Oct 25 2010 02:25 PM ET
Memo to the Parents Television Council: We're boycotting your boycotts
by Jennifer Armstrong
LHey, Parents Television Council: We hereby declare ourselves morally outraged by your moral outrage. We are red-alerting your system of constant red-alerts. We are boycotting your boycotts.
The fact is, this so-called “non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment” seems more concerned with grabbing headlines than exercising responsibility itself. The group has often employed a tiresome alarmist attack strategy: It seems preoccupied, for instance, with unsaid profanity — yes, really, profanity that was not actually uttered, as in the title of the CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says and, a few years back, The CW’s sexy “OMFG” campaign for Gossip Girl. It spends a lot of time policing the content of shows meant to provoke — and meant, by the way, to be aimed at adults — like perpetual offender Family Guy. You think an episode including orgies and bestiality wasn’t basically meant to upset you, PTC?
But the council has never made its true mission clearer than when it spoke out against last week’s much-debated GQ photo shoot featuring three Glee stars, two of them in very little clothing. The group seems more interested in getting in on any hot topic trending online than in fulfilling its stated mission. Even though the debate had nothing to do with actual television content, and even less to do with media aimed at kids (GQ is for grown men, guys!), they hijacked the debate with their hysterical assertions that the shoot “borders on pedophilia.” I myself argued against the photos’ cheap, sexist set-up (crotch shots, lollipops, and underwear for Lea Michele and Dianna Agron; sweaters and ties — not to mention pants — for Cory Monteith). And I resented the way the PTC derailed the discussion, making it easy to scoff away any criticism of the pictorial as crazy talk of the same ilk. Of course it’s not pedophilia — Michele and Agron are both in their 20s — but it is misogynist trash that goes against the very empowerment Glee preaches. The PTC, however, torpedoed the entire debate.
The group’s insistence on being ludicrous is too bad, really, because a reasonable TV watchdog group could do some good. With more content on television than ever — and the medium’s ever-increasing pervasiveness in our lives — there’s nothing wrong with holding networks accountable for their actions. And surely parents would appreciate some measured guidance in finding the best family programming out there. (Not all high school shows and cartoons are meant for young audiences, after all.) The PTC has even waged some rational campaigns on occasion — for instance, a report last year pointing out the brutal violence against women on prime-time crime shows. Unfortunately, such constructive outrage gets lost in the group’s too-frequent ridiculous dramatics.
With the PTC losing funding and power — as The New York Times reports, the group that once scored record-setting Federal Communications Commission fines against broadcasters didn’t make a dent this fall in $#*! My Dad Says‘ ad revenue — could it be time for a truly nonpartisan education organization that would advocate responsibly for responsible entertainment? Until then, we’ll be tuning out the outrage.