Was a popular sitcom responsible for the decline of Western Civilisation? David Hopkins seems to think so:
I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.
You may see it as a comedy, but I cannot laugh with you. To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. And even if you see it from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The constant barrage of laughter from the live studio audience will remind us that our own reactions are unnecessary, redundant.
I’m more inclined to believe that popular entertainment reflects social trends far more than it influences them, and to claim otherwise is to give ammunition to censorious self-appointed moral guardians.
But I do think Hopkins has some valid points on anti-intellectualism, empty consumerism and the worship of vapid celebrities at the expense of those who make genuine contributions to arts and sciences. The whole thing is worth a read.