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August 25, 2010

The One Million Moms Still Don't Understand TV Ratings

The latest action alert from the One Million Moms is about Family Guy. Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the content of this alert, mostly because I can't stand Family Guy and don't want to waste any time defending it. (I think my hate for the show is magnified by a couple of people that I've known over the years who have forced me to watch it with them, apparently thinking that if I just watched their favorite episode while they explained the "genius" to me, I would suddenly see the light and start to find it funny. Spoiler alert: I didn't.) But there is one aspect of this alert that I want to address.

We used to criticize the Moms for not taking a show's rating into account in their alerts. Now they often mention the ratings (which we think is just one piece of evidence proving that they read our blog), but we still have an issue with the way they do it. This new alert is a perfect example:
"Family Guy" is the most disgusting show on television. Foul language, s*xual comments and the mockery of Christianity are the norm in this vile program. The August 15 episodes were cruel, bloody and crude. Fox aired two episodes back to back on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. EDT/ 8:00 p.m. CDT.(* is used to bypass internet filters.)

"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane has shown time and time again that he has no regard for morals or values. Dare we ask what he will do next? MacFarlane will do anything for a buck and ratings. He is known to go after shock value and has no respect for others with special needs. MacFarlane has shown numerous times he also doesn't mind making his viewers nauseous while watching.

WARNING: Graphic content description! You may prefer to skip to the TAKE ACTION portion of this alert. This episode was rated TV-14 DLSV which means it should be suitable for 14-year-olds.
A rating of TV-14 DLSV really does not mean "suitable for 14 year olds". It's not such a crazy stretch to interpret it that way, but I think the Moms know what they're doing by putting that slight spin on it, and it's disingenuous.

Here's the real description of a TV-14 DLSV rating from TVGuidelines.org:
Parents Strongly Cautioned
This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue (D), strong coarse language (L), intense sexual situations (S), or intense violence (V).
Okay, so this rating does mean that most parents would find this type of program to be unsuitable for children under 14, or at the very least would not want to let children under 14 watch without a parent or other adult. It doesn't mean that the program is automatically suitable for all children 14 and over. The Moms are acting as if a TV-14 rating means a total green light for parents to let all of their teenagers watch a show without any parental involvement. I don't know about you, but that's not how I would interpret phrases like "parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program".

They also totally gloss over the DSLV qualifiers. Those aren't attached to every show that's rated TV-14, and they're there to give more specific information about what kind of potentially objectionable or inappropriate content a show contains. If a show has all four letters attached to its rating, I would think the Moms would know by now that it's probably not going to be something they would want their kids to watch.

It would be a different story if the Moms were critiquing the rating system itself and arguing that it's inadequate or poorly enforced. But they're not. There is a page on TVGuidelines.org that provides contact information for people who want to give feedback to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, which is something that I've never seen the Moms mention. Instead, they go after a show's sponsors and try to get shows they don't like taken off the air, even if they have to stretch the truth about certain shows being marketed to kids to do it. Because, as their FAQ states, as a division of the American Family Association their real goal is "to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth". If you don't accept their truth or support their goal...well, too bad.

It's almost enough to make me want to start watching Family Guy just to spite them. Almost.

2 comments:

Marika said...

Family Guy also has the angle of "It's a cartoon, therefore it must be for kids!" which a lot of other shows, notably animes, also run into.

My brother and some of my friends love Family Guy so I end up watching it every now and again, but I generally only end up liking the geeky references. I'm a sucker for those.

That said, I would much rather watch Family Guy than some of the extremely violent and gory cartoons out there. A show that's insensitive and gross may piss me off, but one that makes a person being skinned alive into something funny very, very literally makes me sick.

LS said...

Family Guy does suck. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so.

But they have every right to be on the air.