Friday, March 30, 2007

Think Of The Children! (No, Really!)

I'd like to solicit some opinions from you today. I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave a comment or two concerning the following items.

First, I'll ask you to give me your opinions and/or recollections concerning Fred Rogers. Some of you may know him better as Mister Rogers, the long-time host of Mister Roger's Neighborhood on PBS. If you've been a reader of mine for more than a few days, you probably have a good idea concerning my opinion of the man. However, I'd ask you to not let that color your own judgment. Please feel free to express whatever you'd like. If that is just a memory of the show - or of any personal meeting - rather than a flat-out opinion, that's fine. Good, bad, or indifferent; the more comments I receive, the better.

Second, I'll ask you to comment concerning children's television in general. What did you watch, when you were a kid, that you remember either with fondness or disgust? If you have kids, what do they like to watch and/or what do you encourage them to watch? If you're a little older, and did not grow up with TV, was there anything on radio that was particularly geared towards children and that you listened to? How did that affect you, whether in a positive or negative fashion? Ramble on, if you wish; no time limit here.

(I should add that this is not limited to American TV or radio or movies or whatever. I know that some of you are from other countries. I'd truly love hearing about your experiences, too. I think they may turn out to be the most interesting of all!)

Last, what do you believe best serves children in the media? How are the things children see and hear affecting them? What might be particularly damaging to children? I'll give you a question here that pretty much demands a definitive answer: Given the chance, what ONE media image would you wipe from the face of the earth? It can be one you'd get rid of because you feel that kids would be better off without it, or it can be one that just plain pisses you off. Vent!

As you may imagine, I have some opinions of my own concerning these topics. I will NOT join in on the commentary here, instead letting you all have your say, whatever that may be and whether I agree or not. I'm reserving some opinions of my own for a piece I'll be publishing in this space on Monday.

So, voice your opinions - with respect for the opinions of others, please - and I'll see you on the other side of the weekend. Thanks!


David Sullivan said...

I happened to be watching Mr. Rogers (with my kids, of course) the other day when he was telling the youngsters that it’s not OK to marry mommy or daddy. Freaky conversation normally, unless you are from Appalachia or in a cult. However it is a common theme for 3-5 year olds; my son Matt tells my wife all the time that he is going to marry her. Fred knew kids, but he did creep me out with that sing-songy, therapist style talk.

Saturation best describes the current state of children’s TV. Too many choices, too much marketing, too much violence. As a kid growing up in the sixties and seventies we had educational TV (PBS) or cartoons (channels 38 &56 in Boston) for a few hours each afternoon. You actually looked forward to getting home during that time or you missed out till the next day. Today you can watch 'Sponge Bob" at two AM. The thrill is gone.

I have no problems with any children’s programming in particular, but believe moderation is the key. Parents need to be vigilant in monitoring their children's overall TV exposure.

There are many media images I would like to eliminate (especially those that sexualize children, smiling politicians), but more importantly I would like to do away with all commercials during children’s programming. My 22 month old son Peter asks me when ever a commercial comes on "can I get for birf-day?” Commercials should be directed toward those who actually make the money and the purchases.

Noggin and Sprout are two current cable outlets which run few commercials (always directed at the parents; diapers, pedialyte etc..) and their shows content are violence free and educational.

My brother and I used to abuse each other "Stooges" style with eye gouges and face slaps. My kids sing the Barney “I love you, you love me...” song. Times haven't changed necessarily for the worse.

YOUR WIFE's Brother said...

Not exactly on-topic, but I get really pissed off by all the "transformation TV", i.e., programs where people have their dreams fulfilled, obtain serenity and eternal happiness due the indulgence of televison crews.

Want to a famous musician? No need to hone your craft over the years in garages and dive bars -- Just go on "American Idol" and land a major contract overnight. Don't like your home? Forget about aethetic choices reflecting your tastes and personality -- somebody will come make-over every room. Don't know what to wear? Total strangers will select the right look for you.

Obviously, kids exposed to this crap risk growing up without any initiative, work ethic, or sense of agency. At the same time, I really feel that such programs infantilize adults who should know better.

Mr. Rogers kinda creeped me out, too, but I'll say this: The Land of Make-Believe had clearly marked borders. These days, can people tell the difference?


Kaylee said...

I must say I can relate to most of this stuff bein a kid.

1.I actually liked watching Mr Rogers when I was little.But then as I got older he did kind of freak me out.

2.I am not really into tv that much anymore cause I Am adddicted to my computer but,I do like REBA I also like Growing pains.i used to like spongebob.

3.I dont like the fact,that they nowadays are putting so much killing and violence into alot of the shows its almost like they are encouraging kids to watch that stuff.

Mushy said...

Mr. Rogers? A little light in his loafers and sure didn't teach my son to stand up for himself much. I suppose there could have been worse things for him to watch.

Me? I watched Flash Gordon, Hoppy, Gene, the Lone Ranger, Commando Coddy, Superman, war movies, and things with John Wayne in it! You know, real manly man stuff.

Today...I ain't even going to get into 'cause I know over half those reading this will disagree and it's not worth the effort.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I always liked Mr. Rogers. The man had a gentleness that was very real, and he always told kids to like themselves and be proud of who they are. Fred Rogers is sorely missed on the children's TV front.

I grew up watching "The Electric Company," which was one of the best children's shows ever made. Smartly done with catchy songs and cool sketches. I found it on Netflix not long ago, and it was a great trip down memory lane.

I also loved Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and TV shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. I was also a huge fan of things like M*A*S*H,The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc.

I can't really comment on today's shows for kids, as I don't have any children, but my nieces and nephews love things Spongebob and Thomas The Tank Engine. Kids have such an incredible diversity to choose from today, and that is good. But there's plenty of junk to stay away from as well.

Urbie said...

I liked Mr. Rogers, altho' I don't remember much about the show. I do remember "The Electric Company," which was most notable as my introduction to Victor Borge! For 30 years after that, I wanted to catch him, until my wife and I finally saw him a couple of times in Chicago. Had it not been for "The Electric Company," I might never have become properly acquainted with the greatest musical comedian EVER...!

Stu said...

First, and foremost, here's a video of Fred Rogers testifying before Congress, discussing the importance of funding public broadcasting:

Mr. Rogers' Senatorial Neighborhood

If that doesn't move you, I have no further case.

Second, Mr. Rogers used a parenting technique, validation, unlike any other grown-up I'd ever experienced. And if you want to raise well-adjusted kids, you have to start with validation.

Third, What did I watch when I was a kid? Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Zoom, Big Blue Marble, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Battle Of The Planets, The Pink Panther, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, One Day At A Time, Alice, Sixty Minutes, McLoud, The Rockford Files, Mission Impossible, Space 1999, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, The Mickey Mouse Club, Battlestar Gallactica, Mighty Mouse, Fat Albert, and others.

Lastly, Kids And Media - complicated issue. In the end, I believe that a combination of invested, earnest, intelligent parenting and most available media (nothing *too* violent or *too* whatever) is perfectly safe for kids. While Media may be a common scapegoat, but, for the most part, Media is a Straw Man.

Stu Mark

Marie said...

I'd like to send some props out to Captain Kangaroo.

Fathairybastard said...

Aw common Mushy, I've got yer back! I didn't see Mr. Rogers, or Sesame Street, or the Electric Co., or ZOOM, until I was too old for it to have any effect. Not a product of War-On-Poverty public TV. Always thought Mr. Rogers would probably put me to sleep, or give me diabetes from the endless sweetness. Loved the impression they did of him on Saturday Night Live. I grew up watching stuff like Saturday morning cartoons, the 3 Stooges, Kookla Fran & Ollie, and LOTS of old westerns. I guess I could say that I learned everything I needed to know about getting along with other kids from watching John Wayne movies, Daniel Boone, Wagon Train, Rawhide, and Popeye cartoons. Popeye was the man. You take it "till ya can't takes no more", and then you knock the SOB out, 'cause there's always gonna be a Bluto in yer life. Enough said. Pure genius. I always loved Captain Kangaroo, but never watched it that much.

Also, for a short time in the late 60s my family lived in England, and they had several cool shows that I loved. They had shows for kids where Romans and Britons interacted 2000 years ago. I'll never forget the intro to one show where a Roman officer on a horse rode down a road toward the camera. Would love to find that stuff on DVD now. That's where I learned to love History. There was a show called Jackanory that I loved, where British celebs would read stories to you on camera. That was about the closest thing to Mr. Rogers that I remember. And there was The Prisoner, and the Avengers, with Emma Peel in leather and Go Go boots.They also had the Thunderbirds, which was a cool Sci fi thing with puppets. I think that is on DVD somewhere. My sister and I watched the Monkeys, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Batman was also a Favorite. Loved the Penguin. Uwa uwa uwa. Of course, there was Star Trek, but I think it was already in reruns when I got into it.

Anyway, lots of guns, violence and fighting, and Diana Rigg in a leather jump suit (and lets not forget Julie Newmar or Earth Kitt as Catwoman). Explains a lot about who I am now.

Oh, and lets not forget those Friday or Saturday night fright shows. British Vampire flicks bade by Hammer studios, with hugely endowed women running, jiggling through the woods, being chased by Dracula? Hubba Hubba. Torn between being scared and having a wet dream. Anyway, you get the picture.

Anali said...

I used to love watching Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. I remember feeling really calm and reassured that he put on a cardigan sweater every day. Maybe that's why I like cardigans now?? Anyway, I remember my father hated when I was watching the show, but my mother said to just let her watch it. I remember the puppets and the carousel. Strange all the memories that come flooding back.

I used to love watching "Zoom" and "The Electric Company" and "Sesame Street" and all the "ABC After School Specials" when I got older. Okay, this post is getting too long. That's it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rogers was one of my favorites as a child, and I was thrilled to be able to "introduce" him to Twinks when she was about three years old.

My favorite Mr. Rogers memory is from only ten years ago. Shortly after we began watching Mr. Rogers together, Twinks found a penny on the pavement of a parking lot. Picking it up, she squealed with delight, and proclaimed that her new "fwend" "Misser Woggers" was right there! Turning the penny over, she trimuphantly pointed to the back, and declared, "See? TWOLLEY Mom!"

Mr. Rogers remains a treasure for children everywhere; I still enjoy watching him myself even today.

*Goddess* said...

I used to watch Mr. Rogers with the offspring--and Buttermilk Falls is only about a 20 minute drive from here! But I digress...

I was always amazed at how incredibly patient he was. While other kids shows would zip quickly from one segment to another, Mr. Rogers always took his time and talked slowly so the kids could understand him.

But I have to admit the puppets freaked me out, especially that doggone ugly queen.

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