What is Love? Hollywood Hasn’t Got a Clue

Written by PTC | Published February 16, 2024

With Valentine’s Day just passed, it's worth taking a moment to consider why the meaning of love has changed with some young people today.

The media culture has a lot to do with it.

If you follow the news, you’ll see more and more stories about virtual relationships replacing real world relationships. It started with social media – where, even if the social interactions were taking place online, at least the person on the other end was real. As AI apps proliferate, it is going to be increasingly common for young people to replace real people with chatbots.

According to Business Insider, platforms dedicated to AI “companions” have surged in popularity over the last year. The AI Chatbot “Replika,” billed as an “AI for anyone who wants a friend with no judgment, drama, or social anxiety involved,” has been downloaded over 10 million times. Within days of OpenAI’s new GPT store opening, at least six "girlfriend" AI chatbots, including "Ai.Eva," "My Tiefling Girlfriend," "My Virtual Girlfriend," "Your Girlfriend Tiffany" appeared on the platform.

But it also goes deeper than people supplanting real relationships with virtual ones. Young people today grew up in a media culture that routinely denigrated marriage and family while celebrating “hook-up” culture.

A 2008 Parents Television and Media Council study found that sex in the context of marriage was at that time either non-existent on prime-time broadcast television, or depicted as a burdensome, rather than as an expression of love and commitment. Across the broadcast networks, verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3 to 1; and scenes depicting or implying sex between nonmarried partners outnumbered scenes depicting or implying sex between married partners by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1.

We are seeing the consequences of TV’s toxic attitude toward love, monogamy, and marriage show up in our culture today.

In 2007, the year in which the data for that analysis was collected, 42% of women aged 15-44 were married. By 2022, that share dropped to 37%, amounting to some 3.1 million fewer marriages. In 1970, 17% of adults 18 and over had never been married. Today it’s 31%.

Fewer young people anticipate getting married and having children, and fewer young people believe that having a good marriage is important. Recent data from the Pew Research Center tells us that only one in four adults believe that having children is “extremely” or “very” important to a fulfilling life.

It’s more than mere coincidence that the generation that grew up watching the programs that denigrated marriage and family are now disinterested in getting married and starting families. But as toxic as TV content was 15 years ago, it has only gotten worse in the years since.

We explored this topic in an Op-Ed in Townhall this week.

But how many times have you heard the argument that the media kids consume has no real impact? That it’s just entertainment?

We know better.

The media we consumer matters. The media our children and grandchildren consume matters.

It can alter our perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and even how we view relationships; it can shape the destiny of individuals, the culture, even the world -- for better, or for worse.

The PTC is working to combat these toxic cultural messages.

We are pushing back against programs like Euphoria, The Idol, Naked Attraction that fill young people’s hearts and heads with disillusionment and despair.

We are taking our fight to investors and corporate board rooms; to sponsors and distributors; to Congress and the DOJ.

The challenge we face is enormous, but not insurmountable. It’s one we can win -- with your help and continued support.

Take Action. Stay Informed.