Day 481: The Morality Cops

originally published April 25, 2013

Let me paint you a picture. On a Sunday night at 8:00, my family has the option of watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on ABC (channel 13), or flipping over to the latest episode of The Walking Dead on AMC (channel 39). One of these two shows contains profanity, excessive blood and gore, and the most creative violence I’ve ever seen on TV. The other contains hilarious trampoline-induced, groin-related mishaps. With sound effects!

In that same timeslot, AMC and HBO are proud to show us a protagonist who cooks meth, a 1920’s gangster who likes to be choked during sex (with full frontal wagging wang), and the visceral assault on the hormones of straight women and gay men everywhere which is contained within Don Draper’s pants.

Yet the ABC show is subject to intensive scrutiny by professional finger-pointers like the Parents Television Council. If my wife and I were not home, our babysitter sprawled drunkenly across the bathroom floor, the PTC would protect my kids from damaging television, but only so long as they can’t figure out how to use the Channel Up button to get to 39.

Most modern televisions have the ability to lock out channels. V-Chip technology can block network shows with questionable content for children. And for parents who are really worried, there’s always the ability to fall back on actual parenting, meaning if you don’t want them to see the bloodshed on CSI, then you don’t fucking let them watch it.

Uh-oh. Now the PTC will be on my case for that slip-up. Sorry if I’ve offended any of you. If only I had the wisdom and wherewithal of the censorship sages in their office.

Let’s be perfectly honest here. The PTC is not about protecting children from the ills of indecent television. They have a rigid moral code that they use to wrap around their clear agenda of “exposing” liberal bias on TV and keeping Family Values alive as a political talking point. Seriously, the douchebaggery of this institution baffles me.

(So help me, if they start censoring my Cinemax late night programming…)

The PTC believes that the ratings system that is in place, which advises parents of possible violence, nudity, profanity, or donkey strangulation in the upcoming broadcast, is somehow faulty. Ratings systems, in my experience, tend to work. I raised two kids keeping an eye on these warnings and short-hand numbers at the top of my screen or at the front of a movie trailer, and never found myself aghast at what my kids were watching.  Okay, that’s not completely true – I wished there had been some sort of warning before I’d allowed my daughter to watch Barney & Friends. Something like, “WARNING: The following program has been rated LRC, and may function like Low-Rent Crack for children’s young, malleable minds. Viewer taste improvement is advised.”

But trusting parents to parent their kids in their own house is not within the scope of the PTC. They don’t want to save people’s souls as much as they want offenders to pay. And pay they have.

Remember this horrible scar upon our culture?

That was 9/16ths of a second that nearly destroyed America. The FCC was flooded with complaints when Janet Jackson’s evil nipple was allowed to glare at the audience of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. The thing is, most of the indecency complaints came from members of the PTC, who devoted countless hours of their time into submitting as many angry letters, phone calls and emails as possible. This is time when these people could have been contributing something of value into the world, instead of trying to make someone pay money to the government because of a nipple.

They went after That 70’s Show because one episode involved Eric Foreman getting caught masturbating.  Good thing they caught this one – what if a kid had seen it? He or she might have been led to believe that masturbation existed… or even that it was acceptable! This was a sitcom in which the lead characters regularly passed around a modestly-concealed joint and discussed sexual matters at length. Masturbation is where the PTC decided to plant its flag.

CBS was fined for indecency because of the Without A Trace episode “Our Sons And Daughters”, in which teenagers are shown (well, they’re not shown) having a sex party. Sure, the episode’s intent may have been to call attention to teen promiscuity and to promote parental supervision, but with increased parental supervision, the PTC would be out of a job. So they pushed for a fine, and the FCC slapped a bill for over $3.6 million on CBS’s desk.

Remember when the world tried to unite as an audience for the massive Live 8 concert back in 2005? Well, the Who had the audacity to shout the line “Who the fuck are you?” in their song “Who Are You” – a lyric that gets played on every classic rock station in the western hemisphere, unedited, often multiple times in a day. The PTC wanted ABC to pay.

The PTC insists they are not anti-gay, yet they often complain about mentions of homosexuality on network TV. This is because – so they say – any reference to sexuality is inappropriate. Referencing gayness at all just happens to suggest sexuality, which could inflict unneeded suffering and possible bleeding from the eyeballs if children are exposed to it. So, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Broadcast” appears to be their position on the matter.

Sure, there are rumors that former PTC vice president of development (that’s an odd title, since their very nature runs counter to the notion of development) Patrick W. Salazar was fired because he was trying to extort the organization. But who cares? That’s extortion – far less offensive than a visible nipple.

Did I mention they sued the WWE back in 1999, claiming that children have died trying to emulate wrestling moves they saw on the broadcast? They lied about the 30 or 40 advertisers they claimed had withdrawn support from the show, and tried to drag the WWE through the mud. Didn’t work so well – the case was thrown out, and the WWE countersued for defamation, winning $3.5 million in the process.

These people aren’t going away, unfortunately. The government can provide us with logical, sound warnings of content within a TV show, but that isn’t enough for the PTC. They want to be our morality. Our children’s morality. Having no confidence in the ability of parents to decide for themselves how to monitor what their kids watch, the PTC wants to do that for us.

Be advised, these folks want in on your family’s life. Take my advice and lock ‘em out.

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