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Friday, October 06, 2006

"Family Values" and FCC Complaints

Nate Anderson, the Ars Technica blogger who recently let a YouTube story show us the difference between acting like an insider and actually thinking like one (read my criticism with quotes here, or his original article here) has redeemed himself with a few thoughtful words about the FCC's complaints department and the organizations behind mass-hysteria-mongers like the Parents Television Council. Rather than instinctively labeling the PTC as an astroturf organization and the campaign as a fraud, he rejects such charges, noting:

But this is the way that activist groups operate. They monitor situations that people across the country don't have time to look into on their own, and they notify those people when something of interest happens, then help them to take action. It's true of Amnesty International, the [Electronic Frontier Foundation], and the PTC. As long as they complaints represent the legitimate views of actual Americans, it's fine.
That alone was a breath of fresh air. But Anderson is just getting started on the "indecency" standards of organizations like the PTC, which, he argues, have it all wrong in censoring shows for curse words, suggestive situations and the like while ignoring the broader issues that make a show truly "family-friendly."

Consider "Everybody Loves Raymond," which received "green lights" in all four PTC categories. In promoting the show as a family-friendly offering, the PTC notes that "Raymond promotes the idea of long-lasting marriage, and Debra feels fulfilled in her role as a stay-at-home mom. Language on this series used to be harsh, but since the first of 2004 [sic], has dropped to a record low number of just 8 uses of mild 'hell,' 'crap,' and 'damn' in 6 episodes. Sexual references have been non-existent since January 2004."

The focus is on specifics: exact words, number of uses, etc. While the PTC does point to the fact that the couple remain married and that Debra "feels fulfilled," it's arguable whether the show portrays family in such a way that anyone would want to have one. The main characters show little affection for one another, the jokes routinely come at the expense of spouses, and the whole milieu feels joyless and barren. Regardless of how "mild" the show's use of "hell," "crap," and "damn" may be, it's a show that makes me viscerally uncomfortable to watch, and it's not the kind of thing I want my kids to see.

Thanks, Nate!

1 comment:

Jon said...

I used to like Everyone Loves Raymond, but I didn't think it showed much of family values. They hate the grandparents, the grandparents hate each other, the kids are never part of the show (unless they are being inconvenient), and the wife puts up with an awful lot of BS from her jerky, whiny husband. The show wasn't funny enough to overcome these problems.