I rarely write this sort of article, but I felt the need after seeing the interview and reading about this phony controversy and the woman who was trying to stir it up.
I was browsing the CNN website today and came across an interview featuring a Florida mom who was shocked and appalled by the state of the world. Was she offended by the violence in Egypt? The revelation that the NSA has committed thousands of violations of its own rules and failed to report them to Congress and the courts? No, she was upset because she was watching Good Morning America and saw an advertisement for the new ABC show Betrayal. The advertisement, according to her, was too sexy for TV. She took a picture of the most offensive frame, uploaded it to her blog, and contacted ABC and the FCC to look into it and change things. What most offended this Christian entertainment agent, publicist, and novelist is that her young son happened to be in the room watching television at the time. Apparently, she felt that ABC’s thirty second ad was the sort of thing that would corrupt her young son’s mind and turn him into the ways of loose sex and drugs. Or something.
You can see the interview (and the ad) on CNN’s website here.
I get why mothers may want to monitor what their children see. And I know that we do see more explicit material in pop culture every single day. It’s something that people should do research on and figure out what offends them. There are certain films I refuse to watch (or re-watch) because I found them so distasteful and wrong that I did not want to expose myself to them. Kids are not aware how to make these decisions for themselves. Parents certainly can show them how.
None of this changes the fact that Rebecca Seitz is an utter fool who did nothing newsworthy. She has apparently forgotten how television works – did you know you can change channels when you see something you don’t like? And she is doing something far more immoral than anything ABC ever did by airing the ad. She didn’t just tell her son to stop watching TV. No, she’s contacted the FCC to get them to punish ABC. She’s demanding that society conform to her values and her ways of life. And she’s using her kid as a prop to accomplish her goals.
Now, before I tear Rebecca apart, let’s get into ABC’s logic with airing the ad. The television future for broadcast networks looks very bleak. They are not only losing viewers to cable, but are having to compete with new internet content providers like Netflix. The Emmys are taking note of this by nominating shows. ABC does not have the foothold it once did and needs to regain viewers. Its shows are appealing to more adult sensibilities and using their ads to show their new edgier fare. Unlike what Rebecca thinks, this is not new. Appealing to human sexuality to promote art has been around since…well, since the invention of art. ABC’s ad was the normal part of this new competitive cycle.
And that’s what Rebecca doesn’t understand. This is not the world where We Love Lucy, where Father Knows Best, where Jackie Gleason is allowed to threaten physical abuse toward his wife. This is a world with a lot more choices. Some media is intended for kids, some is not. But the benefit of having so many choices is that you can control what your kids watch and what they are exposed to. And you don’t have to request in from anyone. Netflix has an entire section devoted to children’s fare. But that does not mean it has to change its content just to keep families happy. Neither does ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, or any other network that does not wish to do so. Taking pictures of the TV screen and going on CNN to complain about the material does not address the real fact of their dwindling audiences.
Her contacting the FCC to justify her reaction is the thing that really fired me up. In doing so, Rebecca has demonstrated that she does not feel she is an adequate parent. No, the government must step in to do her job for her, protecting her kids (and the rest of us) from stuff she doesn’t want us to see. Actually, I’m not sure its even that. She even says that the problem wasn’t the content of the ad but the time of day it aired. I wasn’t aware smut suddenly ceased to be smut when the sun went down. But apparently that’s how it should work, and the FCC needs to step in to make sure that happens. If you disagree? Too bad. Rebecca demands it.
Ultimately, I don’t think Rebecca’s plan will work. In fact, I think just the opposite will happen. Rebecca is giving ABC free publicity and letting the network air its ad on news networks at no cost. Maybe the show will be great. Maybe it will be bad. But it doesn’t matter. The simplest thing to do would have been to ignore it. Or wait for the show to air and then see if it’s good. Rebecca decided to get involved and help inadvertently promote the show. Maybe next time, she’ll demand her kid watch Cartoon Network.