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FIRST-PERSON: Patricia Heaton’s good sense

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Patricia Heaton was scheduled to introduce a special segment at the 30th annual American Music Awards, but the accomplished actress left before taking the stage. The two-time Emmy recipient was not ill or called away by an emergency. No, she was disgusted by what she called “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks.”

Heaton, best known for her portrayal of Debra Barone on the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was at the awards show to introduce a pre-recorded retrospective of executive producer Dick Clark’s annual music show. However, she chose to walk out on the “prestigious” event rather than be party to the raw and raunchy comments being made by presenters and performers.

“I arrived a little late and was seated in the audience,” Heaton said. “I was going to present what’s called a video package — a look at 30 years of the American Music Awards. Well, what was passing for humor basically ranged from the stupid to vulgar, and I thought, ‘I’m not going to be a part of this.’ So I walked out and said, ‘Get me my car. I’m leaving.”

Heaton was asked if she thought there might be any negative repercussions from her early exit. She replied, “And if there is, who cares?”

Patricia Heaton’s decision to walk out on a show that was laden with sexual innuendo and crass humor is to be applauded. And if the current course of popular culture is to be altered, many more Americans must follow her example.

Wholesome entertainment choices in America’s popular culture seem to be far and few between. Music, movies, television programs and even commercials have become increasingly provocative if not downright pornographic.

Television has become a playground for all things provocative. A recent study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a public health organization in Los Angeles, revealed that two-thirds of all shows aired between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. have some sexual content, ranging from talk about sex to depictions of sexual behavior.

A commercial that aired frequently during the recent football season depicted two women fighting over the positive attributes of their favorite “lite” beer. The pair wrestled and tore at each other’s clothes until they were clad only in underwear. The closing scene had the pair writhing in wet cement. A cable version of the commercial added a final line with one girl saying to the other, “Let’s make out.”

If the lewd and the crude were not enough, there is the recent trend of “reality”-based programs. While these shows are about as entertaining as watching your uncle Bud’s hair fall out, they are currently all the rage. At best they serve as hour-long tributes to greed, deceit, manipulation, conceit and insane behavior.

Given the sewer of squalid entertainment contaminating American popular culture, how is a person with moral sensibilities to respond? How can wholesome entertainment choices be made when the only offerings seem to be filth, filthy and filthier or dumb, dumber and dumbest?

One option available to every thinking American is the one exercised by Patricia Heaton. Walking out of the theater, turning off the television or the radio is at times the most effective and appropriate response to certain aspects of American popular culture.

Popular media is fueled by one thing — ratings. If enough people stopped consuming the drivel currently being served by the entertainment industry, things would change. However, as long as people act as if they are slaves to the popular culture rather than masters of their choices, the same sensuous swill will continue.

One person saying “No” to the corrupt aspects of popular culture can make a difference. Commenting on her decision to leave the awards show, Patricia Heaton said, “When I was waiting for my car, one of the security people came up to me and said, ‘I just want you to know how much I admire what you’re doing.”

The refrain of an old campfire song says, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” I am one who hopes Patricia Heaton’s spark will help ignite a raging inferno.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs