I am constantly being told that when I become a parent that my views on the world would change. I promise that if and when that happens I will write about it. Until then I can only comment on what I remember from my childhood and what I see now. When I was a child I was watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news. The graphic depiction of war came to us every night at dinnertime. This was BC (Before Cable). I remember my grandparents talking about "The War" (WWII), never specifying which war. Come on, I was five years old. I didn’t know that these were two totally different wars, and that my dad’s war, Korea, was a totally different war wedged in between the other two. I thought that there was always a war going on someplace and we all had to take turns visiting it. So I had this great fear of going off to war when I grew up. When Grandma told me I was born in an army hospital, believing I would think it was neat. I didn’t, I was pissed. I’d seen those images on the news. I thought I was born on the set of M*A*S*H*. Those images of war lasted longer in my mind and nightmares than any monster movie or any act of staged violence I had ever seen on TV. I also remember knowing the difference between real and make believe. I saw news as serious business. It was like cod liver oil, you didn't like it but knew it was good for you. What was on the news was real, everything else on TV you watched for fun. I'd like to think that today’s kids are able to make the same distinction between real and make believe that I did, in fact kids today should be more sophisticated now than they were in my time. I am also sure that kid's know the difference between The actress on "Alias" (Jennifer Garner) beating up somebody and a real person beating up somebody on one of the many daytime talk shows.
It is my feeling that kids are more harmed by real events than by programs produced for our entertainment. I don't remember seeing the Apollo 13 mission (April 11-17, 1970) on TV when it happened. I found out later that my grandparents made sure that I was nowhere near the TV while that event was being covered just in case something horrible would have happened. Today when we have 24-hour news channels where parents can have nonstop coverage of the events of September 11th, a school shooting or the recent Tsunami in Asia. Kid's should not be exposed to an event where some could die on live TV. Also kids might not understand that the event that they are watching is happening thousand of miles away or they are watching the same buildings coming down being replayed over and over again when they might think that these are new buildings coming down.
I don't blame the News for showing this, I blame the parents for having it on all the time. Wait, did I just use the "P" word? I never see the Parental Watchdog Groups place any onus on the parents. Instead they get better media exposure for their cause when they attack a number one rated show, a cartoon sponge, or Janet Jackson's breast. That one breast, in one halftime show, has gotten more attention than both of Dolly Parton's breasts have gotten for the past thirty years.
Speaking of celebrity exposure. My favorite example of celebrity exposure comes from an episode of "Three's Company" that aired on Nick at Nite a few years ago. The episode originally aired in 1983 and has been shown countless times since. The scene features Jack Tripper (John Ritter) dressed in blue boxers sitting on his bed and for a split second he accidentally exposes one third of the Full Monty. A viewer notices this with the help of his suffocated VCR's pausing capability. The viewer notified the cable network outraged that Nickelodeon would show this when children could be watching. Nickelodeon digitally corrected the scene.
To quote John Ritter in the New York Observer over the incident, "I've requested that (Nickelodeon) air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't."