We sure could use some more romance right about now -- particularly among our younger people.
I speak of the debate surrounding "Skins," the latest provocative MTV show. It portrays teens indulging in illegal drugs, booze and "hooking up."
Many argue that the show elevates deviant behavior -- that it will encourage highly impressionable teens to mimic what they see.
Others argue that today's teens are grappling with a lot of these issues in real life -- that the show helps showcase the dangers of such behaviors.
Such programming is bound to occur in a free, open society with a massive mass culture and several hundred cable-TV channels in competition with each other.
Freedom opens the floodgates for everything that is not so good in the human heart -- greed, dishonesty, salaciousness -- but it also opens the floodgates for everything that is good in the human heart, such as generosity and selflessness and integrity.
In our loud, over-sexualized culture, I feel that young people are being cheated. They're being taught everything about biological functions, but know so little about our higher functions -- so little about romance.
We humans have two natures, in a manner of speaking.
We're part animal, to be sure. We're a few links away from monkeys -- at least most of us are! But don't we also have hearts, souls, minds and spirits?
Our lower nature is biological and clinical. It is the one so often celebrated in the popular culture.
Our popular culture does its best to keep our lower nature, our animal part, in a constant state of agitation and overdrive.
When our biological side is inflamed, all we think about are animal things, such as booze and sex and indulging our physical needs.
MTV might call this "realistic" and kids might think such a show is "hip," but what it is mostly about, in my opinion, is provocative programming designed to exploit young, impressionable kids.
Consider: "Skins" airs at 10 p.m. with a "TV-MA" rating. That means it is not appropriate for viewers under 17, but isn't that MTV's core audience?
Of course it is.
According to Nielsen Co., more than a third of the 3 million viewers who watched the first "Skins" episode were under 18.
MTV is airing racy fare to draw in lots of teens, a highly coveted marketing demographic, so it can make lots of dough.
And it is robbing young people of any notion of romance in the process.
In our free and open society, I suppose, it is easier to draw viewers by appealing to their lower nature rather than their higher nature.
But appealing to their higher nature could be most profitable -- and good, too.
I'll bet if you sat any teen down to watch "An Affair to Remember," say, or many of the old romantic films, he'd be just as moved as the original viewers were.
Romance appeals to our higher nature. It appeals to our sense of hopefulness and ideals.
Romance is about kindness and honesty and graciousness and affection. It is about trust. It is the sense that someone places you above all others and cares more for your needs than his or her own.
It is about a longing for love, a commitment to another, a harmony of two people coming together to create something much more beautiful than they could ever have created or been on their own.
Maybe if MTV crafted a show that celebrated teen romance, rather than teens gone wild, it'd be on to something big.
But then, I'm a romantic.
©2011 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or email [email protected]. Email Tom at [email protected].