Many families have Super Bowl traditions as the generations gather around the television to watch the biggest football game of the year. It gives families a wonderful opportunity to share their interests and histories and to talk about the skill, determination, teamwork, practice, and courage that go into competing at that level.
Unfortunately, the ads, which have generated almost as much press as the game itself, can lead to a whole other kind of family conversation and not one many parents welcome. Every year, I hear complaints from parents who find themselves getting questions about ED or who find their children imitating the silly or hyper-sexed behavior from alcohol ads. Common Sense Media has a new report based on a review of the ads in over 50 games with more than 160 hours and more than 5000 commercials.
1 out of every 6 commercials shown contained messages and images that were inappropriate for young kids.
40% of the games included advertisements for erectile-dysfunction drugs (Viagra® and Cialis®)
More than 500 of the ads involved significant levels of violence, including gun fights, explosions and murders.
300 of the ads were for alcohol.
80 of the ads included significant levels of sexuality, including scenes about prostitution and strippers.
Nearly half (44.7%) of the violent and sexual ads were promotions by the networks for their own programs.
94% of the mothers polled said that they were concerned about inappropriate television commercials during pro football games. And at least one father agrees:
“I wasn’t too happy with ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs popping up every 15 minutes whenever I watched a football game with my daughters in the room.”
President Barack Obama,
The Audacity of Hope, 2006
Writing about the original version of “The Electric Company” reminded me of one of my all-time favorite short films by John and Faith Hubley, who later went on to work on the “Letterman” segments of that show. It is the story of two little girls playing and it is called “Windy Day.”
When the Hubleys began making films, animation was very structured and scripted. Their great innovation was the use of improvised dialogue and impressionistic images and the result was fresh, natural, innovative, and remarkably touching. In “Windy Day,” the dialogue is the private conversation of the Hubley daughters as they were playing. I first saw and loved it when I was just past the ages of those girls myself, and I thought of it often as I listened in on my own children at play.
The Hubleys created many more wonderful films, including “Everybody Rides the Carousel,” based on the work of Erik Erikson about the psychological stages of development, and “The Hat” about two border guards (played by Dudley Moore and Dizzy Gillespie) who argue over what they should do when one’s hat blows into the other’s territory.
Critics complain about having to decide how many stars to give a movie. There are times when it does feel very arbitrary to try to assign stars or letter grades to a film. And sometimes I think it creates more confusion than it dispels. My view is that you can only grade a movie within the context of its own aspirations and its intended audience. Otherwise, every review is going to begin, “Well, it’s no Citizen Kane. I also rethink my grade when the movie comes out again on DVD. Eric Childress of CriticWatch provides his annual dissection of the worst movie critics, those who can’t write, those who don’t know anything about movies or about reviewing them, and worst of all those who will say anything (and I mean anything) about any movie (and I mean any movie) in order to get their name in an ad. I breathed a sigh of relief when the only mention of my site was a positive one but nevertheless resolved to do my best to stay away from his list of overused adjectives. (Note: some strong language, understandable under the circumstances.)
Hey you guys! The classic 1970’s show The Electric Company taught a generation of kids how to take the letters they learned on “Sesame Street” and turn them into words and sentences. The superstar cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Bill Cosby. Zero Mostel, Joan Rivers and Gene Wilder worked with animation pioneers John and Faith Hubley on the “Letterman” segments.
Now endearingly retro, the original disco-era series is available on DVD. And it has just been updated with a whole new series featuring beat-boxers, hip-hoppers, and record-scratchers, but still teaching kids about the power of the “silent e.” It also has some very good lessons about problem-solving and asking questions to discover the truth. In this version, The Electric Company is a group of people with special word skills who work together to foil a group of mischief-makers called the Pranksters. No Broadway or television stars in the cast, but it does have some Tony-award talent behind the scenes and some guest appearances by kid-friendly celebrities like Tiki Barber. It’s aimed at children from 6-9 and its bright, bouncy, and colorful characters and situations will keep them entertained and inspired about the power of words. And they still yell, “Hey, you GUUUUYYYYS!”