see it as a fact) that these policies, and the harm done, is infinitely more substantial than many of the picayune incidents such as ‘civility’ or ‘vulgarity’. So, what I have not been able to understand, and since ethics and morality are the topics, why these far larger issues are not discussed? In fact I get the sense that on what often seems a semi-Republican blog (???) that there is what I note as an obvious resistance to looking at these things.

    So: what is descent and what ascent? It seems that one has to have established these definitions at a wide level before one can adjudicate them. But that the real and decisive issues are far larger. When one is speaking of increasing vulgarity or sexual references, one is not in any sense speaking to the larger issues, one is getting diverted into comparatively meaningless areas and topics.

    I have been watching some YouTube discourses that point out that Trump might amount to just an slight exaggeration of on-going American policy that is not significantly different from what goes on now. Yet it is supposed that he represents, somewhat literally, a demonic entity that will take over the helm of power.

    The choice seems to amount to: Vote to keep things pretty much as they have been (Hillary) or (but with many question marks and uncertainties) vote in a man who may be a Hyper-Republican or some sort of Hyper-Nationalist. Surely these represent differences, but not structural ones.

    Trump will only come to head-up and existing system with all its mechanisms already in place.

  7. Steve-O-in-NJ

    My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling, I want you to play with my ding-a-ling…

    I have a sad story to tell you, it may hurt your feelings a bit…
    Last night when I walked in my bathroom, I stepped in a pile of…shaving cream, be nice and clean, shave every day and you’ll always look keen.

    • zoebrain

      My song it is now nearly ended,
      I think it is time I should quit.
      And if you think you’ve been offended,
      Stick your head in a bucket of etc etc

      From unreliable memory. And yes, until the 70s, banned from broadcast in Australia.

  8. Chickens and eggs.

    The current political campaign is only an accelerant. We got this political campgain because our culture was already heading that way and for the large part was already there.

    • Just because something is headed in the wrong direction doesn’t mean that those who keep pointing there and pushing it along aren’t accountable.

      • Interestingly enough, and I don’t know what your dad passed on to you, but my dad was very close friends with several dozen WW2 veterans and growing up I knew quite a few of them as well. MANY of them if not most were appalled by movies like Saving Private Ryan and the series Band of Brothers, not in terms of realism, or tactics, or bonds of brotherhood etc. Many had asserted that they were never THAT foul mouthed. They dropped profanity on occasion, certainly in combat…but they were annoyed that the actors and screenwriters had the portrayed characters dropping profanity like punctuation.

        Now I’m certain that it depended very much on the circumstances — I know my guys in the army floated F-bombs as naturally as taking a breath of air. But they were insistent that their portrayals were much more foul mouthed than they were in real life (and most of them were the citizen soldiers signed on to win WW2, not career guys)

        • My dad indeed hated Private Ryan and B of B, but that wasn’t the reason. In his memoirs, Dad wrote that he and his men swore or used obscenities approximately every other word, a real shock to me because I never heard him say anything stronger than “damn,” and that was rarely.

          • I know why he hated saving private Ryan but you’ve never gone into depth on his disgust for band of brothers… why?

            • As far as I can tell, he thought it was sentimentalized, and he hated the sentimentalization of war.

              • THE Bill

                ” he thought it was sentimentalized, and he hated the sentimentalization of war.”

                Very good point about Band Of Brothers and may explain why the public preferred it over The Pacific, which doesn’t sentimentalize the combat in any way shape or form. People thought it portrayed the Marines as being too vicious and that they would never have taken the teeth from dead Japanese. Which they did and more.

                • I can’t say I preferred it over the Pacific for any particular reason other than I can say I thought “the Pacific” was awful because it felt like a disjointed smattering of contextless anecdotes, with flat, dull portrayals to boot.

                  The pacific was a meatginder and the average soldier’s experience would have been largely without a greater context… but somehow that’s gotta be breached to communicate to the viewing audience.

                  • THE Bill

                    Yes it is disjointed and that problem arouse with the Pacific vs B.O.B because they didn’t stick with one unit all the way through like they did in Band Of Brothers. The unit in Band Of Brothers had a very low causality rate and allowed them to have characters that you could follow all the way through. They couldn’t find a Marine unit that had such a low casualty rate so you could follow them all the way through.

                    Personally I think they should have just stuck with Eugene Sledge’s story from his book The Old Breed and not tried to tell the story of John Basilone on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. Plus the whole romance story of his was crap.

                    I have it in box set and tend to just watch the Guadalcanal , Peleliu and Okinawa battle episodes.

                    • They couldn’t find a Marine unit that had such a low casualty rate so you could follow them all the way through.

                      But that’s a silly obstacle.

                      The Walking Dead has managed to follow a group of people with an incredibly high casualty rate and a revolving door of characters that people “get attached to” and “identify” with.

                      If anything, focusing a single unit in the Pacific, developing the men of the unit in depth, only to have their sudden and non-story typical removals from the narrative portrayed in all it’s immediate horror and insufficient opportunity to cope, would have made that mini-series INFINITELY better than what it was.

    • This is just a repeat of the general thesis: things are going downhill. Everyone says it, and everyone speaks from what seems a limited platform. It seems if one is going to talk about human descent one really has to define what ascent is.

      • In terms of civility, are things better or worse now than they were, say, 20 years ago? And we’ll speak in generalities because I know the most soohomoric of us can chrry-pick and you yourself asserted that generalities are fine to speak in.

        Now answer the question. It’s really a simple question. Try avoiding your faux-intellectual jargon and you’ll get an answer in about 5 seconds.

        • If descent is going to be defined, and if there is to be a real conversation about it, it would have to be defined in wider and more significant terms.

          I certainly agree that there seems to be more references to vulgarity (and in Latin America it is more extreme than in the US).

          I am not sure if I can make a comment about ‘civility’. In my own experience (in Sacramento and the Bay Area mostly) I would say it remains the same.

          PS: If there is a faux-intellectual jargon it implies a vrai-intellectual jargon, no? Or is all intellect suspect?

          • So you’ll just avoid an easy question.

            Phenomenal.

            • The ‘easy question’ is not the ‘right question’. I have taken the stance that I accept that vulgarity and perhaps incivility is increasing. But this in and of itself means very little. You could have very ‘ethical’ people being extremely vulgar and incivil. (The Founding Fathers and their generation were foul-mouthed men BTW). What interests me more is to define, in larger terms, what we mean by descent and ascent.

          • Chris Marschner

            Aliza:
            Ascent would be making rational decisions based on empirical and validated evidence. We would seek information that supports as well as refutes our current hypothesis. We would not viciously denigrate an entire group that ascribe to a point of view that is contrary to our own. We should seek enlightenment not prurient entertainment.

            In short, any behavior that serves to ridicule rather than advance an idea is descent. Obtaining pleasure watching someone defile/injure themselves or others is descent. This is not hard.

            Descent occurs when society permits and encourages behaviors that lead us into temptation to impose undue costs on others for personal gain.

            In another post here you referenced homosexuality as something defined by Jack as good but then questioned his method of defining that which is good and that which is bad or devolution. Homosexuality by itself harms no one so it is not inherently bad. No one can empirically demonstrate that such a sexual orientation harms society. Therefore, sexual orientation should be considered neither good nor bad; it just is.

            See: Golden Rule
            Corollary: If you gain pleasure watching someone being harmed then you are descending and not ascending.

            • I think your definition has a good deal of merit. I might nit-pick on some small points. I also have more substantial complaint about others.

              Allowing the dog to have sex with your daughter, provided she is in agreement, does no tangible harm and yet — generally speaking — we see it as a ‘descent’.

              Vulgarity, in itself, has no tangible effect on anything and yet, I think we see, it represents many other things, many other failures and errors.

              If is a (flatly) false and also a ‘contingent’ argument that ‘homosexuality by itself harms no one’. It is likely that you choose only to see it within parameters that are acceptable to you.

              My ONLY POINT (and I do not want to discuss homosexuality) is that to define ethics requires prior sets of definition. And value-definitions. And these definitions do not only come from what I take as your utilitarian base.

              I also asked about a US military machine which seeks and provokes wars and conflicts in order to perpetuate itself. It would seem that if we are going to locate ‘descent’ that we also have to include that and all things similar. (I mean, to be ethically consistent). Do you agree?

  9. Patrice

    Jack, every time you write about the vulgarizing of our culture I have a pang of guilt for the time I was really upset and crying about something personal, only a few years ago so I ought to have been mature enough to know better, and I spontaneously dropped the F bomb to a small group of sympathetic people including yourself who all appeared shocked by my language. I must admit that since that episode, I have been much more circumspect about my own descent into vulgarity and have (mostly) cleaned up my act. So, thanks, I guess.

    Back to what I wrote earlier, when we lose our reaction of shock to something that ought to be shocking, we permit and abet the further descent of society and culture into vulgarity.

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