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Not safe for kids

Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007, at 2:58 PM

I had taken Monday off to watch over my four-year-old Goddaughter while her mother had surgery in Nashville and found myself exposed to a lengthy sample today's children's programing.

Watching her interact with the shows on the Nickelodeon spin-off channel for pre-schoolers called Noggin had me thinking about the educational fare my generation was exposed to during that time period.

Which, according to the New York Times, may have caused all of us serious mental damage.

An article by Virginia Heffernan states that the new DVD release of Volumes 1 and 2, "Sesame Street: Old School" is for adults-only.

What the ....

"These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child," the label on the DVD box states.

Now, the way this article is written tends to make me think this is satire, but look at all the things that the Children's Television Workshop produced back then which is now considered verboten:

What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar's depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn't exist.

Nothing in the children's entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then -- as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 -- a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.

As you read the above linked article, it appears that the hyper-sensitive types are on the lookout for anything that might upset or offend someone ... or even the mere insinuation that something might be amiss.

But these warning labels are finding themselves placed on a lot of old school toons that we grew up with. Classic animation from Warner Brothers and MGM now come with "adult only" and "for collectors only" disclaimers, warning of the racist, sexist and degrading behavior contained within. Many of the early Pink Panther shorts featured cartoon drunks, who thought Pink was just a relative of the elephant that would show up whenever they would tie one on.

Try buying the uncut first season of Ren and Stimpy at Wal-Mart and they'll ask you for ID. And don't get me started on Popeye, which I have already blogged about.

So old episodes of Sesame Street, Bugs Bunny and the like are now deemed bad for kids ... yet the most popular animated shows today are things like Family Guy and South Park, which has pushed the limits of what can be put on TV to their extremes.

And things like Bratz gets marketed to four-year-olds, who constantly demand that their godfathers buy everything in the collection for them. Which I nearly did ... that is, until I actually saw what they were selling.

Is it just me, or is there something really wrong with us these days?


Comments
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They've gotta be getting rich off the relatives who buy the make-up remover from the doll-building sites and make sensible clothes for Chloe,Sasha,et al when they aren't outfitting the American Girl heroines.

While the DIY crowd are making the moppets new playsets like'Homeschool','Petz Rescue','Food Drive','Scrapbook Center' and 'Nature Walk',somebody needs to be checking out current kid lit,films and t.v. shows.

Still,our ancestors survived books like the Elsie Dinsmore series.

(It somehow blended the ideas of strict piety and moral rectitude with selfish consumerism,adult/child relationships that border on the erotic and a rather flexible sense of ethics)

And,as David Melson pointed out,we outgrew any racist/sexist/violent pap included in the cartoons we enjoyed.

Fortunately,most kids are oblivious to the stupider things they get handed and instinctively winnow out the toxic parts in favor of whatever innocent fun and healthy messages their entertainments contain.

(It helps if they get a steady diet of sensible material and positive role models to help them detect the traces of good buried beneathe so much foolish popular culture.)

If we make our values known and watch what we feed their spirits,we can assist our children's natural 'b.s.' detectors and give them the discernment to learn about patriotism rather than waterboarding from G.I. Joe and their fashion dolls would promote friendship,grrrlll power and inner beauty rather than how to tart oneself up enough to attract the nearest Humbert Humbert or Charles Starkweather.

In the meantime,we need to make strong protests to both the people who try to taint our children with garbage and the folks who make 'safe' and 'politically correct' anything but what they are labeled.

The young people they target deserve more respect than that and the adults they write off as unwary or uncaring money machines certainly deserve more than their contempt.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, Nov 21, 2007, at 1:42 PM


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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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