Sunday, September 16, 2007

Not Short Takes

I'm not doing a Short Takes column this week. There are a couple of interesting things out there, but the PTC isn't outraged by anything new this time around and they're my meat and potatoes on this. Besides that I was doing a Garage Sale on Saturday. I hate Garage Sales – attending or holding – but it was either that or have a ton of my brother's stuff in my garage. It wasn't a roaring success but at least I've got a bit less stuff in there. Still I am tired in the aftermath. So, instead of a Short Takes piece, I think I'll respond to a couple of comments about last week's Short Takes.

The first comment is about Jim Shaw's attack on the Canadian Television Fund, and actually what we have are two responses related to the comment about "educational programming that offers instruction on the right and wrong way to host an S&M Bondage Party." First, my good friend Tim Gueguen writes, "Showcase has produced a number of sexually explicit shows over the years but I can't imagine any of them were ever classified as educational programming." After which Visaman wrote with a probable answer to the identity of the show: "That would be "KINK", it has been airing on Showcase for several years, it was the lead in to OZ. It was originally produced in Vancouver, then it moved to Toronto. I know people who know people who were on the show!" I think you're probably right. I know that the show was on Showcase and that it dealt with various types of sexual proclivities. I may even have seen bits and pieces of some episodes on IFC as I've been surfing through the digital channels. Not my cup of cocoa but it's an aspect of life and as a CBC report from May 2005 mentioned, "the truth is, every weekend is a dirty weekend on cable TV." The article spent a lot of time discussing Kink which they actually liked: "It should be noted that amid all this sawing and sighing, one Canadian specialty channel, Showcase, is providing an adult entertainment series that really is entertaining. The show is Kink, a documentary series that surveys unusual and varied sexual activity in Canadian cities. In past seasons, the series had done Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Starting this Friday, the filmmakers venture to Winnipeg, searching for the sexual extremes of "Canada's longitudinal centre." According to the article "This is erotica as imagined by smart NFB grads — not so much going down, but Goin' Down the Road." What isn't clear, either from the CBC article, or the show's website (or indeed from the Paperny Films website – they produce the show) is whether the show – which was nominated in 2006 for Best Documentary Series at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival (lost to The Nature Of Things) – is whether the show is still in production or if it ever got money from the CTF. Even if it did or does get funding for the CTF, I would hardly classify the series as "educational programming" unless you classify any documentary as educational programming, which I don't. A documentary can be made primarily to entertain.

The other comment I want to address comes from Andrew who does the blog One Man's Revolution. He writes: "Gee, I agree with you position on the PTC and "The Hills". I mean, only through the PTC's hypersensitive ears can they hear the vulgar language of that Justin dude. This simply makes the PTC look more foolish as times pass and the majority of American parents don't really care about them anymore.

(I agree with this statement particularly the part where you say "the majority of American parents don't really care about them anymore." The problem is that what they really are is a lobbying organization targeting advertisers and the FCC using the muscle of their "over one million members." Sadly, in the FCC in particular, is highly sensitive to complaints. The fine to KCSM in San Mateo over airing Martin Scorcese's The Blues: Godfathers and Sons was triggered by a single complaint.)

However, would you agree with the PTC that a recent rerun of CBS's "Cold Case" was misrated "TV-PG-DLV" for showing overtly explicit dialogue and wounded bodies?"

Andrew is referring to the PTC's Misrated column of August 31 which was in fact the one I was intending to do before they put up the Misrated on The Hills. The answer to your question is no, I don't agree with the PTC on this description. The descriptors are there to give parents some additional knowledge as to what they can expect from the show. The "D" refers to suggestive dialog, the "L" to strong language, and the "V" to violence. The amount or strength of the content related to that descriptor changes based on the actual rating – the "V" descriptor for TV-PG allows less than TV-14 and a lot less than TV-MA. Now my position is and has always been that the "V" descriptor applies – or should apply – almost entirely to actual depictions of violent acts. Seeing a dead body does not – in my opinion at least – constitute a violent act but rather evidence of a violent act. Put another way, when you see a man with a bruise on his jaw you are seeing the evidence of the violent act of him being punched in the jaw but you haven't seen an act of violence. Punching the man in the jaw is the violent act. Though I haven't seen the episode of Cold Case in question, I know enough about the show to know that there are actual acts of violence that occur but on the whole they tend to be acts of violence that fall within the PG level.

The example of overly explicit dialog in this episode is another point where I feel that the PTC is over reacting. To set the scene, the episode in question deals with a case where the father of a child who was sexually molested and murdered has been killed pedophiles. ( has a detailed episode recap for the episode Offender.) Detectives Valens and Vera confront former postman Ernie Grabowski, a registered sex offender who is under house arrest. Here's what the PTC found objectionable:

Vera: "Better start explaining what the hell you were doing on that street delivering mail on a Sunday, Ernie."

Ernie says he sometimes delivered parcels on his days off, and that the address was on his way home.

Scotty: "Only back then you didn't have a record for diddling boys yet."

Ernie then tells the detectives that they can ask whatever questions they wish and put him through tests, but that he did not kill Clay because Clay "wasn't his type":

Ernie: "My preference was blonde-haired boys, ages 8-12, slight build, introverted. I was very specific."

Since the murdered boy in question did not match Ernie's "preferences," Vera sarcastically suggests that the detectives have the wrong suspect. Ernie states that, through therapy, he has learned to control his urge to have sex with young boys.

Ernie: "I love children. Guy who killed that boy was an amateur, worried about getting caught."

Vera: "An amateur?"

Ernie: "If a boy's properly groomed you don't worry about them telling anyone. They give you...consent."

Scotty: "Consent? A child can't give an adult consent!"

Ernie: "Someday society will come around to accept it."

Here's what the PTC says about the scene: "How can discussion of 'consensual' molestation and rape be appropriate for children – even with parental guidance? The TV-PG DLV rating given to this episode outrageously suggests that dialogue condoning the sexual assault of children is appropriate for children to hear!"

I agree that this dialog may be distasteful but it is reflective of what many child predators truly believe – indeed it is what NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) advocates. The question that needs to be addressed in this case though is whether this dialog rises to a higher standard than the "D" descriptor for a TV-PG shows (D for suggestive dialogue (mature themes)) – to the level for a TV-14 rating (D for highly suggestive dialogue). In my opinion at least it clearly doesn't. It may reflect the inadequacies of the ratings system which doesn't take situations like this into account but in my view the dialog they cite doesn't meet the higher standard as the standard exists.

As far as "Parental Guidance" question goes, in my book "Parental Guidance" means knowing what your child can and can't handle in terms of content and deciding what shows your child is mature enough to handle. It also means watching with your children and when an issue like this comes up to talk with them about it. It's work, but guiding your child is a serious part of being a parent.

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