November 21, 2006

I Agree with Spielberg: "I'm a parent who is very concerned."

Marc Comtois


Exclaiming that sentence--directed to my unsuspecting daughters--is a regular occurence in my household on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon when Dad (me) is watching "the game." Especially now that the weather is getting colder and there's less to do outside. On the weekend, when they are taking a break from playing, the kids may wander into the living room to see what Dad's up to. Occasionally, they'll take a seat, ask me questions about the game and cheer when the Pats score a Home Run (they're still learning the details of which team plays what...). Eventually, on comes the commercial break. I'll let Steven Spielberg do the 'splainin' from there:

Steven Spielberg urged TV networks to be mindful of what they show on the air because of the effect it might have on children, and said programs like "CSI" and "Heroes" were too gruesome.

"Today we are needing to be as responsible as we can possibly be, not just thinking of our own children but our friends' and neighbors' children," Spielberg told an audience Monday at the International Emmys board of directors meeting here.

Spielberg decried on-air promotions for television shows like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" that showed "blood and people being dissected." He also said that when his favorite TV show of the new season, NBC's "Heroes," showed someone cut in half in the 9 p.m. hour, he sent his younger children out of the room.

"I'm a parent who is very concerned," he said.

Spielberg is correct to be concerned about the times that gruesome shows are aired. Yet, my big problem is when I'm on the couch on Sunday at 2:25 in the afternoon watching the Pats, with a little girl on each side of me, and the latest CSI commercial comes on, complete with a shootout and at least one, "well-used" cadaver laying on the table. (By the way, I don't care what they say, the volume of a commercial is louder than the show).

I completely understand that TV networks are attracted to sports programming because they provide an opportunity to promote their cheaper and higher revenue generating fare to a particularly attractive audience demographic (18-34 year old males). No problem. Just remember that the content of the commercials for TV shows need to be appropriate for the time in which they air. I suppose if you're showing a slasher flick at 2 PM on a Sunday, it's OK to expect that the audience for that wouldn't be offended or scared by the image of a bloody cadavar. But not when a kid is watching a game! (This goes for advertisements for "male enhancement" products, too, by the way!)

Have my kids been irrevocably harmed? No, but I haven't caught one episode of CSI (any version) since it came on the air.

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I'm usually of the "Don't like it? Change the channel!" school, but Spielberg does have a valid point about showing "adult" promo clips at times when a decent number of kids are watching.
What bothers me is the whole "sex is evil, but violence is OK" mentality in these discussions about TV. The Media Research Center, American Family Association, and similar groups go into conniption about sexual content (i.e. Janet Jackson, the alleged orgy from "Without a Trace"), but I'd take them a lot more seriously if they raised equal objections to violent content on network shows. I won't always agree with them, but kids are probably just as harmed (if not more) by violent content as they are by sexual content.

Posted by: Rhody at November 21, 2006 3:10 PM

I agree with you on that. I've always been more concerned over violence--even in "children's programming"--than over boobs, butts and kissing. And like I said, the problem is really how the content of these commercials don't fit the programming context in which they are shown.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at November 21, 2006 3:27 PM

Rhody and Marc both agree and are both right. Someone mark this date down so we can celebrate the anniversary next year!

Posted by: Anthony at November 21, 2006 6:15 PM

Hey, TV makes stranger bedfellows than politics.

Posted by: Rhody at November 22, 2006 12:43 AM

So we can agree about the promos, and the need to be "hour/program appropriate" or at least toned down? You may think it is harmless "boobs, butts & kissing" Marc, but I know all too well that "2.5 Men" and "Will & Grace" etc would often pull some audacious, raunchy clip to tease an upcoming episode. You know the ones... where the canned laughtrack contains pseudo-shocked squeals. Whatever. To me, the difference between the genres of exploitation is thus. Violence is mostly shown to ultimately be negative. Promiscuity, not so much.

Posted by: rhodeymark at November 22, 2006 10:21 AM
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