Parents' TV Council's Childrens TV report (warning: mild and long)

NOTE: I originally posted this on an animation board, since most children’s programming is animated. I bring you this post, only slightly edited, in the hope of intelligent discussion (and the hope that there are other childless Dopers out there who watch kid shows as much as I do.)

I was never a fan of L. Brent Bozell III and his right-wing organization the Parents Television Council. They’re an unusual group, in my opinion- instead of teaching parents to control what their children watch by monitoring content and blocking out channels, they think the right way to deal with inappropriate television is to write angry letters to the sponsors so they’ll stop running their advertising during the shows, thus depriving Nip/Tuck and their ilk of their precious ad dollars. When researching the TV ratings and whether or not the content descriptors (“V” “S” “D” “L”) are accurate, the PTC’s report only covered MTV. Shouldn’t they have done more than one network? (Bozell is also on the board of directors of the Catholic League, a group which believes that any criticism of the Catholic Church’s policies on birth control, etc. is a slam on the entire beliefs of Catholicism itself, but that organization is another story).

Anyway, the PTC today released a new report entitled Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: A Content Analysis of Children’s Television. I was curious as to what the SDMB at large thought about the report. Here is a link to the PTC’s press release, which features a link marked “Full Report” at the bottom which links to a PDF file of the full report.

Some random thoughts regarding the report:
-The report makes no regard as to whether the character in question is a hero or a foil (I use the word “foil” rather than “villain” in this case as most of the characters the heroes go up against in cartoons are not true villains, but authority figures who try to stifle their creativity such as parents or teachers and/or class bullies. Of course, in superhero cartoons and other shows starring superpowered kids, there are both foils in everyday life and true, malevolent villains), or as if there is a lesson to be learned. SpongeBob learns that swearing is bad after using his “sentence enhancers” one time too many. (And although the report is right in saying that the words are obvious in most cases, the ending gag turns the whole thing on its ear- when an antique car horn is heard, Mr. Krabs’ mother is thought to have cursed, but in actuality it’s the sound of an actual horn! Are the noises replacements for swears, or are they the actual swears themselves? How the [dolphin chirps] should I know?) On The Fairly OddParents, Francis may bully Timmy, but he always gets his comeuppance. So does perpetual bully Kate on Lizzie McGuire. Although That’s So Raven’s brother Cory may steal, he learns that it’s wrong at the end. The report is correct that when most cartoon characters tell a lie, the lie is soon discovered. But how are you going to teach a lesson without having something being done that needs to be corrected?
-Among the shows that had no verbally abusive language included Tom and Jerry. I’m not surprised by this, seeing as this classic duo never talk!
-After commenting about Ren & Stimpy, the report states that “Rugrats opened the floodgates for the infusion of bathroom humor in children’s programming as well as themes of disobedience and disrespect.” It did? As far as I recall, the toilet humor (if any) on Rugrats was tame, perhaps even non-existant, compared to that of Ren & Stimpy. As for “disobedience and disrespect,” other than foil Angelica, who was always punished for her bad behavior, if there was any on the show, it was the fact that the babies would often leave the playpen and put themselves in peril as part of their unusual crusades which their parents knew nothing about (although if Tommy and his pals behaved and stayed put every episode, you wouldn’t have much of a show).
-“Bugs Bunny never called Elmer Fudd an idiot.” No, but he did call Elmer and other foils “maroons” (presumably a mispronounciation of “moron”) and other insulting names, though not to their faces. If you’re going to make a comparison about the animation of the past and the animation of the present, get the facts about the past right.

I’m sure you folks can deconstruct this thing more. I take it over to you.

What’s childhood without a healthy dose of meaningless violence and irrational terror? Why does the PTVC hate children?


And poop jokes! And grossouts! What sort of miserable, colorless, deprived childhood would it be without them?

Everybody, relive your childhood and sing along with me:

“Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat
Perforated piggy feet
A one-quart jar of all-purpose porpoise pus
Floating in my lemonade
And me without my spooooooooooooonnnnn…”

Actually, I learned it with “chopped up little birdy feet” instead of “perforated piggy feet”, but I suppose either works.

I am NOT comin’ to your house for dinner.


So, I suppose that means you won’t pull my finger? :frowning:

I’m disappointed to see that there are no examples from Ed, Edd, and Eddy. :frowning:

Here’s how they address the counter-argument that cartoons have always been violent:

But points one and two are total bullshit.

Many of the shows they cite – Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends – use a Flash animation style that’s far simpler and more stylized than the classic Disney, Warner Brothers, and MGM theatrical shorts. Partially this is an artistic choice and but mostly it’s an economic one – in order to be commercially viable on television cartoons have to be relatively cheap to animate. The lush, realistic look of a Bugs Bunny short is just not possible to achieve on the budget of a typical kids’ show.

And have they watched those old shorts recently? Characters get shot in the face, set on fire, diced into little pieces – really grisly stuff if you take it literally. Even the most violent of contemporary kids’ cartoons is mild by comparason. (Although there is that one episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy with the song about eating brains to the tune of “Sing, Sing, Sing” … .)

And you’re right about them being totally clueless about context. I watch cartoons with my kids and in virtually every show bad behaviors are shown to have negative consequences. Bullies get their comeuppances. Villains are defeated by heroes. Selfish kids learn to share.

About the only time negative behaviors AREN’T shown in a bad light, ironically enough, is on certain shows on PBS that seem to take a “warts-and-all” approach to family life where negative behaviors are shown as normal part of everyday existence. So Arthur’s sister is a whiny little brat, and Caillou misbehaves all the time. These negative traits are integral to their characters rather than being temporary deviations with adverse conquences. Thank you, but no. I’d rather let my kids have a good laugh over Patrick Star farting than let them watch those damn Thomas the Tank engine trains being pissy to each other.

Although Foster’s is done in Flash animation, Danny Phantom and Fairly OddParents are drawn by hand. Although I agree with you on the fact that, if anything, the theatrical cartoons of the past were more realistically animated than those shown on TV today, for budget reasons.

Can I use a straw?

Ugh, I hated that show…we didn’t allow the kids to watch it at our house.

I don’t get it- they’re against any portrayal of bad behaviour, bullying or disrespect, even if the transgressor is punished and the overall message of the show is not to act like a jerk?

In the Spongebob episode that they get so rIled up about, the whole moral of the story is that swearing isn’t big or clever, and that kids shouldn’t swear- except the show manages to put this across in a humourous way- what the fuck is wrong with that?

Come on, most of the double entendres are there for the students, unemployed and parents, if the kids don’t get the dirty meaning, who cares and if they do, it’s not from hearing too many double entendres- you have to know it’s dirty to know it’s dirty- that’s why it’s a double entendre!

At least I am now educated that “ass” is vulgar or profane language, while “butt” is merely mild language!

Apparently any mention of gay people comes into their definition of “sexual content”. :smack:
They actually got pissed off over this extract from Sister, Sister:
**Policeman: ** “Do you give cops a discount? My significant other and I need a limo for the Gay Policemen’s Ball”.
**Ray: ** “Uh…sure…yeah”
Policeman: “I think it’s great you have such a liberal attitude”.
Ray: “Well I pride myself on having in being an open-minded kind of guy, able to see everyone’s point of view…make no judgements”.
Showing a character treating gay cops like straight cops and giving them a discount because they’re serving the community, and being all “liberal” and “open-minded” is going to really corrupt the kiddies! :rolleyes:


Not to mention liberal doses of racism.

But you don’t see as much of the bad stuff in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons-- they’ve been heavily edited and many of the more offensive ones are no longer shown. I remember a mild controversy over the editiong of one scene-- a character gobbles aspirin, and the scene was removed for fears that kids would emulate it. I wonder if anybody bothered to check whether or not any kids actually had done so in the fifty years the cartoon had run uncut, or if they’re just worried that kids are stupider today.

(I used to have a great site that had clips of “banned cartoons” in my bookmarks, but it seems to be gone now. Anyone know what I’m talking about?)

Disney has been quietly releasing all of its old cinematic shorts on DVD, including the racially and morally questionable ones. Some of the early Mickey Mouse shorts have Mickey drinking beer and smoking cigars! With any luck Song of the South will eventually be brought back from exile as well.

It’s interesting to see how MGM has handled their old Tom and Jerry shorts with the “Mammy” maid who harasses Tom. Since all you see of her is her legs, they’ve just revoiced her. The new voice is still clearly a black woman, but instead of the shuck and jive servant routine she did before she now speaks as though the house is HERS and Tom is HER cat. It totally changes the racial tone of the cartoon without changing a single frame of animation.

As far as I’m aware, the dialogue in the redubbed Tom and Jerry cartoons is the same as the originals, complete with slangs and misspellings (“One more peep outta you, Thomas, an’ it’s O-W-T out!”) They just redubbed Mammy’s voice to sound less “black.” (The Tom and Jerry shorts are currently owned by Turner Entertainment, a Time Warner company.)