Archive

Archive for June, 2011

God save donald duck, vaudeville and variety

June 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Today’s news (if you can find it amongst reports of genocide
being prosecuted in the Hague and tales of the killer vegetables) is
that a government report into the sexualisation and commercialisation
of childhood
is almost ready to come and save the children. It
probably won’t save them for the killer vegetables, but it will save
them from Unsuitable Things, which is of course much more important.

The author of the report ‘has been armed with devastating research
findings’ which sounded initially encouraging. When preparing to take action, it
is nice, if somewhat unusual, to begin with some research. Upon
reading to the end of the sentence, I was disappointed if not
surprised to discover that the devastating research ‘showed parents
are very worried.’

I often conduct that sort of research in the pub. I have made all
sorts of exciting discoveries about what people think  during such research, but my research has
usually been dismissed by those of a Ben Goldacre persuasion as
constituting ‘anecdote’ rather than ‘evidence.’

40% of parents had seen things that they believed were inappropriate
for children, I learned today. They had seen such things in shops and
on television. I for one am shocked. If parents have seen things in
shops and on television that are inappropriate for children then there
is something fundamentally wrong with both shops and television. And
we must Do Something.

First of all I suppose we’ll need to deal with the news.

The circus-level hysteria about a man recently having been revealed to
have had sex aside, there has been quite a lot in the news this year
that one might need to moderate if the sensitivities of children are
to be guarded. Frankly, the news has been full of horrors all year,
and I for one have seen and heard things on it that were inappropriate
for me, never mind children. And yet I am concerned that its effect on
western children’s delicate psyches is not top of this report’s
priorities.

It is as though we believe that children cannot be disturbed by
thousands of people killed in natural disasters, by nuclear threats,
by tales of thirteen year olds being tortured, mutilated and killed in
Syria, by a man setting himself on fire, or by war, or by massacre, or
by scenes of abuse in care homes. It’s either as though we believe that this
sort of knowledge couldn’t ever affect childhood, or that if it does,  that it is
the role of parents to moderate what their children access, according
to what they believe their own children can handle.

In fact, you’d nearly believe that the news is for adults, despite
being on before the watershed, and that part of parenting is to make
decisions about what your children access and take responsibility when
it comes to enforcing this.

What madness is this?

We take a much more rational and sensible approach with sexual
content. It is a fundamental tenant of all human knowledge that if children
gained insight into human mating rituals they would be irrevocably
scarred for life. And if children are somehow – say, by having
televisions or computers in their own room – gaining access to such
information, then we as a society must police this material more
rigorously.

Because it’s important that children grow up protected carefully sexual scenes in music videos or soap operas, while relying on the tender care of their parents to protect them from the brutal facts of violence and horror happening in the world on any given day.

Perhaps there really is devastating research that shows this is an
appropriate way to deal with children and unsuitable subjects. If
there is, someone should probably publish it.

But I fear that problematic content does not only feature on TVs and
in shops. I fear it might be an aspect of life. I worry that if they
really keep their eyes open, the same parents may be able to observe
things on the streets that are unsuitable for their children. They may see
me smoking or hearing me wildly cursing the unspeakable stupidity that
passes for the news. They may hear people having inappropriate
conversations about sex or violence, or, even more offensively,
talking about the government. I presume the report on that will be out by Christmas.

Categories: Uncategorized