Fantasy-themed TV exposes kids to adult fare, PTC says

LOS ANGELES (BP) -- Fantasy-themed television shows routinely repurpose familiar fairytales into graphic adult fare targeting children, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in its most recent study.

Shows such as NBC's "Grimm" and "Emerald City," and ABC's "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" repurpose Alice, Dorothy and other beloved characters to yield adult fairy tales while rating them suitable for children as young as 14 and, in some cases, younger, the PTC said.

"When parents think of typically child-friendly franchises like 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Alice in Wonderland,' or 'The Muppets,' they don't expect the dark and disturbing content on the new versions that the broadcast networks are now routinely airing during primetime," PTC President Tim Winter said in an Oct. 3 press conference releasing the findings.

"Now kids who watch these reimagined fantasy and fairytale-themed TV shows are not confronted with Dorothy's optimistic attitude and ruby red shoes," Winter said, referencing an inappropriate encounter between a Dorothy-like character and the Tin Man. "As Dorothy said to her dog Toto, 'we're not in Kansas anymore;' but instead of Oz, it looks more like she is in Westeros (the fictional continent for Game of Thrones)."

In the report "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," the PTC said it counted 625 profanities, 300 deaths and 1,000 incidents of violence during 141.5 hours of programming. The study spanned 2011-2017, and focused on the traditional "sweeps" rating periods of November, February and May.

"We urge producers and distributors to take more seriously their public interest obligations as broadcast licensees," Winter said, "and to use their influence to reimagine fantasy-themed primetime broadcast TV shows with children and families in mind."

Grimm, a cult favorite cancelled this year after six seasons, was the most violent show included in the study, the PTC said. The primetime series was rated for children age 14 and above, but shows "were able to be viewed by children of any age," the report said. Based loosely on ancient fairytales from the Grimm brothers, the series included 485 acts of violence encompassing dismemberment, decapitations, evisceration, dissection, crucifixion, impalement and torture, the PTC reported.

ABC/Disney's "The Muppets" included no violence, the PTC said, but featured profanity, depictions and references to alcohol and drug use, and multiple references to sex. It was rated TV-PG.

In addition to Emerald City (rated TV-14) and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (TV-PG), the study also included NBC's "Once Upon a Time" (TV-PG) and FOX's "Sleepy Hollow" (TV-14).

"Our new research shows that this is the new and extremely alarming norm for these once- and still-beloved entertainment franchises," Winter said. "This trend is of great concern because decades of scientific research proves children can be harmed from consuming graphic sex, violence, and profanity in entertainment, and when it comes to inherently child-friendly franchises, it is natural to expect that they will indeed be child-friendly.

"When the TV networks rate these shows as being appropriate for children, that expectation is only reinforced."

The national grassroots PTC markets itself as a nonpartisan educational and advocacy group for responsible entertainment. The full study is available at http://w2.parentstv.org/main/Research/Studies/OZ/OZStudy.aspx.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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