30.4.11

Why in the Name of Entertainment

If your child was in pre-school and her care provider invited someone to come in and talk about dieting and watching your weight with the three-to-four year old girls, would that be acceptable? Or how about if your son’s Kindergarten teacher wore a revealing tank top and regularly kissed the male principal in order to get special treatment for her class? Would you find that an agreeable environment for your child? Perhaps it would be okay with you if the Grade 1 classroom teacher told your children to sign up for Facebook in order to find out more information about a topic they were studying, knowing full well that there are minimum age requirements to use Facebook.


As a parent, would you sit back and allow these things to happen without a murmur of dissent? Or would you protest, pull your child from the system, go to the media and make your voice heard?

If you’d sit back and let this happen, don’t bother reading the rest of this; it doesn’t apply to you.

To the rest of you: do you let your child watch TV? Do they regularly watch DVDs? Do you intently watch everything with them? If not, you may be surprised at what your child has already been exposed to.

I know I got quite a shock when watching Barbie and the Diamond Castle with my daughter one day. They had been showing it at our son’s school so I assumed it was okay. I even went to Common-Sense Media to check the ratings and special information provided by experts and other parents. I had watched most of it with her before, but had been sidetracked occasionally by the needs of another child, or the call of the laundry machine.

I had talked with my daughter about the commercialization in the movie and alerted her to the fact that the movies are in part made to sell the toys. She was aware that watching the movie did not mean she would get the toys. I had even taken extra-special attention to balance her viewing of the “quest for a prince and a palace” style of movie with extra readings of The Tough Princess and Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots.

I felt I was an in-tune and savvy mom, allowing her exposure but tempering it with extra information and discussion. But strangely enough I didn’t think I had to discuss the topic of casual sex with my daughter to prepare her for watching a Barbie movie aimed at three-to-seven-year-old children. And yet, imagine my shock when I saw a buxomly waitress dump a pitcher of water (?) over a cad/minstrels head and declare “that’s for leaving without a goodbye.”

Click here to see the whole scene on Youtube.
Oh sure, my four-year-old didn’t understand what it meant, but I sure did. And my daughter asked why the waitress had done it.

They see more than we know, as Angela, a savvy mom of two, discovered when watching My Little Pony: Twinklewish Adventure with her daughter. The super-slimmed down and sexed up ponies are not happy enough to be sparkly pink and slender, some are still watching their weight. In the movie, an adult pony is offered a cookie which she declines by saying “I’m watching my figure.”

Check out time-mark 7:23 in this Youtube vid.

Angela’s five-year-old daughter, who had viewed that scene a few times already, turned to her mother and said “Mommy, what’s a figure?” Nothing escapes her attention. She’s a brilliant, beautiful girl suddenly exposed to the idea that some people are not happy with their bodies.

And for what? What purpose did either of those scenes serve in the movies they were in? Why does the Lego Clutch Power movie feature only one female lego character and why did they need to paint on cleavage and have her use sexpot charms to get her way with the rest of the team? Is that the lesson we want our sons and daughters seeing?

If these things happened in our schools or daycares we wouldn’t sit idly by. But because they are considered “entertainment” and not “education,” TV shows, movies, websites and toys get away with more than we can imagine in terms of questionable content. And because they are entertainment, we parents have the tendancy to view them as “harmless” fun.

By the time a girl reaches her teens she will have been exposed to hours of images and talk that show her that her body is not her temple but her torment. By the time a young man starts dating he will have been exposed to a multitude of images of young girls as sex figures and men as powerful. He will already have been introduced to the concept of female manipulation and passive-aggressive behavior.He will have started distrusting girls already.

Companies like Zoobles create special interactive websites for children featuring a prominent link to their Facebook page. Sure if a child clicks on the link they show a warning saying that you’re about to leave the page and to “please make sure you have a parent’s permission.” In my mind, if they have to post a warning, they know it’s wrong.

And that’s the thing. Didn’t the script-writers or producers of the My Little Pony video know it was wrong to encourage young girls to “watch” their figures. Didn’t the Lego team realize that having one female character – and I neglected to mention the black skeleton dude who supplied comedy – and making that character out to be a sexy, manipulative and insecure team member would teach young boys something ?

Or have we slipped so far that these things are considered appropriate and I’m a lone voice yelling into the wind?

11 comments:

  1. My jaw dropped at the Barbie scene. I expect stuff like that in Shrek & other "cartoons" that are made, in my opinion, for adults. Completely inappropriate for a child's cartoon.

    I think the way you balanced the princess stories is wonderful, though.

    I don't believe the individual occurrences of inappropriate dialogue, images, etc are what cause the problems. It's the sheer fact that our children are inundated with these stereotypes from the moment they are born. As parents, we have to stay vigilant and make sure we provide examples to counter what our children are exposed to by society & the media.

    You are not the lone voice but I am cynical enough to believe that most people won't try to change the tide.

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  2. That's exactly it. Each individual instance is nothing - a grain of sand - but by the time they enter school there's a whole beachful of them. And we, as parents and society in general, let them by a grain at a time.
    Fortunately, I know I'm not the lone voice really, but I do wonder if it's even possible to change the industry.

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  3. Dieting ponies and promiscuous dolls? What the hell? Seriously, why? What purpose does it serve? I knew I hated barbie for a reason.

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  4. A lot of the images drive me nuts, but I don't think it's usually possible to shield your children from all of them, they will probably see them at the houses of their friends anyway. Balancing them seems a much better solution, and even if you think you've failed, like when my dd went through a shopping obsession in her early teens, you may not have. She now avoids shopping, even though her pals still enjoy it and I find myself reclaiming the values of my parents, so the efforts do pay dividends in the end.

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  5. Sadly, this is what comes of having adults create programmes for kids. They just cannot pitch it without adding in, either consciously or subconsciously, adult content. What makes it worse, of course, is the marketing impetus behind it. Now, adults have always imbued children's stories with adult themes - old fashioned fairy tales being good examples - but these were always cautionary tales attempting to warn children of the dangers of the adult world. It was done knowingly for the benefit of the child (mostly). Nowadays we have thrown caution to the wind and replaced it with commercialism, fad-ism and retail drive. Instead of warning our children of danger and trying to give them a moral overview we are throwing them to the lions and asking them to buy the pelts.

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  6. We go the whole hog and expose our kids to James Bond. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, baby. Plus the baddies always get their comeuppance and there are lots of car chases.
    And not a Barbie in sight. Unless you count the bimbos throwing themselves at JB, but that's a whole other story.

    Yay.

    LCM x

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  7. It's scary beyond belief. Mostly I think they do it to add some entertainment value for the parents watching but they really should consider these things more.

    Introducing anything regarding weight is a serious no-no for me, girls are getting concerned about their weight at such a young age they don't need to be fuelled even more.

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  8. Gosh, never thought about these kind of programmes in this light before. I ought to watch more kiddie stuff with my kids to keep an eye. I can not believe they had the ponies watchign their figures!

    Very scary stuff.

    Mich x

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  9. it is frightening sometimes when you see things like this as I often think, what else have they heard while I wasn't there?

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  10. YIKES. We don't watch that kind of stuff - but I know that my daughter will eventually be exposed to it. Scary.

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  11. Great post! Thankfully you aren't alone in the wind! More and more parents are standing up to all the hype and "scary" marketing to our children. You wrote this post the day after my daughter Annie's 18th birthday! She asked me the title question of my first book (mentioned in your post,) Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? Annie explored all that is pink and princessy while climbing trees, pretending to be a lemur with her brother, playing sports etc. It's a challenge for parents, but not impossible. I am so very much on board with your thinking! Thanks for being such an awesome parent! -Carmela

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