By Jim Bailey
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — Once upon a time the world of entertainment was family-friendly.
A daring performance was Elvis Presley swiveling his hips as he sang, which TV cameras were forbidden to show on the airwaves. When Lucille Ball got pregnant, TV alter ego Lucy Ricardo’s impending maternity was carefully scrutinized by the censors to make sure the script didn’t go too far afield. Walt Disney importuned former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello not to bare her navel for the beach party movies she did as a grown girl with Frankie Avalon. Eyebrows raised at performances by such comedians, benign in retrospect, as Bob Hope, Red Skelton and Milton Berle. And the biggest shocker at the movies was Rhett Butler’s line to Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Then things changed.
Along came Madonna. And it went downhill from there. Now we have Lady Gaga and Cheech Marin. And MTV.
Yes, MTV, whose video music awards a couple weeks ago would have been a coming-out party for Miley Cyrus if she hadn’t already shown signs of shedding the Disney-approved Hannah Montana image that won her millions of teenage fans in its heyday. Miley’s faux-nude twerking routine with Robin Thicke just may have dug the first shovelful of dirt for Hannah’s grave.
It takes something pretty outrageous these days to garner major public attention, and it may no longer be a question of whether success will spoil Miley Cyrus. The question is just who are her handlers and what are they trying to make out of country singer-actor Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter?
Comedies these days are a far cry from “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Long, Long Trailer.” They lean toward today’s big hit, “We’re the Millers,” in which four neighbors find circumstances sending them to Mexico masquerading as a family but actually as drug mules.
Situations in the movie lend themselves to plenty of humor on their own. But the film’s producers apparently were caught up in the notion that the number of laughs generated are in direct proportion to the quantity of four-letter words in the dialogue. Throw in some pseudo-incestuous French kissing for good measure. And it’s telling that the nearest thing the movie has to a Goody Two-Shoes character is a stripper, played by Jennifer Aniston, who draws the line at being urged to go further than lap dances with the customers.
The trend carries through with comedians who seemingly can’t tell a joke without making it more than a tad off-color. Hope must be turning over in his grave.
But it’s possible. Attend just about any Southern gospel music concert these days, for instance, and you’ll catch some real humor that didn’t have its genesis in the bathroom.
But be careful. You just might also pick up some constructive ideas on what life is all about in the process. And it doesn’t include twerking.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.