Social Question


Whatever happened to t.v. shows that used to teach a moral lesson?

Asked by MRSHINYSHOES (13956points) August 10th, 2010

If you watch television today, rarely do you come across a show that teaches a moral lesson to its viewers. Shows in the past like “Little House on the Prairie”, “The Waltons”, “Family”, and even situation comedies like “Full House”, “My Two Dads”, “A Family Affair”, and “The Partridge Family” always had a message about “life” and “how to treat others” in each of their episodes. Are there still shows like that around or am I seeing less and less of that nowadays? And if so, why?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

56 Answers

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What about The Simpsons? They still have important morals in many episodes.
I agree though, some popular shows like Two and a Half Men are morally appalling.


Yes, The Simpsons do have a bit of that in it, though it’s animated. I’m referring more about t.v. shows with real people. Lol.

And I agree, shows like Two and a Half Men are morally reprehensible.

MacBean's avatar

I think people realized that if they wanted to be preached at, it would be easier to go to church or talk to their mothers, and shows like that stopped being in demand.


@MacBean True and very sad statement about society. I really think we need more shows like the ones I mentioned these days, with a ‘didactic purpose”.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I think modern TV shows tend to depict morality by contrast. For example, Criminal Minds shows how ordinary people cope in the face of the worst of humanity. By showing how bad people can be, we see the best in other people. I think Burn Notice also shows a little of this, in that it promotes protecting the weak and standing strong in the face of opposition.
But then maybe I just want to heap praise on my favourite shows.

TexasDude's avatar

If you watch South Park with a very open mind and you are capable of filtering out dirty words, you’ll find that nearly every episode has a moral or a lesson to it. I’m serious.

CherrySempai's avatar

Alright, so I know they stopped making new episodes a few years ago, but 7th Heaven had moral lessons in every single episode. Each member of the family would deal with the lesson in a different way. :]

Generations and cultures are changing, so television messages are changing with them, I suppose. I miss the 90’s, though. :)

ninjacolin's avatar

I find all shows have morals in them. Each fictional character’s story is a moral meme about how a life could be lived and what consequences are likely to come from the choices depicted. When we observe a story line and the choices an individual takes, whether in fiction or in real life, I don’t see how it possibly couldn’t directly impact our personal values. Our brains take a moment to conclude that the meme was either Cool or Horrible (or something along that spectrum). They even rejudge the meme every time it’s remembered and contrasted against recent knowledge/wisdom.

The effect is pretty complex, for example, often we learn from shows that depict violence that violence is wrong. Sometimes we learn what not to do from seeing characters doing stupid things. Sometimes we learn what not to do from people doing the right thing. These shows influence our moral decisions about what kinds of jokes are socially acceptable. They influence our attitudes towards employers, significant others, family, neighbors and friends.. They give our brains fodder for behavioral option picking.

Frenchfry's avatar

The Ghost Whisperer. taught some moral lessons. You had to correct what you did wrong in life to crossover.

Pandora's avatar

Drop Dead Diva, The Closer, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory are some. Glee is big on the moral front. Some of the topics may not be resolved in a 80’s way but I feel a lot of the stuff touched upon helps shows a more realistic response that the average person may have. Showing that every problem is not necessarily black and white or can be resolved by the wave of a wand.
Other shows, Royal Pains, and especially Parent Hood are pretty good without being all in your face about it.
There were a few more but the networks already dropped them like a 3 dollar bill.

MacBean's avatar

True story, if you want to, you can find a moral lesson in nearly anything. And if you don’t want to, you can ignore it just as easily. (Usually. Sometimes they really beat you over the head with it. Hello, Full House.)

Cruiser's avatar

I agree and it’s been a down hill spiral ever since Gilligan’s Island went off the air.

MacBean's avatar

Because Gilligan’s Island is an allegory for Hell, and the castaways represent the Seven Deadly Sins!

mrentropy's avatar

If you need a TV show to teach you morals then there’s a problem. I really don’t need to have lessons force fed to me and shows that do that, well, they disgust me. It’s like watching a show force feeding me how to tie my shoelaces.

Cruiser's avatar

@MacBean EXACTLY I tried to explain just that to my kids and they started screaming “Mom!! Dad’s been drinking again”!!

Austinlad's avatar

Whether on TV or in a house of worship, it’s not so much the morals preached to us that count as those we find for ourselves. Those we can find everywhere.

Mtl_zack's avatar

There are plenty of shows that ask moral and philosophical questions. Breaking Bad, Doctor Who, Torchwood are good examples. There are also a lot of shows that are great social commentary, such as South Park, Futurama, The Simpsons, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I love watching shows from the past that have philosophical dilemmas. I’m currently watching Star Trek (the original ones), and my absolute favourite show is The X Files. Millenium, Firefly, Twin Peaks and others are great shows that make you think.

aprilsimnel's avatar

On TWOP, those type of shows are called “anvilicious”, which refers to moral lessons or tropes so obvious, the writers may as well be dropping anvils on our heads. No one likes to be condescended to, and while most TV is geared towards the lowest common denominator, the vast majority of the public isn’t that stupid. Venal and craven? Maybe, but not stupid.

Although some of those MTV shows about pregnant working class teens or spoilt teens who get sent to African countries seem quite dedicated to showing the moral failings of these young people so that their audience doesn’t emulate them. The same with Vh1 and those horrible shows about women prostituting themselves to be with 3rd rate, has-been rock and rap stars.

CMaz's avatar

The Simpson’s have a moral message?
If that is how it is interpreted, no wonder there are no more moral messages.

mrentropy's avatar

@ChazMaz The Simpsons has a lot of moral messages, they’re just not thrown at you. Most of them are family oriented.

The truth is, just about every show has some kind of moral message because the writers are human. As @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard said, even South Park is full of them (even though that show is written by manatees).

CMaz's avatar

@mrentropy – Don’t get me wrong. I love the show.

But, the “messages” are ass backwards. IMO :-)

mrentropy's avatar

@ChazMaz What do you mean by “ass backwards?”

Artistree's avatar

Because we finally realised that there’s more than one way to skin a cat?

CMaz's avatar

When you show a dysfunctional family. But, somehow everything turns out “ok”.
The only message you can possibly get is, be a looser and everything will still be fine at the end of the day.
A lame message if you are looking for a moral message in the show.
The moral of the story is a pretty bow of apology and understanding that you wrap around a pile of crap.

Still a funny show. A funny grown up show. ;-)

BoBo1946's avatar

Ratings is the name of the game! Like everything, all about the money!

I’m not a fan of the Simpson’s! Also, not a fan of all these reality shows. My favorites are Law and Order, re-runs of my favorite show, Bones, and love this new one, Memphis Beat. If you have not watched Memphis Beat @ChazMaz, you should check it out.

What i really miss, is my cowboy shows! We need a reincarnation of John Wayne!

CMaz's avatar

The Rifleman. Now that show had morals!

Chuck Connors had his game on.

BoBo1946's avatar

yeah, he was one cool dude! Bonanza…loved to watch Little Joe and Hoss go at each other. And, the looks that Ben could make in response to his son’s antics! Now, that was a great family shows that demonstrated morals.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

They stopped doing it as much because it doesn’t really make for good tv. It’s not as funny by a long shot, and over-simplification, one-size-fits-all, and unrealistic portrayals of issues can actually be damaging.

TexasDude's avatar

@mrentropy, you are mistaken. Family Guy is written by manatees, not South Park.

MacBean's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard The Family Guy writers can’t be manatees. I like manatees.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

There are fewer than there used to be but we still have full house. I wish there were more shows like that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m with @mrentropy and @FireMadeFlesh on this one – why do get your ‘moral lessons’ from TV instead of simply understanding them or figuring out what they are and how to pass them on to your children.

Aster's avatar

I thought shows that taught moral lessons were mostly for kids. And now, kids decide their OWN morals. Most of them head for the hills at any Hint of being directed in the right direction. It just isn’t COOL anymore to watch shows like The Brady Bunch. They prefer sex and violence.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aster Yeah I don’t think kids preferred the Brady bunch..there was nothing else on.

mrentropy's avatar

I, for one, believe we’ve all learned a lesson with this little question with giant aspirations: many people have different ideas and each should be respected, even if we don’t agree with them. After all, isn’t diversity what makes us all individuals? And the exchanging of different ideas can lead to better, and bigger, ideas that we can take with us into the future.

And we should be kinder to our neighbors; lend them a helping hand when it’s necessary. You never know when you may need some help.

Also, drugs are bad. And you should stop smoking before your lungs fall out. Always make a complete stop at stop signs. Men wearing pink ladies underwear is fine, even if others may snicker.

But the most important lesson of all? @Simone_De_Beauvoir probably wasn’t too keen on the Brady Bunch.

boffin's avatar

…happened to t.v. shows that used to teach&

That was a kinder gentler time.

filmfann's avatar

You know what? I’ve learned something today! There are still television shows that have morals at the end, and some of them are really entertaining. Like South Park. The writers even admit that they are really childrens stories, but that they are really bad at telling them.


Personally, I think “South Park” is one of the worst television shows ever created. Not that it isn’t well written or witty, but that it reflects the moral decadence of society within the last 45 years, and the generation of young people that this moral decay has spawned. Sort of like a filthy pond with its mosquitoes, spreading disease. :(

It’s as if in this muddle of sex and violence of today’s fare, we have lost sight of goodness and the potential for t.v. to do good. Oh well.

perspicacious's avatar

There are some great ones on EWTN

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Do you really think there has been moral decay over the last 45 years? As far as I can see, we are far more tolerant of race, give far more equality to women, give victims more support and more galvanised rights, and through environmentalism have developed broader horizons and greater social responsibility. What makes you say the sixties were better than today?

MacBean's avatar

Women and racial minorities knew their place, kids spoke only when spoken to and respected their elders no matter if it was deserved or not, the queers kept to their closets, and people smiled and pretended everything was hunky-dory instead of airing their dirty laundry?


@MacBean Hooray to MacBean. Yes!

MacBean's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Er… You do realize I was being facetious, don’t you? I know that doesn’t always transfer well through writing and I left off the Tilde o’ Sarcasm, but… Or are you being sarcastic sans tilde now? Because… seriously, I listed all those things because they’re exactly what I think made your ‘good ole days’ a hopeless pit, and I’m glad people are now only dragging their second knuckles on the ground instead of the third, like back then…


@MacBean Read my messages. Then message me back.

asmonet's avatar

Um. HA!
I’m with Mac on this one.

Who says we need shows with a ‘didactic purpose’? Why does anyone need to be force fed someone else’s ideals and family values? Why can’t each family decide? Who is to say which show is teaching the right message? Who are they to decide?

And btdubs, morals and ethics haven’t changed much over the last century except for in cases of racial inequality. I got some vintage porn on my DVD shelf if you’d like to see some good ol’ fashioned fun. It’s full of orgies, everything BUT missionary, weird fetishes, gay sex, etc. The collection spans from the 20s to the good and decent 50s. People just weren’t able to talk about things then, but they still did them. They were still as sex crazed and drug induced as we are today, actually – more than today. But you speak of their morals?

If anything, the only difference between now and then is our willingness to accept ourselves for who we are. TV just mirrors that. People care less nowadays about who the neighbors think they are and more about who they actually are. We’re just less hypocritical now, seems like an improvement to me.

Also, @MRSHINYSHOES, I think your comments on South Park actually make a better case for how excellent the show is then how awful. And I’m not even a fan.


@asmonet “People care less nowadays about who the neighbors think they are and more about who they actually are”. Lol——THAT’S exactly what’s wrong with a lot of young people today. “Me, me, me.” It’s more about oneself than gaining the respect of others. Because of that, a lot of young people these days don’t address strangers who are older with “Sir” or “Ma’am”, they don’t give up their seats to the elderly or a pregnant woman on the bus, they lack manners in public, they swear, they go to court dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, they go to job interviews with nose pins and a multitude of other body piercings, etc. “Who cares what others think of me, I can do what I want attitude”——that is exactly what is wrong with the world today. On the contrary my friend, we NEED shows that TEACH people how to act accordingly, with propriety, and with a social conscience and moral respectability. As the parent of young children, I see a lack of that on television today. Someday when you have kids of your own, you will understand what I mean. In the meantime, it’s easy to sit back and say “We don’t need shows that teach us moral behavior.” If you do have kids, then I’d find your comments here rather disturbing. :(

And as for my comments on South Park——I can see what I said actually made people stop and think. It certainly touched a nerve. As long as I know that, I have succeeded in delivering my message here——that decent folk in today’s ugly world are a rare breed indeed. (lol)

The thread is getting off-topic. I shall exit now, and will not re-visit. ;)

mrentropy's avatar

I think there are a lot of decent people around, they just don’t get the publicity like the bad people do.

MacBean's avatar

@mrentropy True story. Someone steps a toe out of line and the media is all over it shouting OMFG THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN ENNNNNNND!!!!11!1! while totally ignoring the fact that millions of other people are not doing whatever ~horrible~ thing that one person did, and are probably fairly disgusted by it. The world’s a shitty place, sure, but it’s not any shittier than it was in “the good ol’ days.”

asmonet's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES: You on’t know anything about me, and you clearly don’t know anything about my opinions since you took them so backwardly. I’m not doing this anymore. Judge not, sucka.

Response moderated (Spam)
gene116's avatar

@macbean: I was reading your comment about the “queers keeping to their closets,” unsure of your intentional sarcasm, when I read your subsequent comment asserting it. So now I’ll crawl back into my proverbial closet (where I keep my parade attire and my shotgun). Smooches…

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Holy moly, people today find it more entertaining to see drama or someone getting screwed over, or just plain people out screwing.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther