Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stupid Adults Getting in the Way - a TV Post

We watch a little TV in our home with the kids. As parents we keep a close eye on what the kids view and we encourage them to think critically about the shows they enjoy. Subsequently, I've been thinking about some of this stuff for a while and decided to share it with anyone who cares to read it and comment.

Gone are the days when kids programming was limited to Saturday mornings. You can catch kid-geared television 24 hours a day thanks to cable tv, satellite and the interwebs. The two most popular networks for our kids (ages 11, 13 and 16) are Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. I watch all the shows my kids watch, so I have a pretty decent grasp on what's going on--despite the fact that I'm a stupid parent (see below).

Over the past few years, I began to notice some consistent, and somewhat disturbing themes with regards to the shows we watch. Primarily, parents are usually not married or even in the picture. Often when they are, they are portrayed as goofy, stupid and out of touch with reality. "Reality" is a universe where kids are in the center. Parents, if they exist, are usually in the background or getting in the way. Most adults--especially those in any position of authority--are ignorant and/or overly intrusive. Work is not something to aspire to unless it has to do with fulfilling a personal (and in my opinion, selfish) dream. This usually takes the form of fame via television shows, web shows, fashion magazines or being a teen singing sensation. The stars of the shows are often launching real-life singing / teen idol careers at the same time. It's all part of the networks' plans to create a teen/tween marketing windfall.

The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron (Nickelodeon)
This show is no longer in production, but it's one we all watched quite a bit and still do thanks to re-runs. Both of Jimmy's parents actually exist in this show and play a significant role. However, Jimmy is MUCH smarter than his parents, who are displayed as being somewhat out of touch. The dad is a hilarious character, but a bit of a buffoon. He has some sort of a boring job and the mother is a stay-at-home-mom. That's a blast from the past compared to other shows, but it's consistent with the theme they seem to be going for.

Spongebob Squarepants (Nickelodeon)
There really are no parents in this program. Spongebob lives on his own, as does his best friend Patrick. They are basically big kids who manage to survive in the world. Patrick is unemployed and lives under a rock. Spongebob and Squidward work at the Krusty Krab. Squidward hates the job and their boss, Mr. Krabs, is obsessed with money. To his credit, Spongebob likes his job and works hard at it. I should point out that we LOVE this show.

iCarly (Nickelodeon)
This show is a guilty pleasure for our family. It's very well produced and quite funny. However, Carly's parents are not in the picture. She lives with her brother who manages to keep a really cool apartment in Seattle by occasionally working on sculptures. Their father decided to leave them on their own rather than take care of them. He expects perfection out of his kids and I guess he just decided it was easier to let them raise each other. Sam is Carly's best friend. We never see her parents and only hear about her mother, who is portrayed as incredibly irresponsible. Freddie is the nerdy boy who lives with his mother. She is portrayed as overprotective and a bit nutty. Miranda Cosgrove, who stars as iCarly, just released a CD with a video that is prominently played on the Nickelodeon networks.

True Jackson, VP (Nickelodeon)
True's fashion sense is so amazing that she got a job as an editor for a leading fashion magazine in the big city. This happens all the time, right? Do people still read magazines? Anyway, it's assumed that she lives at home with both parents. The mother has appeared in at least one episode (or maybe ONLY one), but the father is MIA. Most of the adults in this show are a bit dopey. Keke Palmer (True Jackson) has also launched a singing career with at least one CD.

Sonny With a Chance (Disney)
Sonny stars in a TV show. She spends most of her time on the set, but she DOES live with her mother in an apartment. There is no dad in the picture. The mom (Nancy McKeon from "Facts of Life") seems to be loving and helpful whenever she's called upon--about four episodes according to Demi Lovato (Sonny) also has a musical career. Are you picking up the theme here? Some of you remember The Monkees. It's the show that started all of this.

Hannah Montana (Disney)
Everyone knows about Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus. If you DON'T know about her, congratulations. She's a teen singing sensation (that doesn't assume she is talented) in the show and in real life. She lives with her Achey Breaky dad. There is no mother in the picture. I believe that she died while Hannah was young. Correct me if I'm wrong. I've blogged about her before. In real life she's on her way to gaining respect as an adult by...there's no nice way to say it. Let the pole dancing video speak for itself.

The Wizards of Waverly Place (Disney)
This show is an exception in that the Russo family actually lives together. The parents play an important part in the lives of their kids. Of course, they are all witches and warlocks who have the ability to do just about anything they want and choose to be as normal as possible. It's sort of like Bewithced for those of you who remember. Here's another shocker...Selena Gomez, who plays the main character on the show (Alex Russo) has a singing career of her own. I finally decided that we needed to pull the plug on this show. It wasn't a popular decision at home, but I'll stick with it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm really not swearing off all tv. We watch a lot of these shows together and they are all well-produced. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny. I just want to teach my kids to think critically. I firmly believe that once they can do this they will see the world, and their place in it, for what it really is. I'm curious to know what the rest of you think.


Dorci said...

All I have to say is kudos to you for being such an involved and informed parent. There are not enough of those anymore. My kids aren't kids anymore, but one of them still likes to watch cartoons, and we sometimes watch together. We're fans of Spongebob, too. And we like The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. The only "parent" in that one is a whale, Bubbie, who, I have to say, is quite protective of her little Flapjack. The show gets a little creepyish sometimes, but it's funny for an 18 year old. Keep up the good parenting!

Karen said...

All of those shows with the exception of Jimmy Neutron and Spongebob are banned in our house. When my daughter who is almost 9 watches the banned shows there's a direct correlation between her viewing and a bad attitude. We've resorted to shows like Full House and Sabrina the Teenage Witch to fill the void of the "cool" shows.

Rose Starr said...

Well, we don't have cable. But with our antenna we do get 1 kids channel with full time kids's called QUBO and all the shows on it are positive...some quite annoying acutally. We have two seasons of Spongbob on DVD so we watch those sometimes. We love Spongebob and his positive attitude and silly antics.

Some Guy said...

We don't have cable or satellite TV - only broadcast TV. That makes the choices much more limited (they usually get to choose between PBS and Qubo except for football season when I get to choose). Maybe when they're older we'll have to deal with more shows, but for now they're happy with it. And I plan on letting them get used to life without a lot of TV.

As long as your kids have experienced the real world, they should be able to contrast any Hollywood world with their own world and tell what's wrong with Hollywood - especially if you are helping point that out to them.

Toni said...

iCarly just took its lead from the Peanuts gang. Those kids' parents just turned them loose. They trick-or-treated alone, purchased their own Christmas tree, held parties without parental supervision (much of America's youth followed THAT lead, so we can thank the Peanuts for corrupting literal millions), and even developed hypothermia in the midst of parental absence with nary a social worker to be found (you'll recall Linus' little campout stint in the pumpkin patch). The Peanuts even one-up'd iCarly in that their teacher managed to educate them withou so much as uttering a word. I believe it's how unschooling got started but don't quote me on that.

Sniz said...

Hmmm...I actually think you could have been even more "extreme" in your comments. But I still love you, honey!

Oh, and the code I have to enter to get this published is "seapricks". Not really relevant to the post, but pretty interesting, none-the-less.

abiola said...

You didn't make mention of family guy and southpark, those really have negative effects on children