Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Like Mark Twain’s favorite inevitabilities (death and taxes), grass-roots censorship seems to be something we’re stuck with. Thanks to the efforts of the innocuously-named Parents Television Council, big-name advertisers like Taco Bell, H&R Block and Wrigley have pulled ad their spots from MTV’s controversial new program Skins. We’ll save the discussion about why H&R Block would advertise during young adult programming for another time.

The advertisers were shocked – gasp, horror, faint! (because of course they had no idea about where their ad dollars where going) when they discovered that Skins depicts teenagers having several varieties of sex (jealousy perhaps?) and drug consumption, and withdrew their commercials accordingly. I’ll leave aside the question of why anyone, in our theoretically enlightened modern era, should be so surprised that teenagers engage in this behavior. After all, the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the industrialized world. I’ll also sweep past the disturbing idea that major corporations with huge ad budgets and resources can be so easily cowed and spineless.

I’ll blow past these, because the really irritating element of the PTC’s push is its hypocrisy and ugly, self-righteous moralizing. They are defining moral-threatening content on their own, extremely narrow basis; essentially, it’s the sex and drugs that bother them. However, fast food outlets and manufacturers of harmful, sugar-packed drinks can target teenagers and children in their spots, and that’s fine? America has the most serious childhood obesity problem, sorry not problem – epidemic - and that kind of highly-targeted advertising is one of the causes of it. Excessive consumption of fat and sugar-laden food and sodas has a direct and proven effect on this nation’s health, as opposed to some underage nudity or fake pill-popping. It’s a shame the PTC isn’t particularly keen on addressing that much more pressing problem.

And, like any sort of censorship effort, the PTC’s push aims to kill the patient instead of simply removing the appendix. If content is so ugly and offensive, anyone can exercise their rights as a consumer and a citizen of democracy and CHANGE THE CHANNEL. No one is forcing anyone to watch. If enough people channel-flip away from Skins, the advertising will melt away in a hurry, so mission accomplished. The wider American viewing public should vote with their remote controls whether the show should be broadcast, not a heavy-handed reactionary group like the PTC.

What’s your view? Is the Parents Television Council right to pressure advertisers to drop Skins and sweep these issues under the front mat so that the county can continue with its sex-ed programs that teach children abstinence and produce the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world?

I think this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you?

Read more about this in The Huffington Post: Is It MTV's Job to Raise Our Children?

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