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Taming the Toxic Media
Excerpt from Daughters

by Joe Kelly

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Last year, a coalition of entertainment companies and interest groups loudly launched an initiative called “PauseParentPlay.” The coalition (including Fox, Time Warner, Viacom, Comcast, and NBC Universal) claims it wants to show parents how to shield their kids from violent and exploitative TV, music, movies, and video games. Among its “tools” are industry-created ratings systems for TV, movies, and video games--rating systems that are inadequate to the task, unevenly administered, widely ignored, and largely discredited.         

I see PauseParentPlay as one more example of the entertainment industry’s success in marketing the idea that families hold all responsibility for handling the damage from the children’s entertainment industry’s own output. This program is a whitewashing attempt to divert us from the fact that exploitative media hurts kids, particularly girls, who are so often depicted in sexualized and disrespectful ways in shows and games.         

Remember Love Canal, where Hooker Chemical dumped poisons that sickened upstate New York families and forced them to leave their homes? No one suggested that the families held no responsibility in the ensuing crisis. Those parents were responsible for taking themselves and their children to the doctor, taking the medicine that could help them survive, and packing up their belongings to move away from Love Canal. But no one suggested that these parents were responsible for Hooker’s actions, or that Hooker could absolve itself by mailing neighboring families a list of oncologists while continuing to dump benzene in the groundwater.           

It’s time that we held the children’s entertainment media to standards akin to the ones chemical companies must observe-for the common good. Yes, parents should pause the media, parent their children, and then play with their kids. But the entertainment industry must do its part by stopping its contemptuous dumping of cultural toxins-and its stance of no responsibility.       

We parents and our leaders—most of whom are parents as well—should find ways to hold the entertainment industry liable. It’s time to use your voice.        

Visit SeeJane.org for media viewing tips and ground-breaking research on gender imbalance and portrayals in media made for children.


©2006. Dads and Daughters.

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