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The Right to Bad TV
by David Spark
Axcess, March, 1997

badtv.jpg (10492 bytes)What’s that flashing in the corner of the screen? Is it a bird? Is it the score of the game? No, it’s the brand new television ratings. Parents across the country are using them to determine which shows are appropriate for their child’s viewing. And the intrusion doesn’t stop there! Coming soon: automatically block out all unsuitable programming with the V-chip-a technological and civil rights violation breakthrough!

WARNING: the same "child destructive" television programming that made me and Conan O’Brien model citizens is coming into your living room and may have the same affect on your son or daughter.

Parents, man your V-chip enabled televisions. Program 1 if by TV-PG, 2 if by TV-14. Opponents of the new TV ratings argue that the proposed system is a violation of the First Amendment. Is that their best defense? Does anybody know any other amendment besides the first? -WHINE!- First Amendment -WHINE!- Unconstitutional. Yeah, whatever. They’re all missing the big picture: if the V-chip becomes commonplace, we’ll all be responsible for an entire generation of youth growing up without the same television opportunities that you and I took for granted. I’m talking about the freedom to be raised on crap. That’s right. Imagine what your childhood would have been like had Charlie’s Angels or Starsky and Hutch not been a part of it?

Oh, the horror, the horror …of Huggy Bear.

If parents don’t have time to monitor their child’s TV viewing, why would they have time to teach morals? My generation and those to come need television to teach us values, the difference between right and wrong. If we shelter our youth from the Six Million Dollar Mans, Three’s Companies and Emergency Ones of the coming millennium, how else are they going to learn that bad guys always have scars, homosexuality is really funny, and a defibrillator is that cool device that makes people bounce? Do you want to be accountable for a nation of emotionless drones that like to reminisce about Masterpiece Theater? A technological disruption like the V-chip could drastically alter the evolution of our country’s broadcasting. Don’t disrupt the balance of nature. Haven’t we learned that from every time travel movie?

Stock up on your canned goods, because V-chip judgment day will soon be upon us. While the networks are preparing with their TV ratings onslaught, BET(African-American Entertainment Television) is standing their ground with a "no TV ratings" policy. Nobody be tellin’ them they no rate no Ebonics no foul language.

V-CHIP RATINGS

Rating Description Better Explanation
Children’s Programming
TV-Y Children of all ages. Cartoons without violence
TV-Y7 Children seven and older Cartoons with violence
Regular Programming
TV-G Suitable for all ages Can remedy an incurable cases of insomnia.
TV-PG Parental guidance suggested. When Junior asks, "What does (insert sexual innuendo) mean?" simply ignore him.
TV-14 Parents of children under 14 strongly cautioned. You may be subjected to a glimpse of Dennis Franz’s hairy butt.
TV-M Mature audiences only. Nude Italian game shows. I hope.

RATING EXAMPLES

RATING EXAMPLES

Program Rating Reason for the Rating
America’s Funniest Home Videos TV-G The Surgeon General has determined that watching a family member get kicked in the groin is incredibly funny.
Touched by an Angel TV-PG A cameo appearance by Bill Clinton features a scene in which he says something Presidential like, "Hey, nice tits."
Melrose Place TV-14 The government wants to suck all the joy out of our children’s lives
Schindler’s List TV-M Revisionist historians don’t want future generations to believe the Holocaust ever existed.

None of these ratings are set in stone. Depending on their fluctuating content, a show’s rating can vary episode to episode. But be careful how you program your V-chip. You don’t want to incur your daughter’s wrath when she’s shut out of a "very special episode" of Blossom. And although news and sports are exempt from measurement, other live programming, like talk shows, aren’t. You have to be careful. You never know when Cher’s going to come on your show and call you an "asshole."

There are V-chip supporters who want a system, but a different one that gives separate ratings for violence, sex, and foul language. Parents have distinct concerns regarding their child’s future. Some want their children to be sociopaths, some want them to be sex offenders, and yet others just want their child to be New York City cab drivers.

Why is the government doing this at all? Well, some political yahoos funded a study and found that TV negatively affected a few kids. Boo hoo. Just because a couple of mama’s boys can’t handle a simple decapitation, Big Brother has to intrude and ruin television for everyone. If the studies came back positive, do you think the government would have passed legislation for more TV violence?

Attention broadcasters, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 grants you one year to devise an acceptable ratings system. If not, the federal government will step in and take control. So what. Either way it’s a bunch of old white men violating a child’s right to watch emotionally destructive TV. (Desperately hugging my television)No, I won’t let them take you away.

TV is Bad for you...You may find yourself downsizing. The law states that after 1998 all televisions greater than 13" will have to be manufactured with the V-chip. Reason: smaller televisions leave proportionally less mentally damaging impressions than a larger television. For example, a grandmother being raped on a 9" screen delivers only 33% of the psychologically harmful content of a 27" screen. Therefore, it would take Junior three grandma rapes on a 9" screen before he screams at you to buy a bigger set-preferably one with a remote.

Parents overwhelmingly support the new television ratings. They believe the V-chip will facilitate the confusing task of raising children. Is it really making their job easier or is it just bad parenting? Raising a kid is hard. It shouldn’t be easy. If you make it too easy, then everyone’s going to want one. Parents who have not previously monitored their kid’s viewing will soon feel obliged upon purchasing a V-chip TV. "Well, we paid for HBO, we might as well watch it." Go ahead and set your V-chip on TV-G, attach your kid to a leash, and your child rearing concerns are over.

These are all the views of America’s parents. But what about my single male view? Their children are my future too. Even though I’m sans child, don’t I have a voice in this debate? The impact of television is not isolated to the parent-child relationship. We all feel the effect. Sure parents have the right to know and monitor what their children are watching. But don’t I, a non-dad, have the right to determine what kind of world I’m going to live in in 20 years? Children are our future, and I don’t want my future to be raised on PBS, Infomercials, and CNN.

As if kids are going to surrender to the almighty V-chip. Like I didn’t figure out how to sneak into an R-rated movie. If you’re a parent, you better pray that your kid is curious and smart enough to find away around the V-chip. If not, the problem won’t simply be a child overexposed to TV sex and violence, but rather an apathetic moron that lacks any ambition.

Parents, do you truly believe that if your child only views non-violent TV that he will be a non-violent child? With or without TV, kids have violent tendencies and are looking for a means to release them. Do yourself a favor, allow them to be released constructively through Xena: Warrior Princess instead of a Louisville Slugger to dad’s head.

TV FACT HOW TV HELPS
By the time a child completes elementary school, he has witnessed an estimated 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television. Lessens the impact of future traumatic events by desensitizing youth. What are parents doing? Nothing! Hail TV!
Casual treatment of sex on TV erodes parents ability to develop responsible attitudes in their children. Fills the gap left by the parental technique of ignoring the subject of sex altogether.
In 73% of violent programming, perpetrators went unpunished and of those shows only 15% offered a parental warning. Teaches us that crime pays and you don’t need parental consent.
20-27% of parents with 4-6 year-olds don’t restrict their child’s viewing or hours watched. TV blesses those parents.

So go ahead TV ratings supporters, program your V-chip low enough and enjoy 24 hours of mind erasing static. But be forewarned, like the kid with the swimming pool in the summer, the kid with the V-chip free TV will soon become very popular no matter how much of a dork he is.

1997, David Spark

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