Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Apple iNsanity

The iPhone has a newish app out called "War Pinball HD". Based on popular films like Platoon, Navy Seals and Missing In Action, there's no denying that war film buffs will enjoy playing this game. And I get that; I really enjoy a good action flick. Given the choice, I'd take a war or spy movie over a 'chick flick' any day of the week.

But I wouldn't let my four-year old play a game based on it. Yet this is exactly what Apple is wanting you to do. The app, priced at an allowance-friendly $2.99, is rated for kids 4 and up. As in, not old enough to use a knife, still wears a Pull-Up, still sleeps with a blankie, four years old.

Uh..say what?

The game has a sound chip equipped with the same language used in the movies (not ideal for kids), as well as the artillery sound effects. Not one to be controversial, Apple feigned corporate responsibility by working with the game's inventor, Gameprom, and changed the default setting to 'mute', requiring a password to turn the sound back on. Brilliant.

Click here to submit your feedback to Apple. Send this post to everyone you know. My endeavor is to not stifle commerce, but to enforce basic decency standards. Parents buy these games based on the ratings; companies funded primarily by consumerism should refrain from obfuscating the fact that children are an at-risk demographic and their best interests must be taken into consideration. The advertising should accurately reflect the content.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Playboy Bunnies and Womens' Lib?

When someone thinks of feminism, I'm sure Playboy immediately comes to mind. Forget birth control, suffrage, and equal pay; true liberation is found in deep cleavage and nude centerfolds. Right?

NBC is bringing this glitter to the public airwaves as part of their Fall 2011 lineup. The polemic is that the show will demoralize women by casting them in a meaty light. But NBC prez Bob Greenblatt claims the show is about 'female empowerment', and the nay-sayers are missing the mark on the show's premise. From Gloria to a local NBC affiliate, to the Parents Television Council to the American public, it's clear people are not happy about the show.

I'll play devil's advocate for a moment: There's something very retro about revisiting the Playboy empire glam of eld. When the clubs ruled major cities and those silk bunny ears were as valuable as gold in the waitress arena, girls everywhere wanted to be a part of it. The country was on the eve of a major sexual revamp, and Playboy was a key architect. I get it.

Kind of.

But here's where you really need to pay attention: It doesn't end with the broadcast of The Playboy Club. Ironically, that's least of my concerns. First off, there's Hulu, Side Reel, etc. Forget the decency clauses and sensors; this show will be available to watch anytime on the Internet, 24/7. And if history is any guide, we can safely assume that the slippery slope of prime-time television writing will bang out (bad use of words, sorry) sloppy episodes of glorfied prostitution, spousal infidelity, drugs, alcohol abuse, battery...you get the point.
'Female Empowerment'? Hmmm...
And then comes the real Frankenstein: Marketing and Advertising. Halloween costumes, TV spin-offs,  Disney's newest tween sensation will be groomed for the next lead, and commercials for upcoming episodes will be aired during The Family Hour.  But why stop there? Maybe Hasbro will make a Playboy Bunny Girl doll. For $19.99! A Hef doll in a Mercedes for $24.99! Think I'm nuts? Until public outcry reached epic proportions, Hasbro had a whole line of Pussycat Dolls ready for sale.
(I can't think of something I'd like my kids to play with more than a slutty Nicole Sherzinger toy.) 

In an age where pornography rules and monogamy is considered antiquated, why do we want to further perpetuate the myth that people must always exist in an uber-aroused state? Don't we want more for our kids society?

Contact NBC here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fox 9 Twin Cities

 My post last week on The Teen Choice Awards  was a hot one. Not that I had anything to do with it; I really didn't. All this Watchdog Mom did was present the facts.

The feedback is what made it so hot. People were (are) outraged, and rightly so. I  emailed a producer I've worked with before at our local Fox news affiliate, and she asked me to come on their evening show and discuss this current topic. This is my appearance discussing the awards and television how you, the consumer, can get involved:

(My thanks to the producers and Heidi Collins over at Fox 9 Twin Cities for asking me back. See my other clips on Fox 9 here.)

Want another way you can get involved?  Send  this link to as many people as you know. I even tiny'd it for you: http://tinyurl.com/3dm7caa

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Teen Choice Awards

The Teen Choice Awards airs this Sunday on Fox. I can't think of a show less appropriately titled than this one. Almost every one of the movie nominations are rated "R".  I understand the whole "pushing the envelope" thing in the entertainment industry, but I really don't know why Nickelodeon (parent company: Viacom) keeps forcing adult content down the throats of kids. 

Oh wait, yes I do. Advertising revenue. Instead of an awards show with commercials and product placement geared towards pre-teens and teens, we now have a show that's akin to a porn flick packaged in Toys R Us wrapping paper. It's actually quite smart. Sick, but smart.

The Teen Choice Awards are the brain child of Nickelodeon. When parents see that bright orange paint splat they automatically think the show is ok for all children in their house to watch. Nickelodeon's own website promotes the show as a family-friendly, with nominees like iCarly and Justin Beiber, and page ads for Trix Cereal, The Smurfs movie and McDonald's.  But let’s look at little closer at the nominees:

Black Swan (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Drama

No Strings Attached (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Romantic Comedy 

Bad Teacher (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Comedy 

The Hangover Part II (R) - Nominated for Choice Movie Actor: Comedy

Let Me In (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Horror

Paranormal Activity (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Horror

Saw 3D (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Horror

Scream 4 (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Horror

Due Date (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Hissy Fit

Bridesmaids (R) – Nominated for Choice Movie: Hissy Fit

Wonder why aren’t any of the above nominees listed on Nick’s website? Could it be the 'R' ratings, the consequence-free sex, drunken hook-ups, drug use, prostitution, and full frontal nudity of men and women? The horror movie nominees are so raw and twisted that they’re actually referred to as "torture porn” in the critic arena.

But let me be clear: If you're an adult, I could care less where your amusement center is. For most, it seems to be in their crotch area. But it's a free world-- laugh it up. If you get off watching people being shredded to ribbons like in the Saw franchises, go for it. Just leave the kids out of it. 

And let’s talk about the giant purple dinosaur in the room: If "R" rated movies are for 17 and up, is Nickelodeon saying the awards are only meant for that age range? This is from the MPAA's own website

"...Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures."

My niece Emily is ten years old. She's not allowed to watch Teen Nick (and I heartily agree with that ruling). She told me she rarely watches the Teen Choice Awards, like many of her friends. "Why not?" I asked her. "Well, maybe if they had some more choices [nominees] for like, stuff I could see, I'd vote and watch it. But everything is PG-13 and R rated so I don't even know what to vote for." Maybe she should write to Nickelodeon and demand more from a network her parents pay big bucks to have in their home. She is after all, the client. 

I’ll save her the stamp. Viacom is making sure they have enough viewers to spare. Sure, if the awards were geared towards kid-centered content, I'm sure only kids would watch. But throw in movies with rampant drug use, drunk driving, rules-free sex and sadistic torture, and you have a show the whole family, from kid to adult, can identify with. 
No Strings Attached: Best Rom Com Nominee

Saw 3D: Best Horror Nominee
The Hangover: Part 2. Best Comedy Nominee
Let Me In: Best Horror Nominee

Monday, August 1, 2011

Katy Perry + Smurfs = ?

The Smurfs premiered this past Friday with $36.2 million dollars in ticket sales. I haven't yet seen the movie, but I plan to. It sounds like a cute revisit to my 1980's childhood, where Saturday morning channels rotated between Smurfette, the Care Bears and Fat Albert. And when I say "rotated", I mean that literally. We didn't have remote controls.

This post is not about the movie, but about  Katy's outfit at the premiere: 
Katy Perry - The Smurfs premiere in New York
(In the words of Phil Hartman as Ed McMahon, "Heyyyy-ooo!")

I know she's a performer and yaddya yaddya, but come on, Katy...it's a kids' cartoon. What's wrong with a little class? I'm not suggesting a business suit; I'd even settle for your stylist lowering that bedazzled hem 8 inches or so. But Katy's sexed up anima persona invading the rapidly shrinking innocence of childrens' programming is not breaking news. Remember the controversy of her duet with Elmo?  We don't need to promote highly sexualized stars to little kids. It serves no other purpose than pimping out our kids for more revenue to advertisers. (E.g.: Instead of Sesame Street appealing to a 3-5 year-old fan base, they now appeal to a 3-to-dirty old man fan base.) The same applies for controversial stars. Read my post on that and Amy Winehouse here

So while the movie itself sounds cute and yes, I plan on taking my 5 year-old son to see it when he fills up his sticker chart (hey, movies are expensive-I'm making the the boy work for it), I'm not a fan of Katy displaying her ahem, assets, while promoting the movie. Production companies are savvy entities. They know that while there are many talented voice over actors out there, casting the girl who sang about cheating on her boyfriend with another girl and losing her virginity as a teenager will attract a much larger crowd over anyone else. And of course that's what they want; they're in the business to make money. But at what cost? And why is it now the norm? 

I'm not boycotting the movie, and I'm not stamping my feet and screaming 'foul'; I'm just irritated that everything in this world from cartoons to toys to food is a cleverly marketed shortcut to sex. The other day, my five year old asked me if he could live with me forever. 

"Well, probably not." I said, smiling. Of course I was flattered. And slightly panicked. 

"Why not?" He asked, frowning.

"Well, someday you'll want to live by yourself. And you might meet a pretty girl and want to marry her."

His chubby cheeks scrunched up in horror. "I think I'll just stay with you", he said firmly. 

I know his innocence won't be there forever. But can't I at least hold on to it for longer than five minutes?