Our Opinion: Pop culture’s dalliance with decency

News Tribune editorial

What’s indecent?

The question was the subject line of a recent Associated Press story by reporter Martha Irvine exploring decency standards and pop culture.

Irvine referenced a current pop song’s unrated online video featuring topless models, and briefly explored the historical context of decency complaints about George Carlin’s comedy skits, Elvis Presley’s gyrations and dances and costumes of Roaring ’20s flappers.

The story also posed these questions for parents:

“Do they (parents) filter it as best they can? Laugh it off? Use it as a teachable moment? Demand more limits? And if they do the latter, who gets to decide what those limits are, anyway — since what’s appropriate to one person might not be to another?”

Credit Irvine with posing not only a question for parents, but for society.

She also cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision linking the definition of obscenity to community standards. Irvine wrote “Now, those communities are often online, stretching across continents and age brackets to bring together people with common interests.”

If you agree decency standards are easing, is it a natural evolution of openness to be welcomed or a sign of societal decline and depravity to be despised?

And, to reiterate Irvine’s question, should decisions about what’s indecent be made by parents or by government institutions — legislators and/or courts?

Or, are the creators and purveyors of pop culture simply providing not only what we will tolerate, but what we want? (After all, the “pop” in pop culture is a variant of “popular,” defined as “suitable to the majority.”)

History demonstrates that behavior deemed indecent in the past is not only acceptable, but passé, today.

Will what we consider indecent today be the norm in the future? And how will that change be reflected in individual and community standards of behavior?

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