It was some six years ago, and my youngest boy, Reid, along with his best friend Mitchy, both 3, had browbeaten me into taking them to the matinee of the "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" movie. We had settled into our seats, they with their popcorn and soda, and I with the mission of an afternoon nap -- a goal I was well on my way to achieving when I was jolted awake by the dialogue in the preview of the upcoming "Rugrats" movie. Scene after scene concluded with a comedic punchline revolving around soiled diapers, flatulence, mucus and God-knows what other bodily excretions, while my little boy and his friend giggled in delight. Thanks, Hollywood.
And here's the worst news. While most of what is offered as children's programming at the movies and on television is wholesome in its innocence, it is also true that even here, even in the programming produced for the youngest of the young, there are cultural landmines everywhere. The topic matter and language in the "Rugrats" preview wasn't the exception. It is the rule for much of what young children are now receiving, particularly on television, as entertainment.
The Parents Television Council has released the results of a new study that examined what Hollywood is producing for children ages 5-10, before and after school and on Saturday mornings, on eight different networks. The numbers should be enough to trigger a double-take for any parent.
First there's the violence. In 443.5 hours of programming, researchers documented a staggering 3,488 instances of violence. Now hold on, Bozell, I hear the apologists saying already, surely you're not going to condemn silly cartoons, are you?
It's a good point. Just how many times did Jerry dismember Tom? How many sticks of dynamite eviscerated Wile E. Coyote, and how many times did Elmer Fudd open fire on Bugs Bunny with that shotgun? This isn't serious violence. It is fantastic and fanciful, meant to elicit laughter because it's comedic and inconsequential. After the smoke clears, the character is back. So take all those "cartoony" instances out.