I’ve been pondering for quite some time the question of how people (specifically religious people because they are who I study much of the time) make decisions about what is “good” and “bad” in the media.  Heather Hendershot noted (and I’ve agreed) that the kind of television that conservative Christians like is often that which is simply “inoffensive.”  That, of course, is not a simple matter, as the question of what gives offense is in fact a complex matter rooted in social convention, taste, value, and morality.

But, it is clear that there is more to the matter.  Take, for example, the controversy over whether Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings was the more acceptable film from a Christian perspective.  I would have to say in all honesty that I could objectively see little difference between the two in terms of Christian imagery, theme, narrative arc, etc.  And yet, conservative commentators gave the clear edge to the Rings.  And the reason: outside the experience of reception of the films, these commentators were aware of J.R.R. Tolkein’s own religiosity.  The same goes, in a limited way, for the reception of the Twilight films.  Where they otherwise might be seen as hormone-charged teen potboilers (and trust me–those who haven’t seen them–they are erotically charged films on a variety of levels) the fact that they are authored by a devout Mormon seems to have insulated them from the moralistic criticism they might otherwise have attracted.

That, and–of course–the fact that the lustful desire that frames every frame is never consummated.    But, nonetheless, they are full of heavy breathing, and you would otherwise have expected them to be the target of criticism for their  theme of autonomous teen sexuality.  Remember Judy Blume?

At any rate, an item on this morning’s All things Considered on NPR caught my ear and provided some intriguing insight here.  ATC has all week been exploring the issue of public distrust of government.  Leaving aside for a moment the appalling headlong rush of the MSM toward the “tea party” story as the central framing of the Obama administration (with little reflection on their own role in creating the story and thus the question of whether we really NEED another series about this) ATC did have the peg of  a Pew survey on the topic.

In this morning’s story, Don Gonyea, whose NPR beat seems to be whatever is the superficial political story of the week, started down a  promising path by investigating an overlooked statistic in the Pew data.  Apparently Republicans differ from Democrats in a significant way.  During times of Republican administrations, their confidence in government goes way up–much higher than Democrats’ confidence goes up when a Democrat is in the White House.  And, when a Democrat is President, Republican confidence is lower than Democratic confidence is when a Republican is in the White House.

Could there be a connection here to conservative attitudes about “acceptable” or “positive” media?  There would seem to be a connection around the attribution of value to certain media in relation to the source of those media.  A higher level of confidence in the source leads to a greater attribution of quality for conservatives.   It is worth exploring.  I intend to do so.

Meantime, Don Gonyea, in a stunning display of journalistic non sequituria, changed the subject and focused instead on the implicit story arc: that the blame lies with Obama strategies and policies.  Oh, well.

But the underlying dynamic is intriguing.

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