Family Television: “For the Perfectly Imperfect”

Tyler Leahy
Opinions Editor

 

 

 

 

leahyAs long as I can remember, I have been anti-censorship, within reason. I understand that young minds are influenced with ease, and that children should not be exposed to certain vulgarities.

With that said, I think it’s ridiculous that parents scapegoat a lack of censorship in media when children behave like animals.

As a boy growing up in this generation, even in elementary school, it was easy to expose oneself to the kind of things parents gripe about. Whether you were a future valedictorian or high school dropout, it made no difference.

After your parents went to bed, you’d flicker on the television furthest from their bedroom to watch the new episode of South Park. It would be the main source of discussion for you and your buddies on the playground the next morning while you tossed a rubber ball against the brick school building.

Boys in our generation grew up watching “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson beat each other to a bloody pulp with steel chairs on then-WWF (since rebranded as WWE) broadcasts. The popular brand of wrestling was rated TV-14 until 2007, and has since downgraded to PG.

If you went to your friend Johnny’s house after school and his older brother had a copy of Grand Theft Auto, you played it. Heck, you would probably throw on an Eminem CD in the background while you played. It didn’t make you a bad kid, it just meant you were exposed to a variety of crude subject matters that you probably shouldn’t have been.

Girls were exposed to plenty of over-the-top media, too. Mean Girls is one of the more popular films of our generation (and a personal favorite of mine) that, in part, sparked the continual overuse of the term “slut-shaming.”

It didn’t make you a heathen, degenerate devil-child to be exposed to crude television, music, films, books, etc. If you were taught properly by actual, real-life people, you had a sense of respect for other people. You treated peers with respect. You treated elders with even more respect. There’s no reason to blame media exposure for any lack thereof, whether grand or miniscule.

It is unreasonable that school shootings are blamed on the likes of the outspoken Marilyn Manson, or that parents try to have Harry Potter books banned for supposedly promoting pagan behavior. Grand Theft Auto games are still made. Wrestling is still wildly popular with young boys. Mean Girls still airs everywhere, including ABC Family, of all channels.

Yes, parents should do their best to limit their children to age-appropriate content, although it is a near-impossible task in the internet era. They should focus more on instilling proper morals in their kids, as it is something they can directly impact. However, during my time spent at home in December, I found something that parents should actually be enraged about.

While I am not an avid television watcher, I do know that ABC Family’s reputation as a “family network” has been dwindling for quite some time. During my high school years, ABC Family’s most popular series was The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a drama that dragged on for five seasons about a fifteen-year-old girl that is impregnated in a hook-up with a popular guy from school who sleeps around with a lot of girls. I guess Mean Girls wasn’t suggestive enough for ABC Family, a Disney-owned network.

However, that is not the reason to be mad. I found myself infuriated during a quiet night at home alone (pun intended) watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on ABC Family, falling asleep on the couch. The movie was a childhood favorite of mine, and it was simply background noise before I began snoring.

In between scenes of Macauley Culkin bamboozling workers at the Plaza Hotel were the dreaded commercial breaks that plague the viewing of any movie on network television. Then there it was: the most despicable, laughable commercial I have ever seen.

Apparently, ABC Family frequently airs a commercial for Plan B One-Step. The popular emergency contraceptive is highlighted as something that “millions of women” take every year, and boasts the slogan “For the Perfectly Imperfect.” In the commercial, couples in their twenties are shown giggling and smiling as if they owe their happiness to the advent of Plan B. It is uncomfortable, almost creepy, and the slogan just takes it too far.

While emergency contraceptive is a touchy subject, I have no business in taking a stance on whether or not it deserves a place in television marketing. ABC Family, though? Come on. Sure, I was a near-22-year-old watching a 90’s Macauley Culkin film on a Saturday night, but it can be assumed that the majority of viewers were children and families. What happens when 9-year-old Sarah asks her mother what that commercial was really about?

The point is, if a network is going to have “family” in their title, it should tailor their content to be appropriate for children. It’s one thing if an elementary-school-aged child in 2015 hears an f-bomb here or there, or if they see Springfield College grad John Cena put a guy through a folding table. It’s a different issue if they have their curiosity peaked about things far beyond their age by a “family network.”

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is a perfectly acceptable film choice for children. I would watch it with my kids if I was a parent. It looks as if ABC Family’s vision for child-friendly content has continually slipped into something now “For the Perfectly Imperfect.”

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