We did. This post is about how we fixed it.
Everyone knows that there is trash on TV. Everyone. Not a single person would challenge that. However, once you press people, you'd get a thousand answers about what makes a TV show inappropriate and what one's standards should be for choosing what you'll let into your home. Unfortunately, too many Catholics are perfectly happy choosing their show based on what entertains them, and nothing more. They might even eagerly list bad television shows, but shrug off the fact that they themselves watch it, claiming they can simply fast-forward, that stuff doesn't tempt them, the bigger story redeems any vulgarities, etc., etc., etc.
This is a problem.
And we were once a huge part of it. Once we had a baby in the house, we really tried to pay attention to what we were watching. We'd never let our child see that! we'd exclaim, without ever turning the channel. We just had no clear guidelines on what we should and should not do. Then, we watched this excellent talk by Fr. Chad Ripperger. I would encourage anyone who hasn't to give it a listen (It's about music, too, but if you hit play it should start at the topic of movies):
Let's summarize Fr. Ripperger: If a movie contains something "bad", the whole thing is "bad", and shouldn't be watched. By "bad", we mean the actors are actually committing a sin, and we are thus paying them for that sin, and by such are participating in it. So, this wouldn't apply to something like robbery or murder being depicted in a film, because no one is robbing or murdering, so there is no sin. It would apply to things like impurity or blasphemy—you can't fake those! Those actors are really wearing those skimpy outfits, or really saying blasphemous things, and I, by knowingly watching it, am participating in those sins. Yikes!
My husband and I thought of all of our favorite movies and shows. It went a little something like this:
"What about X?"
"No. Remember that one scene? What about Y?"
"Yeah! Oh wait. No."
"Maybe Z? Can you check the parental review?"
"Oof, definitely not!"
And on, and on. So if this is how you are feeling after reading the criteria...you're not alone.
(If you are feeling confused or scrupulous, watch the whole video—he might address your questions on the Q&A part—and consult a good, traditional priest with the specifics.)
The Three-Part Solution
I'm not going to claim this is the only solution or the right fix for everyone, but this is what has worked for us so far:
1. Remove the TV from the main room of the house.
This is a really simple move: we're not removing all screens from the house or banning the TV for life (which some people do!), we're just moving it from the main room of the house where everyone spends the majority of family time. This naturally has four effects:
1) It stops the mindless TV watching. It really stopped the habit of turning on the TV because we're sitting in the living room and that's what we do. By putting it in a separate room, it becomes more exclusive, meaning you have to be more intentional about watching it (and consequently, what you watch).
2) It guards the TV. It is much easier to control who is watching what in your house if it's in a limited-access room.
3) It changes the dynamics of having company over. Really! We didn't realize how automatic it was with weekend visitors to just pick a movie for the night. This excludes that as an option, removing any awkward conversations about our stricter-than-average rules for what we watch, and leaving time for pleasant conversation instead.
4) Your living room looks much better when it's not centered around a big black box. Seriously! We converted the bookshelf that our TV was on to a home altar (pictures here), and now the room we spend the most of our time in just looks and feels more ordered.
2. Cut the Cable.
Once you whittle down the shows and movie list you like to the once that are morally acceptable, cable really makes no financial sense. And neither do most streaming services. It makes way more sense to have a way to own the short list of movies permanently, via DVDs or even an old iTunes account where you can purchase them and keep them in your library.
The only hard part of this for us is sports. In general, we love sports and think they are great. The commercials and cheerleaders...not so much. We have been listening to the MLB playoffs on the radio and have really enjoyed it. Baseball is probably the sport most conducive to radio. For football, we have been doing a mixture of things: one option we have liked is the WatchESPN feature—it has games with limited commercials (the commercial breaks are the same, but for whatever reason they don't ever fill the entire slots with ads when you're streaming it). However, as modesty rapidly declines among cheerleaders and fans, I do imagine we'll transition this over to radio eventually as well.
3. Vet Your Movies.
Sites like IMDB.com leave a lot of the guesswork out. You don't have to rely on your memory or someone else's recommendations. Usually this site (and there are tons like it) will tell you about the blasphemy and impurity. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few of our family favorites (affiliate links):
Reply in the comments with some of your favorites!
All in all, this has helped us to make the radical changes in our TV consumption that we felt convicted of. It has been nothing but rewarding, and I hope you find it helpful, too!
What did you think? We'd love to hear from you!