Oh, my…

How would you finish this all-too-common expression?

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

I am convinced that most people–my students included–would, sadly, complete it by calling on the Creator.

But not in sincerity. Rather, in vain.

Horse feathers! Poppycock! Fiddlesticks!

Do we ever really mean these expressions literally? Do we take time to think what they really mean and then speak them sincerely to someone, having considered the possible implications of our speech?

Probably not.

Why not? Likely because we think of them as merely fillers… void of true meaning, polite substitutes for their more bawdy counterparts.  In other words, people tend to use these filler words IN VAIN.

In fact, whenever we speak without meaning what we say, aren’t we referring to the subject IN VAIN? If I say “Good Morning” to you out of habit without really meaning it, did I really mean “Good”? Did I really think about it being “Morning”? Did I even consider whether you were actually having a “good morning” or not? If the answer to any of these is “No,” then I spoke this rather benign phrase to you not only innocuously, but also IN VAIN. Yes, IN VAIN.

The Third Commandment states very clearly, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Exodus 20:7, KJV). It’s a commandment, not a suggestion.

Can you imagine someone walking down the street randomly calling out names or words they don’t mean?

Whataburger! Gladys! Elm Street! Chevy Tahoe!!

Wouldn’t we think they had lost their mind?

What if someone texted you with seemingly uncalled-for proper nouns?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt! Santa Claus! Nebraska! Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!!

Would we be offended? Would we block them from messaging us? Or would we laugh and/or take it lightly, as what we’ve come to expect from our superficial communication these days? (And then maybe even return the post to them using a similarly VAIN turn of phrase?)

What is your point, already, Dr. Roe?

Our students, like most of society, have become far too comfortable in vaguely and insincerely referencing the name of our Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the One whose Name and Person should always, ALWAYS be held in highest reverence by all who breathe… since He gives us breath… and everything else we have from His generous hand. (See Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:24-28; Psalm 145:14-16)

Why do people do it?

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV's] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for our mass comm students?

It is challenging, but vital to get students to recognize where their patterns (and bad habits) of communicating come from. In fact, teaching people to become self-reflective, in general, is a daunting task, but oh, so vital.

In class, we have to begin by discussing what seems most obvious–because that’s where the pernicious influence of society begins to have its influence. We have to discuss why we do–or don’t–think of such phrases as “Oh, my God!” (or its text version, OMG!) as being just another way of showing surprise or disdain. Are we speaking TO the Almighty when we employ such words? If not, then why are we using His Name–IN VAIN? (His Name is above all Names, right? See Philippians 2:9-11.)

Or did we forget?

A few years ago a detergent maker began to advertise what was a short-lived addition to their long-known brand name. I’d like to think it was informed, pro-active media-savvy consumers who got them to change their name back and to stop running those irritating commercials. People like my students who have learned from class discussions not to take such things for granted, and from Bible-reading Christians who have learned that they will give an accounting for every careless word. (See Matthew 12:36.)

I mean, really? All-Mighty laundry detergent? Is it that good? Only God is good, said His only Son (Luke 18:19).

What was Sun Products Corp. thinking?

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

 

Marty, the F-Bomber

According to Variety online, Martin Scorsese’s recent mega-hit, Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street, has more instances of “the F-word” than any film in history. With 506 utterances in three hours, it easily tops the previous record-holder, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (with 435). Variety also describes The Wolf as being “all about excess,” including sex and drug abuse scenarios which I won’t go into here.

What Jesus said matters far more than any commentary I could write about the state of the “Hollyweird” movie industry and more than any academic perspective I could tell my blog readers and my mass communication students. If I but compare the set of values presented in The Wolf of Wall Street to the values Jesus presented from His world to ours daily, always living faithfully what He preached, I could efficiently end this blog with the following quote from the Lord, point supremely being made:

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it inthe day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37, NASB)

Writing through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul also warns against using bad language in his letter to the Ephesians (e.g., Ephesians 4:29 ).

What’s the academic perspective?

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. And a plethora of mass communication research on everything from sitcoms to movies to TV ads and even the so-called reality of news violence has bolstered our understanding over the decades that there is something inherently attractive and, unfortunately, more memorable about negative portrayals than positive ones (be it strong/suggestive dialogue, anti-social behavior, immoral lifestyles, physical conflict/injury, and even damage to property).

Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV's] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Our students need to OWN the task soon to be set before them. Some of the most intelligent writing for film and television has been provocative, not because it body slams our libidos or cattle prods our visceral instincts, but because it makes us think–think about the noble, the possible, the enriching. It takes little imagination or skill to ambush the senses by flinging expletives like hand grenades.

Our students MUST do better when they enter the industry than continue to “slop the hogs” in feeding hungry audiences.

Our students simply MUST do better.

Again, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians makes it clear as to what lifestyle is pleasing to God and what is not, the latter including coarse speech, greed, and immorality (Ephesians 5:1-12). Scorsese’s latest box office success is rife with everything loved by the world, but not by the Almighty. Read what the Spirit inspired James to write also on this very subject! (James 4:1-10, NASB)

And He [Jesus] was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.” (Mark 4:24, NASB)

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Jesus and The Duck Commander

Please allow me to clear the air… of gun smoke and duck feathers…

It would be hard to exaggerate the success of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and the seemingly boundless merchandising blitz which has followed the cable TV show as it soared to fame on riparian wings. All that DD regalia, posters, and plastic-ware making its way to the suburbs–to be snatched up by yuppies?

Phil Robertson couldn’t have dreamed it, wouldn’t have.

However, along the way Bible-waving and back pew-warming Christians alike have gotten caught up in a flock of heated discussions among themselves and with non-believers about whether Duck Commander Phil is a good role model and whether we should applaud or boo his direct-to-the-solar plexus, down-homey style of wit and simple life lessons, both on and off screen.

Don’t get your feathers ruffled, Jack, but… nobody’s perfect, including Papa Phil and the boys. best duck

Let’s not make them out to be more than men. If you’re looking for a paragon of human living, you have it… in our Lord Jesus Christ and the four gospel accounts of his model physical and spiritual life. And if you still want a TV show to further inspire you, watch that other Robertson’s The 700 Club (nonfiction).

Moreover, here are some things I don’t think Jesus would have done, even if he’d had his own reality TV program.

  1. He wouldn’t have lied (a staple in numerous DD storylines).
  2. He wouldn’t have broken the law (put in some DD episodes, just for laughs?).
  3. He wouldn’t have been contentious just for kicks (a dietary staple on DD, along with beef jerfy and black coffee).

Still… some ecstatically tout Willie’s dad and his counter-social homilies (Notice, I didn’t say anti-social) as what TV ‘art to be’ and give the show far too much credibility than sanity should justify, while others bemoan the right-wing conservative voices of a few multimillionaire duck hunters who just want to have fun and spread the gospel message on the second cable tier via A&E.  Have we no room left now for some down-home preaching and cooking, after enduring the Kardashian dynasty for so long?

Why have some Christians gotten more than a little quacked up over this?

front duck

After waiting so long for anything wholesome to watch on TV and eager to talk to somebody at church about what you saw last night, it’s hard not to get enthusiastic about this generally good hearted, G-rated TV show.

But it is just a show, right?  C’mon, say it with me… It is just a TV show.  Now that was easy, right?

So… shouldn’t I be saying something all pithy and academic about now?

I’m glad you asked! (I’ll take a quack at it.)

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. And a plethora of mass communication research on everything from sitcoms to movies to TV ads and even the so-called reality of news violence has bolstered our understanding over the decades that there is something inherently attractive and, unfortunately, more memorable about negative portrayals than positive ones (be it strong/suggestive dialogue, anti-social behavior, immoral lifestyles, physical conflict/injury, and even damage to property).

Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV's] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter. They point to Bandura (2002)  whose seminal work with children and violent behavior goes back to the 1960s (see “Bobo doll study“). In more recent studies, Bandura has explained in detail that four process guide how one’s “observational learning” and subsequent behavior are linked. And here I’ll succinctly apply it to DD fandom:

Bandura’s (2002) four processes are, in order:

  1. attention (watching the TV show with your undivided)
  2. retention (sharing it with friends and watching the reruns)
  3. production (doing as they do)
  4. motivational (why you like them)

By now you’ve surely convinced yourselves of some things I’ll need to clear up. No harm, no… foul. But let me get them off my bill :

  • So you’re anti-Phil Robertson? On the contrary, I sincerely admire his pluck in standing up for Biblical principles and against unrighteousness. I’m grateful for his mealtime prayer at each show’s conclusion, invoking the name of our Dear Lord Jesus. He is not, however, my idol.
  • So you hate Duck Dynasty? No, I’m not down on the Duck Commanders. Several episodes I’ve seen multiple times, and I look forward to more this year! But as a mass media academic, I enjoy taking some shots at it!
  • So you think merchandising is un-American? (Do you even know me? I’m thinking about getting someone a Valentine’s candy box with the Duck Commander and crews’ pictures on it. It don’t get more redneck, southern, all-American, Walmart than that, Jack!)

    left to right duck

    QUACK!!