Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Wrote A Letter

I wrote a scathing email yesterday.  This isn’t in my usual manner of doing things.  I’m pretty easy going; I don’t get worked up too often unless my kids have done something.  I get worked up plenty for that.

If any of you have cable or satellite and have small children, you probably are familiar with the new PBS station  Sprout.  This station contains programming for the under five set with all sorts of annoying shows like Dragon Tales and Angelina Ballerina.  They are also the home of Thomas and friends, Sagwa, and my own personal hell, Caillou.  

At night they have something called “The Goodnight Show” with this preternaturally perky hostess named Melanie.  She introduces the cartoons, does a craft, dances, tells stories and generally entertains toddlers before they go to bed.  For me, watching her is like hearing nails on a chalkboard.  However, my kids like her and I guess that’s what’s important.  

Earlier in July she told PBS that some videos of her were circulating on the Internet.  They immediately fired her and took the show off the air.  When I heard, I thought it must have been hardcore porno.  What horrible thing was in her past which made PBS dump her so quickly?  Turns out she was in two PSA spoofs seven years ago.  The 37 second videos were making fun of the abstinence campaign.  They were not pornographic and in fact the language wasn’t particularly rough.  I believe it was for a site called www.technicalvirgins.com which no longer exists.  I haven’t seen them but I hear they aren’t any worse than a skit you would see on “Saturday Night Live.”

Talk about overkill.

“PBS KIDS Sprout has determined that the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool program host and may undermine her character’s credibility with our audience.”

This is what PBS offered as explanation.  Umm…How in the world does this affect my three year old?  My kid is pretty savvy, she plays computer games, but last time I checked, she didn’t really know her way around a search engine and I doubt she can spell Melanie’s name.  I doubt some silly video the woman did 7 years ago is going to have any impact at all on my daughter.

What is PBS teaching our kids?  Geez, Caillou sets the dog on fire and sells his sister to a traveling band of gypsies, confesses, and the show ends in a group hug.  Angelina accidentally sets a cat loose on the village and it eats Miss Lily, but she acknowledges her mistake and she is forgiven.  Well, maybe not, but the characters in the shows broadcast on Sprout make mistakes all the time, learning a valuable lesson and also learning they can be forgiven.  PBS’ actions are certainly contrary to the programming they show.  

The outrage has been pretty universal among parents.  As I understand it, the Sprouts headquarters has had to set up another phone line just to field the calls on this topic alone.  Letter-writing campaigns are in the work as well as petitions.  I doubt PBS will listen, knowing people will most likely let the controversy die down and move on as usual, but I can’t help but be bothered by the network’s faux-morality on this issue.  And what does it teach our kids?