10 November 2009

PTC responds to last night's Gossip Girl

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, responded to last night's controversial episode of The CW's Gossip Girl:

LOS ANGELES (November 10, 2009) – The Parents Television Council® issued a statement in reaction to the teen-targeted “Gossip Girl” episode that aired on Nov. 9. The CW Network’s own promotions indicated that major characters would be featured in a sexual threesome. “Gossip Girl” airs at 9 pm ET/PT and 8 pm CT/MT.

“Though there was no explicit sex scene on last night’s episode, the CW Network’s behavior was grossly irresponsible by adding a story line where a sexual threesome was to be celebrated as some sort of ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers. The network inserted this story line into a program that they themselves deem to be appropriate for 14-year-old children based on its content rating,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“CW has stated that last night’s episode is not the end of the story, teasing next week’s ‘Gossip Girl’ episode as continuing the ‘threesome’ storyline. And the network’s claim that it isn’t trying to reach impressionable teenagers falls flat given that their own press release from September 2009 touts the fact that ‘Gossip Girl’ won in the ratings among women ages 12-34, and that when ‘Gossip Girl’ is paired with ‘One Tree Hill,’ these shows during the 8-10 pm block have finished first with females 12-34 and female teens.

“Advertisements for ‘Gossip Girl’ have heavily featured themes and wording that only move minors to view the program, such as ‘Every Parent’s Nightmare.’ Such marketing tactics clearly appeal to teens, not adult women. Also, ‘Gossip Girl’ creator Josh Schwartz has boasted, ‘I can honestly say that I don’t check the ratings after the show airs,’ because he knows that a vast majority of his viewers – tech-savvy teens – are watching the program online.

“Advertisers and CW affiliates still need to be on guard. CW affiliates have told the PTC that the network did not afford them an opportunity to pre-screen the program. We urge each affiliate to evaluate the content within the scope of their broadcast license that was loaned to them in return for serving the public interest.”

I searched on Google and cannot find any other source than this press release that quotes Schwartz as saying that he does not look up his show's ratings. And apparently, the PTC thinks that 14-year-olds are still not mature enough to hear about threesomes on TV. Winter also misrepresented the plot of this episode: The characters are in college (which he does not acknowledge at all in this release nor on the earlier one demanding that CW stations pre-empt last night's ep), so that supposed "rite of passage" might not technically take place (at least in the fictional world of Gossip Girl) during the characters' teenage years.

But as far as 14-year-olds and such edgy shows as Gossip Girl indicate, it just shows another one of PTC's silly strawman arguments that kids still need their innocence until they get out of high school...perhaps the reason why they recommend that children under 18 not be allowed to watch it at all? (Most episodes have been rated TV-14, which means basically my previous statement only replace 18 with 14, and a few I believe were rated TV-PG-DLS or whatever if the content was light. TV-PG is for parental guidance suggested.)

As I noted earlier, Time magazine television critic James Poniewoznik has a rebuttal to PTC's archaic ideology that is so much more compassionate and rhetorically respectful than the PTC's political agenda-driven language. This is from his blog where he responded to PTC criticizing the TV-14 rating of AMC's Mad Men as too light:
Now, the thing is, I actually think the PTC has several points. Yeah, I probably would not screen the show for an average 14-year-old...But would I show Mad Men to a mature 14-year-old? One who was, say, already reading the kind of adult literary fiction that Mad Men mirrors? Yes.
And as I said earlier:
In America, there are teenagers whose parents want to keep pure and innocent until age 18, I won't deny that. Just as there are Gossip Girl type teens who are well-cultured and know the dangers of the world around them and whose parents are willing to discuss the birds n' the bees. This criticism isn't surprising given that PTC feels that there have been cases in broadcast TV also where TV-14 has been too weak.

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