29 June 2009

PTC's selection of facts

So out of pure curiosity during this boring Monday morning right after Dead Celebrity Weekend (Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays), I decided to visit the Parents Television Council website, of the organisation that dares take a tough moral stance against all the curse words, sex scenes, shootings, and fights on TV. As of now, their biggest, latest pet peeve is over the "Bruno incident" from the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. PTC President Tim Winter considered that "a perfect example of why consumers should be able to choose and pay for only the cable networks they want, rather than being forced to pay for unwanted bundles of programming." He asserted that every cable consumer pays $0.80 a month for MTV, meaning that MTV makes $1 billion a year out of all cable subscribers.

So a flamboyantly gay movie character mooning a vulgar, homophobic rapper is enough to cry out about the abuse of consumers' money? That's not it! PTC named the Movie Awards the "worst cable show of the week" given the following examples in a "wall-to-wall trash-fest specifically targeted at young viewers":
- The Lonely Island medley performed by "once-respectable artists" LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, and Forrest Whitaker. The Lonely Island is a comedy rap trio comprised of Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg (who hosted the Movie Awards) and writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. They make those "digital shorts" for SNL that later go up on YouTube, uncensored. I don't have cable, which is the reason I've seen this medley for the first time online, and unlike on SNL, Rimes, Isaak, and Whitaker all performed Lonely Island songs in a singing rather than rapping style, even accompanied by a choir and orchestra. The online version is edited the same way as aired, as evidenced by PTC's transcript, which showed that only the F-word in the song "Mother Lover" (originally by Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg) was bleeped. However, the songs "Jizz in My Pants" and "Dick in a Box" were all uncensored even though NBC bleeped those words out on its original SNL broadcasts; common practice of broadcast networks like NBC is zero tolerance for words like "Dick" and stuff like that...even at 12 midnight!

And then: "The expletives just keep on rolling with the introduction of the “WTF Award.” Presenter Hayden Panitierre explains, “I know most of you are wondering, what the [bleeped “f***”] is the WTF Award? For those of you living in a cave, WTF means, ‘What the [bleeped “f***”].’”" (Amy Poehler won that award for a scene from her film Baby Mama in which she tries to perform a pregnancy test over a sink. Poehler's pre-taped thank-you message to the awards show also had a lot of bleeped words.) This just shows PTC's bleep-phobia. Also: "The musical performances were also filled with profanities. Eminem’s rendition of “Crack a Bottle” kept the censor’s thumb on the mute button with lyrics like, “Kiss my butt. Lick the fumunda cheese from under my [bleeped “n*ts”]… It’s a must I redeem my name n haters get mushed. [bleeped “b*tches”] lust. Man they love me when I lay in the cut.”" Yikes. MTV really wants to annoy parents or corrupt our youth!

But hold up. Apparently, PTC is making this look worse than they really seem. I watched Eminem's performance at the awards show, and it turns out you'd either have to be a super-skilled lip reader or look up the lyrics yourself to know what was muted out...and why can't the PTC distinguish between "bleep" and "mute" for crying out loud? Such prudes. The entire Movie Awards ceremony as seen on TV is available on MTV.com. Although PTC asserts that the "musical performances" are peppered with rancid language, the other major performer, Kings of Leon, had no cuss words at all in its performance of "Use Somebody". And then there's a comedic song "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions" by Samberg and Neil Diamond. That song uses only one use of "hell" and no other profanities.

PTC's press release notes that the show was rated "TV-14-DLSV", meaning (according to the official TV Parental Guidelines) unsuitable for children under 14, with pointed advisories regarding suggestive dialogue, crude language, sexual situations, and violent scenes. So what did it expect, total and cordial decency? Rather, PTC tests its shock value on certain parents: "MTV believes this content to be appropriate for a 14-year-old". That's the same argument it put forth when it asked its members/others to file FCC complaints against an episode of Family Guy back in March.

And did PTC even bother to care about which movies won at the awards ceremony? Based on Wikipedia's article about this year's awards I decided to see what PTC thought about the winners. Here's what PTC thought about Twilight, which won "Best Film" this year: "Twilight emphasizes chaste romance, loyalty and devotion between those in love, and an understanding of the need for acceptance of family and those who are different. Essentially a traditional Gothic romance updated for the 21st century, Twilight may not be to every parent’s taste; but its lack of sex and foul language and its (mostly) restrained violence make it an inoffensive choice for the romantically-minded teenager." (PTC also publishes Rod Gustafson's "Parenting and the Media" column; Gustafson differs in opinion though.) Robert Pattinson won "Best Male Breakthrough Performance" for his role in Twilight as well, and Twilight also won awards in "Best Kiss" and "Best Fight". And Ashley Tisdale won the Female counterpart of that award for her role in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, a PTC Seal of Approval winner. Heath Ledger wins posthumously for "Best Villain" in The Dark Knight, which PTC would rather rate closer to an R than the MPAA's "PG-13". And yet ANOTHER PTC Seal of Approval bearer gets high honors at the Movie Awards: Miley Cyrus's song "The Climb" from Hannah Montana: The Movie won "Best Song" at the awards, knocking out "Decode" by Paramore (Twilight), "Jai Ho" by A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), and "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen (title track of a film). Shouldn't PTC have acknowledged those facts as well? No, there's this "cable choice" thing to push, and deceptively hiding potentially "cheerable" items will advance PTC's agenda.

I have pointed out other instances where PTC has cherry-picked facts to suit its pro-cable choice, anti-MTV/BET/FX/any cable channel that dares show TV-MA rated programming even after 10 p.m. agenda. For example, PTC has been silent regarding BET's syndication of Smart Guy, a show that it twice named among the best shows of the year. In April 2008, PTC released a report criticizing BET for playing rap music videos out of concern over misogynistic and other negative messages. It also refuses to point out that Seal of Approval-awarded movies have been shown on FX before alongside those 10pm-and-later TV-MA dramas that oh-so-frequently are the object of PTC's grievances. And I'm browsing PTC's "Worst Cable Content" archives and spot yet another one: MTV's DJ & the Fro, a revival of Beavis and Butt-Head that has the titular character humorously commenting on YouTube videos (B&BH did the same for music videos back in the 90s; it was a target of rather silly moral controversy as well because one five-year-old boy killed his two-year-old sister with fire, and his mother blamed B&BH's "pyromania".) PTC's scathing criticism on the show graphically quotes everything the PTC deems sleazy, and asserts: "It is worth mentioning that this show is on every weekday at 5:00 p.m. ET, just early enough for school-kids to tune in before Mom and Dad get home. If this show is the voice of the new generation (as it purports to be), then society is in trouble." (italics & underline theirs) So now MTV is out to get kids to burn their siblings to death again in the 2010s (it's 2009 for crying out loud!) Well not so fast: MTV rates the show TV-14, so I guess that parents who believe their teenage children should be sheltered from all things evil till college should be the only ones concerned here.

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