Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse: No "Wake Up Call" Made

"Dead at 27." Sadly, this is a line I've read in a Hollywood obit one too many times. Amy Winehouse and her low, sultry voice and gloppy style left a legacy of drugs, alchoholism, and little more. Before you read on (or click off), let me assure you this post is not about the sadness of her death. I won’t even touch on the eerie similarities between Winehouse and Joplin. Not only would I sound like every other blog out there, it would be entirely disingenuous. Of course it's devastating to think of that young soul who met its end tragically. But personally, I have no teary feelings. And frankly, outside of the revenue she brought in, I don't think Hollywood could give a damn, either.

Instead I want to highlight the danger of endorsing such a volatile figure to our youth. Gone are the days where stars' drug use was limited to Page 6. Now, in our microwave-ready world of instant news and social media it's nearly  impossible to not see a wasted Winehouse's slurred and incoherent speech at MTV's Europe Awards. Gone are the days where Elvis's drug use was folklore and River Phoenix's death shocked the world. Today we see intoxicated stars receiving awards and Amy's death, while horrific, was certainly no surprise. Like Anna Nicole Smith, we watched her every moronic slur and every unapologetic drunken misstep unfold. And then we watched her get nominated, on a stage decorated with brightly-colored surfboards, and 20,000 kids in the audience cheering for her victory. 


It's not just Amy who Hollywood promotes. Eminem cleaned house at the 2010 Teen Choice Awards; the list is endless. Sure, it's the parents' jobs to tell kids what's right and wrong. But let's face it, we no longer live in a world where parents and their kids eat dinner every night around the table. This is a time where roughly 30% of kids live in a one-parent home, many others live in homes with two working parents, or others live with extended family. 

And that is exactly what advertisers are banking on. They know as well as I do that mom and dad aren't going to pause the old TiVo when someone like Winehouse starts slurring her speech and launch into a thoughtful moral lesson. Mom and Dad won't see it--they're at work. Or the awards are shown on a giant sceeen TV in Best Buy.  Or in a mall. Or at a friend's house. Or on somebody's iPhone on the subway. 

The Internet is abuzz with articles shouting "wake-up call!" regarding Winehouse's death. While her death is tragic and should be a monumental wake-up call, it's not going to be. From Judy Garland to Chris Farley to Heath Ledger to Winehouse, Hollywood's headstone of dead stars reads as long as the boulevard they frequented. There will be no wake-up call. What there will be are more awarding drug-addicted stars. There will be more hooplah and glitter thrown on strung-out celebrities, many of them appearing in commercials for popular clothing lines purchased by tweens, cosmetics endorsements, fast-food songs...even kids' programming like Nick, Jr. and Sesame Street. And inevitably, there will be more dead stars. 

And still no lesson learned. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Basketball Wives: A Slam Dunk of Stupidity

It's no secret that I despise most of reality television. Simply speaking, the art of entertainment is gone. Outside of the bad script writing and banal oversexualization, all that remains are average joes and janes who voyeur their lives for a paycheck and a shot at a red carpet premiere. I caught an episode of VH1's  Baksketball Wives the other night. These women are so obnoxious and classless I'm amazed their husbands' publicists aren't putting a stop to the show. Or maybe that's the whole point? Who knows.

The latest drama on Basketball Wives is that two of the women were arrested in Itlay for getting into a fight. I'm laughing as I write this...grown women brawling it out like a couple of middle-school rivals.


A special thanks to Meeka and Tami (above) for making Americans look soooo good.

The irony is that without their rich husbands, makeup artists and stylists, they're just a bunch of nasty women clawing at each other. And this is ratings gold? These women are morons! Don't they understand that America, (and now Italy), is laughing at them? Like Mob Wives or the all-too-many Real Housewives, we're watching heavily made-up women slobber over Louis Vuitton and running to the finish line of vanity and narcissism.

I'm reminded of my former stomping grounds and home out east; in northern New Jersey, Manhattan and all the surrounding boroughs, things like club brawls, gold-digging and classless displays of character are usually pigeon-holed into stereotypical prejudicial bubbles of cultures unlike our own. The ending result is further polarization between races, and very poor life lessons taught to our burgeoning young women.

Or, what we also refer to as, "reality television".

Friday, July 15, 2011

Egomaniacs and Reality TV

I recently read an article in LiveScience highlighting a new study in Cyberpsychology which details how fame is the #1 draw to kids (preteens and teens) when it comes to viewing choices. A key bullet of the study pointed out that the quest for fame, specifically in the age of Twitter and Facebook, lends to an inflated sense of being. Translation: Narcissism. 

Outside of Napoleon (or a toddler), I can’t think of a bigger narcissist than a teenager.    

And we owe a great deal of thanks for the enlarged egos to reality TV. It's no secret this genre of 'entertainment' (and I use that term loosely) has changed many a life. From the mob wives who had to endure raids, infidelity, beatings and jail-bound husbands in private, to the little girls pimped out by their pageant mothers, people had to actually live their lives in privacy! The housewives of America who used to have crow's feet and non-inflated lips...we now have women whose boobs are next to their earlobes and their faces are stuck in an “I think I just pooped my pants” expression. 

Then we have Snooki. I'll leave it at that

But today, let's talk about our teen moms. I don’t think there’s anyone on earth who could say with conviction that children raising children is a plus to our society. Let me make one thing clear: I give major props to these girls who didn’t take the easy way out and chose to have their babies. But shame on the media for glamorizing a life less ordinary, and shame on their greedy parents for allowing it. Our society has plummeted into a gutter of voyeurism where following people’s heartaches and struggles is something we need to validate our own lives. ("Well, at least my daughter isn't hooked on drugs and pregnant.")

Teen Mom  (MTV) led Tuesday night’s cable lineup as the Number 1 show.  A show packed with meaningless sex, suicide attempts, domestic battery, child neglect, drugs, alcohol…this was number 1? Why?

Could it be that all of these teen babies raising babies are now front and center on magazine covers? They have managers, publicists, stylists, and hordes of paparazzi. It’s no secret teenagers are narcissists anyway. They’re trying to figure out how they fit into the world (much like toddlers), and it’s a hard place to be. But (much like toddlers), they have very little sense and even less self-control. Perhaps bombarding them with images of poor decision-making being rewarded by lots of notoriety isn’t the wisest thing to do. 


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two and a Half Men: Sponsors, Pay Attention

A lot of the work I do at the PTC is centered around advertiser accountability. Specifically, the companies who support Two and a Half Men.  With Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen, whose recent antics award him the Biggest Moron on the Face of the Earth trophy ("winning!" "tiger blood!" the "godesses"), the direction of the show remains to be seen. My guess? Down. Maybe not in ratings (yet), but in even raunchier and uncreative writing garbage. I don't know if Kutcher will be able to fill Sheen's dry and cantankerous persona so many found appealing; Kutcher's comedic chops were honed as a boisterous and practical-joke playing personality (That 70's Show, Punk'd, etc), so seeing him as a replacement for a crotchety sex-obsessed man-child is hard to swallow. No pun intended. Also, Kutcher is very good-looking; youthful and physically fit. Technically speaking, of course. Charlie...? Not so much:

(When you tell your kids to stay away from drugs and high-priced prostitutes,  just show them this picture.  'Nuff said.)
What is certain however, is that advertisers will jump as high as they can to obtain coveted commercial slots in the debut episodes. And that is where you and I come in: Since Two and a Half Men is aired on broadcast television (public), during the Family Viewing Hour, you know that highly impressionable little kids and tween/teens will be assaulted with masturbation jokes, threesomes, and gutter-swilling frat boy humor. All brought to you proudly by Burger King! McDonald's! Chrysler! The list goes on.

If you like that sort of humor, have at it. It's a free country. But most of us don't, especially at 8 PM. Move it cable or a later hour. I've linked this post to a page with some letters sent out to advertisers. Take a look and see what YOUR tax dollars and YOUR money is buying you. Still ok with it? Then this probably isn't the blog for you.

Advertiser Letters

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sexing Our Babies Up

If you don't think there's an overt endeavor on behalf of marketers to draw our girls into a world of hypersexualization, perhaps it's time for you to come back to Earth. From Bratz Dolls to the aggressive campaigning of pop music, girls don't stand a chance against the mounting pressure. As a mother of two boys, I get very angry when I look around and notice how pathetic this has all become. How am I ever supposed to mentor my sons and teach them how to respect women, when society does everything to the contrary?

There's a very simple reason why the sexed up approach to the clothing and toy aisles is taking place: Buying power. Whereas 9 and 10 year olds were previously not in the arena of tween and teen merchandise, they are today. And to companies like Hasbro (who actually started production on a line of Pussycat Dolls, after the raunchy burlesque-themed pop group), this means billions of dollars. Just take a look at the montage the PTC put together:

Think I'm making something out of nothing? Why should your girls be any less of a target?

Read more on this here:
Sexualizing Childhood
Tinseltown's New Target (2010)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Daily Show-and-Tell

There are three types of people who don't care to hear about the negative effects of violent video games: 1) People who enjoy playing them. 2) People who don't want to be bothered with having to tell their kids 'no'. 3) People who have a feeling the games are harmful but would rather exist in a comfortable bubble of denial.

Which one are you?

Last week, The California Supreme Court came down with a ruling devastating for families across this country. In a 7-2 decision, SCOTUS ruled that children of any age should be allowed to purchase violent or sexually explicit video games without barriers. Simply speaking, this means that on your next run to Target, your preschooler can pick up a copy of Mortal Kombat (one of PC World's most violent-rated games) along with her Elmo coloring book. Realistically speaking, there aren’t many parents who would allow that purchase to happen under their watchful eyes.

But what about when they’re not around? That is exactly what the Entertainment Merchants Association is banking on. Little Jimmy and his friends biking up to Kmart with their allowance money, and perusing the vast selection of AO (Adult-Only) rated games, with no one to stop them from buying it. Games like Mortal Kombat has the controller impaling his victims in a torrent of entrails, and is a top-selling XBox 360 game. Nice, eh? Oh, and if you for one second think your child would never purchase something that graphic, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. 

Jon Stewart recently covered the SCOTUS ruling on The Daily Show. Now, I can’t think of anyone less likely to side with parent advocacy groups than Stewart. He’s a political satirist whose left-leaning politics more often than not poke gratuitous fun at the right. He’s funny, and though personally I am a conservative, I enjoy Stewart. He’s smart, witty, and knows how to engage a crowd. Our politics are pretty night-and-day, but I still enjoy catching episodes online. However, I was shocked to see his recent coverage regarding Brown vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association:
Stewart mentioned he wasn’t aware of any effects violent gaming has on kids—of course he isn't. He's a comedian whose forum isn't to analyze this sort of thing. But it’s what I do, and I have a lot of information on that subject. Check out my page on Violent Gaming Effects.

The question I’m left with is this: If the government is now placing stickers on cigarette packets with cancer-infested lungs to deter people from buying them, why are they saying it’s OK to virtually maim, rape and impale victims? And if your answer is the template, “It’s not real-it’s a game”, then explain to me why so much attention has been given to this issue. Could it be that perhaps all the studies out there proving the negative effects are correct?  

S&M, Family-Style

Did you see the Billboard Music Awards this year? Aired last month on ABC, it was light on talent and heavy on scuz. Rihanna, whose talent is surpassed by her need to shock the hell out of people (her latest video shows her murdering an accused rapist in cold blood) performed with America's favorite mommy, Britney Spears, dressed in S&M garb to a wildly creative, er, S&M themed song. Brilliant. The thing that gets me most  is ABC airing this crap at 8 PM Central Standard Time. Do you have any idea how many kids are up at 8 PM? The advertisers do. So the show is aired at 8:00, and the icing on top of that seedy cringe-inducing strip show called 'music' is none other than McDonald's, proudly blazing their name during a commercial break.

McDonald’s. As in Ronald, Happy Meals…the freakin’ Ronald McDonald house! Come on, are you kidding me?

I call this blog Watchdog Mom because I’ve come to think of the media as an intruder into my home, with the first line of defense being the TV set permanently to ‘off’. The second line of defense is where it gets dicey. I guess I could claim I do whatever it takes to keep smut out of our homes and away from our kids, but the truth is, I don’t.

I can’t. The advertisers simply won’t allow it.

I spend a good deal of my time contacting corporations and demanding they remove their brand associated with certain shows. I do this because I hate liars. And outside of no greater evil, there is no greater liar than an advertiser.  But frankly, I’m tired. There are so many retailers out there who fail to uphold their social and moral obligation to consumer families, I’m about one letter away from not having a place to get a pizza (Pizza Hut), a sub sandwich (Quiznos), hand lotion (Unilever) or a cute tee-shirt (Old Navy).

This blog is a bit raw in appearance and resources, as it's a new creation. But stay with me, people. There's lots of good stuff on the horizon, I promise. In the meantime, get active, and most of all, don't let a bunch of rich guys in stiff ties assume you're a mindless consumer who's not paying attention.