The Cartoon Network

If you're like most parents, you try to restrict how much television your kids watch. If there's nothing educational on, many parents let their kids watch cartoons. After all, they may be silly, but they're harmless. The Cartoon Network plays nothing but cartoons, so you might assume this channel is a pretty safe bet. But according to writer Naomi Wolf, if you assume that, you're making a big mistake. Wolf writes that many of today's cartoons are shockingly inappropriate for children. Now, I'm not talking about cartoons that are truly meant for adults, like The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, or South Park. I'm talking about cartoons specifically intended for young children. Naomi Wolf is a well-known neo-feminist author who is usually anything but prudish. But now she has a child of her own—one who likes to watch cartoons. Wolf took a closer look at some of the cartoons her daughter was watching, and she didn't like what she saw. In other words, like so many liberals, she has just confronted reality. In an article in George magazine, Wolf recalls that the cartoons of her own childhood carried "subtextual messages about giving, sharing, or the battle of good against evil.” But she says today's cartoons "are purely nihilistic." The animated parents on the Cartoon Network "are frequently savage and unjust to the kids; the children are cruel to one another.” Over and over again, she writes, the cartoons depict "total disrespect for parents.” Parent figures "are absent, stupid, unjust, or vaguely threatening." For example, in the hugely popular cartoon Rugrats, the parents are portrayed as "foolish, self-absorbed yuppies.” If that's not enough, Wolf writes, the latest cartoon animals "have secondary sexual characteristics.” Cow & Chicken, a popular cartoon on the Cartoon Network, features a cow with a hugely prominent udder. It's designed to get laughs. On a companion cartoon called I Am Weasel, a baboon character displays a huge, crimson-colored rear-end. David Feiss, the creator of these shows, acknowledges that these grotesque images of body parts are intentionally aimed at seven-year-olds. The creators of these children's programs are going right over the heads of the parents and are speaking to the kids directly. Instead of giving kids the message that they ought to listen to their parents, these cartoons are saying, "Hey, we're on your side. Parents don't know what you like, but we do.” They're giving kids overt messages that showing disrespect for their parents is okay. Well, what can parents do about this? For starters, we can stop assuming that children's cartoons are safe for kids. Some are; many are not. We need to be discerning—to either turn off the TV when cartoons come on, or watch a few episodes ourselves to see what kinds of messages our kids are absorbing. You might also contact the stations that air these cartoons and the advertisers that sponsor them. Let them know how you feel—and tell them that your own kids will not be watching. We Christians cannot have a voice in the culture unless we speak out—and that includes even talking about 'toons on TV.


Chuck Colson


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