We’re fascinated by the bizarre beliefs of those who lived long ago. To learn that people once thought the Earth was flat. To see old maps that depicted dragons and mysterious lands where giants might roam freely. We look at these old beliefs and shake our heads, so secure in the knowledge that we have come so far.
In some ways, though, the things we believe today are as far off the mark as those old maps. Consider a new poll from Gallup that shows that Americans think 23% of the population is either gay or lesbian. That’s not an easy demographic to pin down, but the best estimates say that’s an overshoot of titanic proportions. A Gallup Daily Tracking poll from this year shows that only 3.8% of the adult population identifies themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
So what, right? Well, it has a significant effect on how we view this country, the policies we vote for, and the politicians we elect. It even goes further than that, deciding the kinds of beliefs we hold about ourselves, our communities, and the world at large. And though Gallup blames the overestimation on Americans’ predictably poor ability to determine demographical representation, a more obvious culprit should not be overlooked.
We’ve become a society obsessed with media. Americans devour TV shows and movies without restraint, and it has had a warping effect on the way we see the world. Proponents of same-sex marriage and other liberal policies say that this is a good thing. Gay characters in movies and shows serve to broaden our worldview, giving us empathy for those we may not meet in our day to day lives. And that’s true to an extent, but the problem is that these movies and shows do not accurately reflect the world at large. Is Gallup was asking how many modern fictional characters were gay, 23% would probably not be far off the mark. They are wildly overrepresented in the media, and that leads to some very unfortunate changes in society.
On the other side of the coin, the average American is vastly underrepresented in the media. People who go to church regularly and uphold traditional values in their personal lives are nowhere to be found. If they are there, they are made to look like weirdos and freaks, despite being far more like the average viewer than the producers would like us to think. These producers would have us believe that their art is a reflection of society, but that’s only true insofar that it’s a reflection of Hollywood, New York City, and other liberal cities. Those societies are hardly an accurate picture of America.
We would do well as a country to unplug our television sets and throw them into the backyard. We are learning how to live our lives from people in bizarre communities that have nothing to do with the way human beings are supposed to behave. It is verifiably changing the policies we support, the values we uphold, and the people we elect. Art and entertainment have always been a part of civilized society, but the line between fiction and reality has grown far too blurry. Hollywood may not reflect the real America, but it’s only a matter of time before America is a reflection of Hollywood.