If I had to switch on a random cable channel right now I could very likely comes across a scantily clad Miley Cyrus twerking, bumping, grinding and rubbing herself up against Robin Thicke as he sings his sexually explicit song Blurred Lines.
Yet if I had to zap back to a Maltese channel I might come across something like Salib it-Toroq with its melodramatic story lines and neighbourhood angst.
That, in a nutshell, is the contrast between the very sexualized media content which is freely available to children and teens, and the kind of controlled, sanitized version which is churned out for a Maltese viewing audience.
Of course, there has always been a chasm between the generations, but never as much as now. It is no wonder that parents look on in bewilderment at the ‘selfies’ of pouting pubescent girls posing in their underwear in their bedrooms which are then used as profile photos for Facebook. Yes sinjura, while you were sitting in your living room, enthralled with the intrigue of your beloved turgid drama, your little girl has been emulating her pop heroines, arching her back provocatively and practising how to look sexy in the mirror, already fully aware that this kind of thing is what attracts boys (and men).
Young girls have always wanted to grow up too fast – so did I – but it is only with the passage of time and maturity that the penny drops and you understand just why your parents were forever warning you about the pitfalls and health risks of entering into sexual relationships before a certain age (or at the very least, only within a long term-relationship leading to the holy grail of marriage).
The problem, as was pointed out at a recent presentation by the Ministry of Health, is that Malta is living in a parallel universe where afternoon TV chat shows are still not allowed to discuss sexual topics “because children are coming home from school at that time”, while the Internet and cable TV have made these kind of viewing thresholds redundant.
The publication of a sexual health media resources pack (which was the purpose of the presentation), is a very good idea and will no doubt, prove useful to ensure correct, factual information is transmitted on sensitive issues.
But what I found more interesting was the reaction of the other journalists gathered there who voiced their annoyance and frustration at what they termed to be a rather patronizing attitude by the authorities. “We know all this”, they said, referring to the media pack, “what is there for us to report?”.
I could see their point.
The thing is that (except for a few exceptions) most of the people who should have been there did not show up. I was informed that 80 media production houses had been invited; these are the people who produce talk shows and write scripts for all those TV dramas and sitcoms we see. Maybe they did not understand why they were being invited, but I think they missed a golden opportunity to discuss the scenario described above. That would have made for a very good debate about what is and isn’t “allowed” to be shown and discussed on our local TV productions in direct contrast to the “anything goes” streaming of just about anything on cable.
No wonder most young people never watch Maltese TV – it is completely out of touch with the world they are living in. It is either too strait-laced and academic or too sensationalist just for the sake of cranking up the ratings.
So while we laughed, during the presentation, at the episode of Friends where Ross is shocked to discover that not only is Rachel pregnant but that condoms are only effective 97% of the time (an example of how to drive home an important sexual health message through a popular sitcom), I could not help but wonder whether ANY Maltese scriptwriter would ever write such a scene.
And more significantly, what the Maltese audience reaction would be.