I wrote an article two summers ago for the Deseret News about “family friendly” TV shows. At the time, I was feeling particularly annoyed by the Disney Channel, especially the show “Good Luck Charlie.” Two years later, I still feel just as annoyed, and I’m pretty much banning the channel from our house.
I’m reminded again of this because of the latest information about the channel and this particular show, stating that the show will be adding a set of lesbian moms and their child to the show next year. Now, I’m not going to get into my stance on homosexual unions or parenting or anything like that. I will simply say that this is a hot-button issue and that the country is fairly close to evenly split on opinions about it. What’s at issue here is that probably half of the parents in this country (I’m just very roughly going to guess on this since the opinions still tend to be 50-50 on the topic of same-sex marriage) might have some reservations about this issue and may not be excited that a channel geared at young children is introducing this kind of controversial topic.
Now I got a comment on my original article two years ago, with the commenter saying that I’m essentially expecting all shows to reflect what I think reality should be, rather than what it is. And, of course, that’s not at all what I’m saying. Any channel out there can run whatever kind of programming it wants to. It doesn’t “have” to be responsible to any set of people or values or expectations of any kind. And I’m OK with all kinds of wacky non-realities in TV shows. I love fantasy and lots of situations that are far different from my own or what is “ideal.” Watching those can either just be fun or entertaining or acceptably escapist, or they can be informative and worldview-expanding. That’s great.
However, when a network is essentially setting itself up to be known for being “family friendly” or, in the case of Disney, building on a long tradition of expectations for that quality, I do believe it has some responsibilities. If you don’t agree with me about this, just stop reading now. You won’t agree with anything I say further. In the case of being responsible about portraying families to young children, I think it’s irresponsible to introduce some of these more mature concepts that parents would prefer to address themselves. I also think it’s irresponsible to portray parents who are mean, parents who are immature and just goofy, and parents who don’t seem to care about their kids’ welfare — NOT because these scenarios don’t reflect reality, but because on the DC, they’re played just for the purpose of getting cheap laughs.
I cringe every time I see the mom on that show put down one of her kids or plot against them or do anything else that belittles them. It angers me when they act like little kids themselves rather than responsible adults. (Again, this is not to say that parents can’t have fun and act childlike; it’s AWESOME when parents get down in the mud and play with the kids or color alongside them or swing with them at the park. I am saying that when they act like brats to get laughs, it diminishes the meaning and value of parenting and the importance of love and trust in family relationships.)
I’m putting our satellite service on pause for the summer, and when I take it off pause in the fall, I plan to block the Disney network. I don’t want my girls seeing that stuff anymore. And I doubt that Disney will care. The folks there clearly plan to continue on the path toward putting parents in a position of goofiness and un-respectability. I just won’t support them.