The culture wars are back, and this time, everyone can win

In 1989, American Family Association founder Rev. Donald Wildmon, who had condemned shows like “Three’s Company,” threatened a boycott of Pepsi over a commercial the soft drink company cut with Madonna after the release of her “Like A Prayer” album, which Wildmon criticized as immoral and anti-Christian. The year after that, Vice President Dan Quayle famously took a swipe at Candice Bergen’s Murphy Brown, star of the eponymous CBS show, for becoming a single mother. Quayle suggested that the mass media was contributing to a decline of family values that he credited with a role in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers charged with beating Rodney King.

Even Bart Simpson was a target. Schools banned t-shirts emblazoned with his snotty catchphrases, and he was seen as a worrisome beacon of disrespect for authority and academic achievement, condemned by a figure as powerful as then-Secretary of Education William Bennett.

Culture warriors concerned by decency were anxious that culture was changing too fast, and introducing too many new ideas, voices and means of expression to a population vulnerable to the power of suggestion. (These concerns also marked debates about whether the classics were being unfairly devalued in favor of multicultural and feminist literature.)