Making It Normal

shutterstock_128741456Do you ever wonder why culture takes a turn for the worse? What’s the inciting moment, the turning point, the thing that makes culture embrace an evil that only a handful of years earlier was almost unthinkable?

Much smarter people than I have done years of research and study to find the answer. And truthfully, they come up with a lot of answers – the state of our culture can’t be boiled down to any single cause. Religion, politics, philosophy, art, entertainment, history, economy, family life – these are all things that impact our culture because they shape the way we see the world. And each one tends toward a different means of changing the culture.

The question that interests me most is how entertainment does it.

We all know intuitively that the entertainment our culture consumes holds great sway over the direction in which our culture moves. People will always argue that entertainment only reflects what’s already there in the culture, but those people are probably just trying to justify why they consume what they consume – or why they make what they make. In reality, entertainment takes a seed from culture and magnifies it, makes it grow… makes it normal. And that’s how it causes change.

An example to illustrate my point:

In the last few years, our battle with culture has been over same-sex marriage. The culture increasingly pushes against the whole history and tradition of the world to make same-sex marriage a reality (theologically speaking, though, even if same-sex “marriage” becomes legal in all 50 states, its proponents will still have failed – same-sex marriage can never be areality just like an apple falling off a table and hovering in midair can never be a reality). So if it’s a reality that can never be actualized, how did it become such a prevalent hope in our culture?

I argue that it began with the 90s TV show Friends. Now, I’m well aware that homosexual characters appeared on television and in movies long before Ross’ lesbian ex-wife entered our living rooms, but Friends used a different approach that changed everything. It wasn’t just that the character was a lesbian; it’s that the other characters treated her sexual behavior as normal. Almost always before, we saw homosexual characters as strangers, outsiders, eccentrics, even monsters, and their orientation was the butt of a joke, a taboo to be feared, or a tragedy to pity. But Friends changed that. We felt bad for Ross when his wife left him for a woman – but it was because she left him, not because it was for a woman. We laughed when we realized she was a lesbian – but the joke was in the irony, not in the sexual preference. The show’s real stroke of genius, though, was that Ross’ wife was not a main character. As a side character who didn’t show up often, she didn’t draw too much attention, and so her sexuality was not a big, political statement. Somehow, the unobtrusiveness of her sexuality made it acceptable.

And that was enough to pave the way for a show like Will and Grace, where one of the title characters is gay. And that’s normal.

That opened the culture to movies like Brokeback Mountain, where homosexuality moved from being widely acceptable in comedy to becoming the subject matter of a prestigious romantic drama.

Now, six different states and Washington, D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage. Speaking out against same-sex marriage in any way, shape, or form makes you a homophobe and a bigot (check out the combox on this great article by Marc Barnes if you don’t believe me). Because it’s normal now. Thanks, Friends.

The point of this post, though, is not to say that we need to ban shows like Friends or boycott movies like Brokeback Mountain. As fun as that sounds, it’s neither realistic nor effective. We’re not going to move culture in the right direction by banning and boycotting things the culture already accepts. The point is that we need to make movies and shows that are written, directed, and acted better than Friends and Brokeback Mountain. And we need to think long and hard about what we want to make “normal.”


This article was originally published at Impacting Culture

Image credit:

Tara Stone


Tara Stone works at Yellow Line Productions and attends John Paul the Great Catholic University.

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  • Pamela

    Very good points. My husband and I were having a conversation about this very same thing yesterday. We pinpointed the show “Three’s Company” as when entertainment began pushing the envelope on what is morally acceptable. By comparison to the garbage out there today, “Three’s Company” is as innocent as a lamb — but two women and a guy living together back then … gasp! It was a huge departure from the “My Three Sons” era.

  • Eliz33

    I agree and, in fact, this was part of the M.O. of the gay activists (there is a book I won’t mention that mapped it all out – something about ‘post-gala’ ; ). I do think there are some good groups doing just what you mentioned – making better movies, etc. but I also think that for us (as a community/nation) to get to that point of thinking long and hard (i.e. caring) about what is normal, we have to let God enlighten our minds. Meaning, we have to get close to the One who created us, let Him humble us and allow Him to heal our minds, our reasoning facilities. That, first, is what it will take to undo the damage and set us on a path of right thinking.

  • TheresaCatholic

    I think it goes even farther back to the Rosanne show when she kissed that women Sandra Bernhard.

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

    Don’t forget our public education (indoctrination) system!

  • Tom Dundee

    I will try to keep this brief, but the subject is complex and therefore this will be longer than I prefer. I am going to post a bunch of quotes that others have made through out the years. Some will be from the Dark Side and others from the Light Side, which supports Tara Stone in her fine editorial.
    Below are quotes from the Dark Side:
    It all began with Nietzche’s proclamation that “God Is Dead”. This was the 1880s or at least close.

    “When men cease to believe in God, they believe in anything”. Lenin.
    “Give me 4 years to teach your child and the seed I’ve sown will never be uprooted. – Lenin
    “Destroy the Family. Destroy the Nation”. – Lenin
    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”. – Big Brother in 1984 by George Orwell.
    “Give me the children and I will change society in 10 years”. Hitler
    “Education is a weapon, effects depend upon who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed”. – Stalin
    “One nuclear family can ruin your whole life”. – slogan used by the National Organization of Women
    This whole movement is about destroying the United States and thereby, Western Civilization.

  • Tom Dundee

    Here are some quotes from the Light Side & support Tara Stone.
    “What we do to our children, they will do to society”. – Pliny
    ” … pride in our past and our achievements”. Livy
    “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people”. – Ashanti Proverb
    “The family is the nucleus of a civilization”. – Will Durant
    “No great nation is ever conquered until if has destroyed itself”. – Will Durant
    “Civilizations die from suicide not by murder”. Arnold Toynbee
    “When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing, we worship anything”. – GK Chesterton
    “When a nation goes down and never comes back, when a society or a civilization perishes, one condition may always be found, they forgot where they came from”. -Carl Sandburg.
    I have more, but I am out of time, but this is a good start on explaining our situation.
    Many Leftist like to use the Santana quote, usually it is misapplied, however, here it is in a paraphrase
    “Those who forget the lessons of the past are condemned to make the same mistakes”.
    Our leaders learned the mistakes of the past and carefully replicated them in the US. Never has a great nation fallen so quickly as we have done in the past 50 years.