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Protecting Our Children

Cartoon Figures Can be Deceptive

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

Just because the images are cartoons doesn't make the message appropriate for children.

In an article by Scott Pierce (Deseret Morning News, Aug. 4, 2004) he states, “Los Angeles – NBC's computer-animated comedy ‘Father of the Pride' is full of cute, cuddly animal characters that little kids are going to be instantly drawn to and want to watch. ‘Father of the Pride' – at least the episode screened here for critics – is also one sex joke after another and completely inappropriate for young children, even if it is about the animals who perform in the now defunct Siegfried and Roy act in Las Vegas. It's inappropriate even for not-so-young children.”

Jeff Katzenberg, the former Disney executive, said, “It's not a children's show.” Note that it was scheduled at 9 o'clock to ensure that the viewing audience automatically know that it is not for children, but if we think about it at all we realize that half of the country – the Central and Mountain time zones -- will air it at 8 p.m. when lots or little kids and even more not-so-little kids are still watching TV. “Friends,” which was full of sexual innuendos was aired by NBC at 7 and “Will & Grace” at 7:30.

Pierce commented in his article that the episode of “Father of the Pride” that he saw was replete with sexual jokes – many far too graphic to reprint in a family newspaper. Pierce also emphasized that even if people are told this is not family fare, it does not change the fact that kids are going to want to watch those cute, cuddly, animated animals.

It would be wonderful if parents policed what their children are viewing. I hate to say it but in many cases that is just not happening.

Consider what Jon Pollock told critics: “We've definitely discovered that you can push it farther” with animated characters.” That should be a loud warning for parents. The next step to watch is that we don't unknowingly purchase soft and cuddly animals from this television show that will reinforce the sexual innuendos.

I have no way to warn you of every new inappropriate show which surfaces. As parents, we need to be acutely aware that what a show appears to be may not be what it is really about.

I talked to one of my daughters about this article. She commented, “PBS generally has nonviolent cartoons that either teach values or teach principles. As examples, she mentioned “Dragon Tales,” “Clifford,” “The Bernstein Bears,” and “Cyberchase.” Dragon Tales evidently teaches ideas like “sharing even if it is hard,” “being brave,” or “not being bossy.” She commented that regular stations offer cartoons like “Pokemon,” which includes a lot more fighting. And then she added, “The commercials push children to want everything.” Some shows offer good things, but I suggest that you check what is being taught. Nonstop action doesn't really give children anything.

The character Bart, in “The Simpsons,” has serious attitude problems and a dirty mouth. Be aware that children may mimic these behaviors.

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