VULGARIANS AT THE GATE: Raising the Standards of Popular Culture
Steve Allen
Prometheus, 400 pages, $26

Steve Allen more or less invented the late-night talk-show genre as the creator and first host of NBC's Tonight Show in 1953. Ironically, that genre has evolved into one of the chief purveyors of the kind of depravity that Allen rails against here. Before his death last year at 78, the bespectacled comedian had become increasingly troubled by the rampant violence and raunch in popular culture.

Allen's book is an articulate indictment of the entertainment industry. No one is spared. In addition to the usual suspects—Madonna, gangsta rappers, Howard Stern—Allen also goes after media moguls, like Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who could effectively retrench the problem but "would not dream of risking the diminishment of their own profits."

An outspoken humanist whose 1990 book Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality found him grappling earnestly, if not shortsightedly, with matters of God and theology, Allen does not think "religion" is the solution to the problem. He cites the string of school shootings that happened in communities where churches were prevalent.

The solution, he says, lies in a greater emphasis on morality and manners. Though they would differ with the author on rudimentary issues, many Christians and profamily advocates will appreciate Allen's reasoned analysis of the problem. He encourages Americans to let their voices be heard, to reject the sleaze, and to be proactive by supporting organizations, like the Dove Foundation, that are working to stem the rising tide of vulgarity. Allen was putting the finishing touches on Vulgarians at the Gate when he died. The book's posthumous release may give its message a greater hearing.

Edward Gilbreath is an associate editor of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere:

Steve Allen has a place in history as the original Tonight Show host.

The Steve Allen Official Site has much nostalgia but little on his books.

Allen had been known to call television executives merchants of "filth" helping to push "down a moral sewer."

Amazon.com has Vulgarians at the Gate and Allen's previous book, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality.

Related Christianity Today articles include:

Naked Truths | Critics weigh in on what makes nudity in film wrong, right, and R-rated. (July 19, 2001)

Is Reality TV Beyond Redemption? | CBS hooks viewers with new lowbrow programming. (Sept. 4, 2000)

Taking on Tinseltown | Parents of slain classmates say media are to blame. (June 14, 1999)

Parents Group Targets Advertisers | Steve Allen and Shirley Jones lead Parents Television Council in improving the content of network television through advertisers. (Nov. 16, 1998)

Howard Stern Takes TV to New Lows (Nov. 26, 1998)

PAX TV off the Ground (Oct. 5, 1998)

How today's media condition kids to pull the trigger (Aug. 10, 1998)

Will New Christian TV Network Beat the Odds? (April 28, 1998)

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

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