Dear Dumbass Parents of America,
I don’t know how many times I have to keep saying this:
Grow the fuck up.
I refer to, of course, the latest article from The Washington Post, which reports that the Federal Communications Commission is ready to send the results of a study begun in 2004 on television content to Congress. Among other things, the report concludes that regulating television violence is “in the public interest” and is recommending that Congress curb said violence on television between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M. They decided that, like the absolutely asinine controls and fines on sexual content and “indecent” speech, Congress and the FCC also have the power to regulate “excessive violence.”
Gee, I don’t see how this could cause any fucking problems at all. Especially in an election year. Because nobody’s ever scored points with voters by bashing Hollywood, right?
The article from the Washington Post also states that the FCC is recommending that cable providers move to an “a la carte” style service, letting viewers pick and choose the channels they want to have on their box. I don’t have a particular problem with that, although the hints that the FCC report may also suggest applying the same regulations to basic cable networks as broadcast networks. But it’s the effect this could have on the broadcast networks that really bothers me.
Still, parents, before we get to why this is your fault, let’s break that down, shall we? Come along and listen to the lullaby of Television City…
Let’s start with the fact that any law passed by Congress would have to define violence, and also define “excessive violence.” While it’s pretty easy to come up with an across-the-board definition for sexual content (dick, titties, and fuckin’), it’s going to be extremely difficult to come to a common definition of violence, and where the line is. What’s the difference between, say, Jack Bauer bitch-slapping a interrogation suspect and Homer throttling Bart? Both are violent acts, and in the case of the latter, it’s an act of violence by a parent against a child. Is intent going to matter should Congress pass the law? Will grotesque slapstick that’s been warping children’s minds for the last sixty years matter as much as Claire the jailbait cheerleader on the autopsy table in Heroes?
Next, regulating violence between the hours of six and ten p.m. is fucked up. Do you know what comes on every night at six p.m.? That’s right – the Nightly News! I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m a recovering one, but I can’t help but think that is a clusterfuck waiting to happen. The administration of President Bush has already censored and stifled countless stories and images of the wars going on in both Iraq and around the world; this ban would further that and lull a public that’s just starting to wake up back into complacency. God forbid we see what’s actually going on over there.
Extending the so-called “family hour” from six to ten by regulating violent content during those hours is absolute nonsense as well, and I can prove it.
Not counting the nightly news, here is the current Sunday through Saturday schedule for the five major broadcast networks, from six to ten p.m. (where applicable, first run programming only):
SUNDAY: King of the Hill (FOX), The Simpsons (FOX), Family Guy (FOX), American Dad (FOX), America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC), Desperate Housewives (ABC), 60 Minutes (CBS), The Amazing Race (CBS), Cold Case (CBS), Dateline NBC (NBC), Deal or No Deal (NBC), 7th Heaven (CW)
MONDAY: Drive (FOX), 24 (FOX), Dancing With The Stars (ABC), The Bachelor (ABC), How I Met Your Mother (CBS), The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), Two and a Half Men (CBS), The King of Queens (CBS), Deal or No Deal (NBC), Heroes (NBC), Everybody Hates Chris (CW), All of Us (CW), Girlfriends (CW), The Game (CW)
TUESDAY: American Idol (FOX), House (FOX), George Lopez (ABC), Dancing With The Stars (ABC), The Bachelor (ABC), NCIS (CBS), The Unit (CBS), Dateline NBC (NBC), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC), Gilmore Girls (CW), Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll (CW)
WEDNESDAY: Bones (FOX), American Idol (FOX), According To Jim (ABC), Notes from the Underbelly (ABC), Jericho (CBS), Criminal Minds (CBS), Thank God You’re Here (NBC), Crossing Jordan (NBC), America’s Next Top Model (CW)
THURSDAY: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (FOX), Trading Spouses (FOX), Ugly Betty (ABC), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Survivor (CBS), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS), My Name Is Earl (NBC), The Office (NBC), 30 Rock (NBC), Scrubs (NBC), Smallville (CW), Supernatural (CW)
FRIDAY: Wife Swap (ABC), Ghost Whisperer (CBS), Close to Home (CBS), Identity (NBC), Raines (NBC), Friday Night Smackdown (CW)
SATURDAY: COPS (FOX), America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back (FOX), Dateline NBC (NBC)
Now, let’s take a look at what that schedule would look like in an alternate universe where Congress and the FCC has enforced the strictest possible definition of violence on television, and for shits and giggles, let’s get rid of all that sexy and “indecent” stuff, too:
SUNDAY: America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC), The Amazing Race (CBS), Deal or No Deal (NBC), 7th Heaven (CW)
MONDAY: Dancing With The Stars (ABC), The King of Queens (CBS), Deal or No Deal (NBC), Everybody Hates Chris (CW)
TUESDAY: American Idol (FOX), George Lopez (ABC), Dancing With The Stars (ABC), Gilmore Girls (CW)
WEDNESDAY: American Idol (FOX), According To Jim (ABC), Thank God You’re Here (NBC)
THURSDAY: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (FOX), Trading Spouses (FOX)
FRIDAY: Wife Swap (ABC), Identity (NBC)
SATURDAY: No Programming
Would you want to watch that? Even with the shows left, there’s still some content that might bother the conservative nutbats at the FCC. I mean, Lil’ Rory Gilmore lost her virginity to a married man – how dare she! What about the skimpy outfits worn on Idol, Deal or No Deal, and Dancing with the Stars – although they may not be violent, they’re certainly appealing to children’s prurient interests.
And if Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights, and Lost were still on in those hours, they’d be gone too. I haven’t even touched the bevy of programming on PBS that would be affected – the FCC’s already gone after that network for airing documentaries uncensored. Imagine what would happen if they used a law regulating violence to go after Frontline or Masterpiece Theatre.
I’m not going to lie and say that the television industry, especially the broadcast networks, are blameless. Television has become more violent in my lifetime. Part of that is a reaction to the cable networks, true, a desperate grasp for ratings, and it’s all an attempt to make money in the eyes of the studio heads – like it’s been from the beginning of fucking time. Still, it’s the loosening of these regulations over the last twenty years that have allowed television to grow and mature, much the way comic books didn’t achieve some kind of mainstream respect until the Comics Code was thrown out. Can you imagine the crash scene from Lost before, say, 1990? What would a 1970s version of The Unit look like?
While I do acknowledge television has been able to work under extreme content regulations and produce great art from the beginning of its inception (one word: Marty), I’d rather television move forward than move back – because for every era of television, there’s been some congressman or law-maker who decided to score a few points by going after the pervs in the entertainment industry. Dr. Fredrick Wertham, who wrote the famous Seduction of the Innocent, is known for going after comic books – but there’s at least one chapter in that book dedicated to television as well. And from the start, there’s always been one solution to children watching sex and violence on tv.
Which brings us to you, dear dumbass parent.
The last time the controversy over television content was this loud, it was the mid-90s, and it was the result of that controversy that led to placing v-chips into all television sets from then on, allowing parents to regulate what their children see rather than congress. It was also what led to the admittedly flawed ratings system on most television shows, making parents aware of what was in a show before it aired.
Hell, most of the shows I listed above on FOX start with that guy who sort of sounds like Will Arnett telling you “Parental Discretion Is Advised.” Why aren’t you listening to fake Will Arnett, parents of America?
The argument from Congress and the FCC is that parents are not using these tools. This is not Congress’s job. This is not the FCC’s job. Parents, this is your job.
Look, I’m sorry if you’ve fallen into the delusion that television is a babysitter, that your kids can watch anything on tv and not be affected by it. But it seems to me, that for decades now, the television industry has tried, time and time again, to meet you halfway – and you’ve ignored them. They have given you the tools to be a better consumer of media. They have given you the tools to be a better parent.
So the next time your kid comes to you and says, “Mommy, Daddy, can I watch 24 tonight?,” take fifteen minutes – hell, take five – and do your homework about what exactly’s on tonight’s exciting installment of the Jack Bauer Power Hour. Think about whether or not the show – any show – is suitable for your child, based on their age and intelligence, and then decide.
If you do decide to let your kid watch, say, 24, talk to them about it afterwards. Encourage discussion. Ask them how it makes them feel, whether it scares them, what they think it means, whether they think violence is acceptable in such a situation, or any other variety of questions that you feel are important. And for the love of god, listen. If Bauer hacksawing some dude’s head off frightened your kid in a bad way (i.e., nightmares), maybe it’s not a good idea to let them watch next week. Maybe you should seek out some other quality television for your kid to watch. There’s plenty of it on DVD.
And please, don’t whine to me about how you want to watch 24 when it airs and little Johnny is sitting there next to you because you can’t be bothered to send him out of the room. If you think 24 is unacceptable for your child, don’t watch it while they’re around. TiVo it, or, if you’re a poorie like me, tape it. And if you don’t want to tape it, then make sure Johnny’s occupied while you do. Give him a Stephen King novel to read or something.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s just good parenting. If you’re truly concerned about what your kids watch on tv, then pay more attention to what they’re watching and make sure they know what they’re watching.
I don’t know if I’m giving you too much credit, dumbass parent. Maybe you were raised by television yourself, before boning at the junior prom or your sophomore year in college. Maybe you knocked up Connie Cheerleader or Barry BigDick got you pregnant, and you’re still too immature to be raising a child. Maybe you think you can just plop your kid in front of the television, that you can watch what you want when you want and not make the sacrifices required of you as a parent. So although I don’t have children nor do I ever want a couple of Leonard yard monsters running around one day, I’ve certainly been working with kids long enough to know the least of those parental sacrifices are TiVoing House or Heroes until Sammy SmallCock has gone to bed.
In short: Do your fucking job.