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The Spelling of America: Defining Morals Down

What is the purpose of a marriage license?

I have a driver's license I obtained by promising to respect the rules of the road. Doctors and lawyers require licenses to practice their trade, obtaining that license by promising to obey the laws governing their professions. The corner store needs a license to sell alcohol and tobacco, and failing to maintain the rules by which that license is granted can get Mr. Hooper in a heap o' trouble.

Let's assume for a moment that all of the characters on "Melrose Place" have obtained licenses for each marriage that has occurred on the series. That's a gross amount of cash that's dropped into Municipal coffers, a lot of pledges to do the right thing by way of marriage, and a lot of people who will soon be sleeping with someone to whom they are not currently married, but to whom they have been married recently, or to whom they will be married shortly.

Most of Aaron Spelling's productions are filled (to capacity) with people who have been ultra-chummy with those to whom they are not married or even currently dating. "Beverly Hills 90210", formerly filled with teens whose morals had yet to decay noticeably, has Brandon doing-the-do with a number of other women while proclaiming his inviolate love for Kelly. Drop him, babe, he's no good for you.

I chose Aaron Spelling's programming style simply because it gets the most airtime, but he's not the only person who portrays marriage as a simple piece of paper. In fact television is filled with people, fictional and not so, demonstrating the ease with which people reach well beyond the realm of acceptable behaviour, and still not have their marriage license revoked.

Unless you've been living in a cave - and if you have, more power to you - you can't have escaped the fun Bill Clinton's been having in and around the White House. From Paula Jones to Monica Lewinsky, Clinton's been bent on a number of women - at least, that's what alleged to have happened. But with the tossing of the Paula Jones lawsuit in Arkansas on April 1st, "alleged" is what it will all remain.

Presidential escapades seem to be of no more consequence than those on "Melrose Place" or "90210", both of which shows are rife with characters whose skin is far thicker than most. In the real world, allegations of sexual misdeed, no matter how groundless, generally destroy marriages and ruin careers. But in the Spelling version - and in the White House - hints at adulterous misconduct not only gives your career a boost - it gives a rise to your popularity rating, too.

What gives? How can male students be charged with sexual harassment for "inappropriate innuendo" and "ogling" one day, while the sexual advances of the President of the United States are ignored the next? There's a nation of litigation lawyers making a wondrous living trying specious claims of "sexual misconduct" & "sexual harassment", yet when Bill Clinton exposes himself to a woman, or has an alleged affair, it's okey-dokey (cause the economy is good!).

We've redefined morals in the last several years. Oral sex is not actual sex, infidelity is no more than "extra-marital interests", and indecent exposure is simply "letting the twins get some air". Billy can sleep with whom ever he chooses, Michael can lie and cheat and steal, but the fickle (and brainless) women of Melrose Place will hop in the sack with them any old time.

Bill Clinton is alleged to have had an affair with Gennifer Flowers, another with Monica Lewinsky, to have exposed himself to Paula Jones, and to have adventures with any number of women - and yet Hillary and the rest of the nation are just pleased to hop back into the sack with him again and again.

Sounds like a script Aaron Spelling would approve heartily.
Copyright© 1998 Michael Brown
Printed here with full permission.