A years-long study by a television watchdog group reveals a disturbing trend in prime-time programming by the broadcast TV networks that intentionally draws young viewers in – then exposes them to graphic violence, sex, and profanity.
The new report from the Parents Television Council – entitled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" – examines content over the last several years (2011-present) from several programs with ties to child-friendly fantasy franchises: Once Upon a Time (ABC), Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC), The Muppets (ABC), Grimm (NBC), Emerald City (NBC), and Sleepy Hollow (Fox).
PTC president Tim Winter says his group's research found that Hollywood has taken these fairy tale-themed properties and turned them "dark."
"It is difficult to imagine television programming more likely to attract an audience of parents and children than shows based around Alice in Wonderland, The Muppets, and The Wizard of Oz," he states. "It is built-in brand recognition.
"Yet the networks chose to reinterpret these iconic children's properties with sexual references, drug, alcoholic use, explicit profanity, [and] graphic violence to an extent that these programs are really toxic for children."
For example, says the report, the networks are using the airwaves to show children "Snow White surrounded by corpses ... Muppets swilling martinis while talking about sex, and Dorothy turning the Land of Oz into a forum for lewd sex acts ...."
And to make matters worse, says Winter, "the TV networks rated every episode of each program as appropriate for viewing by a child age 14 or even younger."
These network-assigned, age-based content ratings, says PTC, only reinforce the notion to parents that these programs are appropriate for their children.
Winter urges producers and distributors to end what he describes as "the troubling trend of using entertainment franchises beloved by children – and families, too – for dark, edgy, and explicit reinterpretation."
The PTC survey only encompassed the fantasy-based programming during the "sweeps" periods (November, February, and May) in the years examined – but that programming subjected viewers to 625 profanities, 300 deaths, and more than 1,000 incidents of violence, reports the group.
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