Just in case federal regulators think there is a future in controlling
the entertainment industrys assault on Americas children,
I offer this reality check from the suburbs there is no childhood
here and there hasnt been for quite some time.
For families living in Southern Californias suburban communities,
where the line between childhood and adulthood has been eroding
since the Yuppie Revolution, a widely reported Federal Trade Commission
study released last week detailing the deliberate marketing of explicit
violent and sexual adult entertainment to children was not much
of a news flash.
Predictably, the report
incited a flood of political discussion over responsibility, ethics
and civil liberties. Tarnished fingers pointed in every direction
after the FTC told entertainment marketers to stop selling R-rated
thrills to kids under 17 or risk government-imposed controls.
Such flailing, as usual,
missed the point.
never needed a premeditated plan to lure preteeners into the smarmy
world of violence and adult sexuality. Since the 1980s the invasion
of little people into adult places has been creeping across the
generation line like the blob.
Youngsters are everywhere,
from late-night restaurants to sports bars and racetracks, upscale
beauty salons and the back seats of rented limousines. Theres
hardly a place left where children fear to tread, or where adult
marketing cant reach them.
For many aging adults,
whose biggest childhood movie trauma was the untimely death of Bambis
mother, watching a live mom bludgeoned to death on the big screen
while a row of kids whisper in voices that wont change any
time soon, is unconscionably surreal especially when their
real mom and dad are sitting right behind them.
No wonder NBC allowed
Nike to air an ad during the Olympic womens triathlon, telling
the uplifting story of a woman chased by a chain saw- wielding serial
killer through a creepy forest after he and we observe her undressing.
If audiences in local
movie theaters are any indication, the PG-13 rating means appropriate
for kids 13 and under, as if a film like the adult funny The
Crew, in which dotty old guys get a new life sleeping with
lap dancers, torching rats and gunning down drug lords, bears any
resemblance to that sweet codger movie Cocoon.
As the Hollywood oligarchs
like to say, dont blame the movies popular art simply
reflects social custom.
Consider an afternoon
at the most sophisticated beauty shop in my San Diego suburb, where
children often wait on a cozy living-room couch for their mom or
for their very own $100 hairdo. No American Girls magazine
on this coffee table but plenty of cultural works with catchy
titles like Cosmos Kama Sutra 3: Do It to Him Now,
Pleasure Triggers: How to Find and Use Them, Undress
Your Date: Perfect Your Stripping Skills on Virtual Boy-Toys,
and several others I wont repeat in a family newspaper but
are available to any kid standing in a checkout line at the supermarket.
But, the neighborhood
kiddie hairdo shop doesnt reek of childhood, either
no Barneys or animal crackers to spoil the positively no-geek
There are displays of
designer hair products, services that include manicures and pedicures
(perhaps to help discourage nail biting), and some serious rock
n roll blaring over the sound system. On the QT, I hear
the boys are scootering over to the adult shop for their dye jobs.
Standards for children
under 13 have changed so dramatically that kids who used to dress
up like mommy, and now dress just like mommy and daddy, regularly
dine in the middle of breweries and bars where they can observe
a level of conversation and social intercourse unlike anything experienced
at Chuck E Cheese.
After that, perhaps
such television homages to 21st-century character and human values
like Sex In the City and Oz
are all the more digestible.
And, as one of the biggest
perpetrators of blending children with adult vices, its hard
to imagine how officials of the state of California could set and
enforce childrens entertainment standards.
The state-owned Del
Mar Racetrack is regularly marketed as a family venue, with kiddie
entertainment in the infield alongside the betting windows. They
even offer a summer camp great place to learn probability
But, what can we expect
from a state that regularly puts 14-year-olds in jail with adults?
With generational boundaries
in suburban meltdown, how about considering a fresh entertainment
marketing approach: Let the little tykes try their hands gaming
at regulation-free Indian casinos. And why not weve
let the kids in everywhere else.
Lisa Ross is a writer
living in San Diego. She can be reached at www.lisaross.com.