Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sex/ Drugs/Rock-n-Roll

Common Sense Media has issued a report claiming that one out of six ads featured during football broadcasts are inappropriate for children. The report breaks down the number of ads that feature violent content (probably promos for 24 run incessantly by Fox during football broadcasts), alcohol, sexual content and the uncomfortable subject of erectile dysfunction.

I guess they have a point but the one thing I don't get is who determines what is appropriate for children? CSM claims that they don't endorse censorship but at the same time they seem eager to put the onus on networks and, at least in the case, the NFL.

Look, I don't like those 24 promos either. It's not the violence, it's the Kiefer. It's great that Donald Sutherland's kid is back in the acting saddle but there's a reason he fell off of the A-list and you can see that reason in his movie Mirrors. I'm an 80s guy and I'm comfortable with admitting that I enjoyed much of what 80s pop culture had to offer. I don't hate Kiefer Sutherland because I got drunk one night and had "Doc" tattooed on my left bicep. Young Guns wasn't a great movie but it was good fun and a lot of guys called their social pack The Regulators. It's a little embarrassing but it wasn't his fault.

It might not even be his fault that he's not all that great an actor that doesn't mean we should create an entire franchise around his over-the-top interpretation of a super secret agent saddled with the burden of saving the world. We don't see D.B. Sweeney out there whoring himself, do we?

But are the 24 promos too violent? I don't think so. Kids enjoy destruction and tend to play violence out in their fantasies because it gives them a sense of power. That's why I got a hell of a lot more satisfaction stomping sand castles into oblivion than I did from building them.

I also grew up around alcohol. I can still recall beer jingles with greater consistency than I can nursery rhymes...From one beer lover to another Stroh's beer... but I'm not an alcoholic. I dabbled in underage drinking but that had nothing to do with commercials. It was a test of machismo. I was cool because I could buy beer when I was 16 and now I maintain my coolness by buying beer for 16 year-olds who aren't as...endowed as I was. Also, I get a lot of action that way. That's the thing about high school girls, I keep getting older and they stay the same age.

Now I am all for banning those damned Viagra/Cialis/Levitra commercials...especially the Levitra commercials that featured Mike Ditka. That should be in the Viagra disclaimers: If you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours just picture Mike Ditka with an erection lasting longer than fours hours. Mike Ditka gave me ED. He is just one of those people you don't want to associate with sex. I hope he doesn't have kids because then I would have an accurate count of how many times he's had sex in his life. Ick.

I don't want to see commercials about old guys who can't get it up. That never seemed to be a problem back in the old days. You know what men had before Viagra? Sexual Harassment. That's right, back in the day when you couldn't build up enough steam for your wife you hired a cute little secretary and you had her take dictation... from behind. And your wife? She screwed the milk man after you left for work. Everybody was happy. Now we don't even have milk men because bored housewives stopped screwing their brains out. Why the hell do you think they delivered something you could easily pick up at the store in the first place? It was always about the sex.

What about the kids back then? Common Sense Media wasn't running around worried about kids coming home from school to see their mothers getting plowed by the Maytag repair man, so what's the problem with a little T&A during a football broadcast? Grow up. Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina and they feel good when you stick them together. Big deal.

The thing of it is, Common Sense Media is pitching a bitch on a topic that is entirely subjective. For every parent who dreads having to explain what erectile dysfunction is, there's another who has already done it and the kids who are properly informed are the ones who can disseminate all of the content that Common Sense Media denounces. How hard is it to tell a six year old, not to shoot people for real and that old guys can't get boners. Man that's tough. Pour yourself a cold one.

I appreciate the CSM isn't organizing book burnings or marching on Washington to demand censorship, but they make the mistake of blaming the wrong people. We live in a multimedia society. Kids have access to a lot of information and some of requires a little parental guidance. Rather than taking the NFL to task, CSM should turn the tables on its members and challenge them to do a better job of educating their children.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Convert this!

You know, TV is not a necessity. I mean, it’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a TV in every room of every home but I can vaguely recollect a period in my life where there was only one television in the entire house and generally it was commandeered by my father who somehow managed to watch it in his sleep. Moreover, this was broadcast television and we only had access to four channels, three of which required extensive technical skills to properly tune. Unless you were my father, in which case he could punch or kick the TV until it did what he wanted.

I’ve heard stories of an era when there was no television and there weren’t even dinosaurs running around. Seriously. There are people alive today who lived without the comforting and informative din of television. Could you imagine that? No Tony Little infomercials at 3 am.

Ironically the people who lived without television for so long are the same people who are lamenting this new-fangled conversion to digital broadcasting. These people managed to suck the life out of the Federal program that provided coupons to help people purchase digital converter boxes for their televisions. Sadly, the majority of the people who acquired these boxes didn’t stop to consider the fact that they didn’t need them because they either had newer television sets that were digitally compatible or they were hooked up to digital cable already.

That’s the thing about old people; they love to get stuff on the cheap. Even if they don’t need it they will buy it if they think they are getting a good price. If Barack Obama wants to stimulate the economy he needs to figure out how to get old people onto Craigslist. As long as we find a way to keep them out of the Casual Encounters listings…that stuff is creepy enough as it is without catching a glimpse of granny's hooha.

It’s no surprise that the government ran out of money to fund the converter box program because the government used PSAs directed at old people to promote the program. You’ve probably seen them. One has an old biddy sitting by a pool with an ancient CRT floating on the water. She prattles on and on in a whiny old biddy voice about the digital conversion and how to get a coupon. The geezers watching probably don’t hear anything other than “free” and “coupon” but that’s all it takes. That and a toll free number. And of course it’s an 800 number because old people still don’t trust those fancy 888, or 866 numbers. I hate that old lady.

Of course they have an equally annoying PSA featuring a grouchy old coot standing in the middle of the desert. Now I suppose that there’s some sort of visual metaphor behind these commercials but I have to use too much brain power to connect the dots, so I’m pretty sure that old people aren’t getting it. If anything I imagine they’re getting worked up over the wrong things. “Get out of the desert! You’ll get dehydrated!” or “You can’t put a TV in a pool!”

I get pissed off because I know that the government forked over too much money to pay for those ads. As annoying as they are, there is some production value involved and that’s going to confuse the target audience. PSAs from the government are supposed to be severe and very blunt. Uncle SAM wants you to get a digital converter box. Then you make them go to an office in the nearest big city to pick it up. Old people are used to being inconvenienced. They like it. It makes them feel like they're doing their duty.

Two PSAs is excessive but I suppose that there are a bunch of old men out there who won’t take technical advice from a split tail and they needed to have a PSA featuring a woman so the retired old haus fraus would understand that they were allowed to fix their own TVs. It’s all so complicated and the worst part is that old people only tune to one channel and they never really watch it; they just nod off in front of the TV. That's a lot of effort so Aunt Esther can take her post-poop snooze.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. TV is not a necessity. It’s also not a right. When TV was first marketed the government didn’t implement a program to help people purchase them. You had to scrimp and save to buy your own and for that one brief moment in history the joke was on the rich bastards who could buy the TVs since there was only one show for the first 20 or 30 years of television. All Uncle Milty all the time. Boy, did I miss out.

So why are we all of the sudden worried about a handful of people who are still watching TV on the old black and white Zenith they bought in 1956? So what if their sets go dark later next month? Is it fair to hold back progress for everybody because a couple of people are going to be inconvenienced? Buy a new TV, gramps!

I know; a lot of these people are too poor or just not able to run out and buy a new set. So what? I don’t mean to sound heartless but people are denied food and medical attention all the time. Why the hell are we worried about TV?