When I was a child, I was the biggest cowardly custard of all when it came to television and movies. The Doctor Who music used to send me scurrying under the couch. I even got scared of the puppet aliens in Sesame Street who burst through Bert & Ernie’s wall in one episode and said “Yip yip yip yip, telephone, telephone!” Even so, I wouldn’t call for these programs to be banned.
Why do I digress into my childhood television watching habits? A reader of The Legal Soapbox has alerted me to the fact that freedom of speech is also a domestic issue in terms of censorship of children’s television. Apparently, some Christian lobby groups have complained about Finding Nemo (scary violence) and The Cat in the Hat (toilet humour). Perhaps we do need a more nuanced television ratings system (which is a different question). But unfortunately, it is impossible to satisfy everyone. In the end it’s a personal value judgment by the ratings agency as to which category a film or program fits.
I’m also thinking back to my own childhood: do these groups have rose-tinted glasses about childhood and what children are like? I seem to recall that I thought it was the funniest thing in the world to shout “Doggy plops!” out of the bus window on a school excursion in Prep. Toilet humour was the order of the day.
I watched an interview with Dr Patricia Edgar, the founding director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, on Lateline the other day. She has just published her memoirs entitled Bloodbath.
This interview led me to think about what I consider to be the more important issue of the quality of Australian children’s television today. There were some absolutely great shows coming out of Australia during the 1990s which I saw when I lived in Britain (Round the Twist and the like). I don’t see shows like that any more. Another related issue which bothers me is the level of commercialisation and advertising tied in with children’s television shows. I think this is a far more serious issue than some toilet humour in The Cat in the Hat. It continues the trend (identified in an earlier post) of creating a consumer culture for children and young adults.
For example, I watched a few episodes of Dragonball Z with my cousin about two months ago. In the few episodes I watched, I was unable to discern a coherent storyline. The animation was appalling. I think the sole purpose of this show must be to produce more figurines and swap cards. It is certainly not to produce an interesting story which broadens the minds of children. I’m not saying that shows should necessarily be didactic, but I do think that they should be well written with proper storylines.
I have a friend who is brimming with great ideas for children’s television programs (whacky, intelligent and fun) but it’s hard to know whether any networks would be interested unless there’s a line of figurines and swap cards tied in?