November 5, 2009

Gossip Girl Is Going To Corrupt Someone


gossip girl.JPG
please let it be me, please let it be me


The Parents Television Council does not like threesomes on TV.  This is what they wrote in a letter to the network about the upcoming threesome episode of Gossip Girl:

Will you now be complicit in establishing a precedent and expectation that teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films?

Wow.  Do you really think that this is the best choice of words to sway the makers of a show called Gossip Girl?

II.

I can understand worrying that menages are being mainstreamed-- "Parents worst nightmare!"  But there's a bit of ignorance here: teens don't watch Gossip Girl, they watch The Hills.  The median age of the CW network is 34.  Gossip Girl draws 2-3M viewers, 84% are women over 18-54, average age 27.  Believe me, they already know about threesomes, and at least eleven have been in one (p<.00001)

III.

That said, the PTC does have a valid point, made terribly.  Barely five percent of the TVs that are on at that time are tuned to the show; in other words, very few people watch it.  Yet there isn't anyone who doesn't know about it, even if it's imagined based on magazine covers.  So the airing of a menage episode mainstreams it for people who don't watch the show, and that's actually more powerful a cultural influence.  i.e. If you're a fan of the show, the threesome is specific: those three people are doing it.  For everyone else not watching, it becomes background noise: "oh, people are having threesomes now..."

This is why it is true that even if you are not interested in pop culture, pop culture is interested in you.

IV.

Look back at the PTC's quote at the top: the overly formal syntax is a set up, it's an organizational chart.  They're the parents, reprimanding the adolescent network "who should know better" than to do that to their little sister audience.  Obviously the CW isn't going to buy it, so in order for this to have any power, it has to be made public.
 
Hence, this comes from a press release.

The PTC asks, I assume without intending any irony:

Finally, you must ask yourself, how does airing this program serve your obligation to serve the public interest?

If the PTC's obligation is to try and get sex off TV, how does releasing a press release angry about "promiscuous and consequence-free sexual behavior", days before the episode airs, serve the public interest? Doesn't it just make you program your DVR?  The press release got picked up by the news agencies and now it's everywhere-- the only reason I know there is a menage episode coming up is because of this letter.

The network's own promotions talk about the program as a 'parent's worst nightmare.'  How many 30-year olds care what their parents think?  Zero.  Only a teenager would be responsive to a parental 'forbidden fruit' marketing ploy like that, and CW knows it."
Do they not understand, or do they understand perfectly well, that their press release far more contributes to the mainstreaming of "risky behavior" than the show itself?  It's a question of branding: since the PTC is out of touch, anything they hate must be good.  Once a brand is established, anyone can use it any way they want:


gossip girl2.JPG

The PTC needs to read its own mission statement.  They're upset not simply that there's sex on TV, but that the TV makes that sex more acceptable to society.  Ok, fine, but then they should not be in the business of censoring TV, but in influencing cultural norms to not want sex on TV.

In other words, they should be doing it quietly, applying direct pressure on networks so that if they obtain the desired outcome, it appears that it came naturally.  Otherwise, it looks like you are suppressing something-- and people will look for it; or it appears self-aggrandizing.

I have no personal beef with the PTC, but I am observing that the PTC, like so many other groups pressing for change, deliberately take approaches that fail (and have repeatedly failed--"mind blowingly inappropriate" is from 2007) and thus ensure their own existence.  Worse, not only are they not effective, but their self-referential publicity makes it difficult for another group to gather members in order to legitimately try to effect change. If the PTC really cared about stopping sex on TV, then, oddly, the best way for them to do it is to disband.

---
http://twitter.com/thelastpsych






Comments

Invoking the phrase "serve ... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:41 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

Invoking the phrase "serve the public interest" in this context is a veiled threat. The FCC requires anyone that uses the limited bandwidth of over-the-air transmission to justify this use by demonstrating that doing so will serve the public interest. Groups that don't like a radio or TV station will often file a petition with the FCC to revoke that station's license on the basis that its use of public airwaves fails to serve the public interest. This pretty much never succeeds, but when there is a lot of people crying foul, the station or network must often go through a review process to justify its existence.

Christian groups often employ this tactic as an attempt to get a station off the air. PTC doesn't have an issue simply with this Gossip Girls episode, they don't like CW's very existence. The press release, to be attached to countless 'action alert' newsletters, is intended to rally the troops to engage in an almost-certainly ill-fated battle.

My college radio station, which did nothing more than play really bad music from bands no one ever heard of, faced this every time its license was up for renewal. People in Nashville would diligently listen to our broadcast and keep detailed logs of any song lyrics they didn't like. They were our only faithful listeners.

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Great illustration of the u... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:41 PM | Posted by Eddie Sylvano: | Reply

Great illustration of the underlying system. Every time I see a report beating a dead horse like "smoking is bad," I'm left wondering what the point of all the effort was. It's not 1955 anymore, so they're not illuminating anyone. The point is to raise their own profile. Histrionic organizations.

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People in Nashville woul... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:51 PM | Posted, in reply to Jim's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

People in Nashville would diligently listen to our broadcast and keep detailed logs of any song lyrics they didn't like. They were our only faithful listeners.

Hee hee! It makes you wonder what such people would do if they actually did manage to eradicate all "secularity." What drum would they bang then? What scapegoat would be left for them?

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If the PTC's obligation ... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 6:04 PM | Posted by Blargh: | Reply

If the PTC's obligation is to try and get sex off TV, how does releasing a press release angry about "promiscuous and consequence-free sexual behavior", days before the episode airs, serve the public interest? Doesn't it just make you program your DVR? The press release got picked up by the news agencies and now it's everywhere-- the only reason I know there is a menage episode coming up is because of this letter.

Hahaha. Streisand effect strikes again.

The PTC needs to read its own mission statement. They're upset not simply that there's sex on TV, but that the TV makes that sex more acceptable to society. Ok, fine, but then they should not be in the business of censoring TV, but in influencing cultural norms to not want sex on TV.

In other words, they should be doing it quietly, applying direct pressure on networks so that if they obtain the desired outcome, it appears that it came naturally. Otherwise, it looks like you are suppressing something-- and people will look for it; or it appears self-aggrandizing.

1. This is much too difficult, that's why they aren't doing it.

2. Isn't self-aggrandizing the point? It's not about changing other people's behavior, it's about making themselves feel better; about telling themselves they're valiant moral crusaders in an age of liberal TV trashiness. Could it be, dare I say it... group narcissism?

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Oh, plenty, I'm sure: Jews,... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 8:58 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by xon: | Reply

Oh, plenty, I'm sure: Jews, Darkies, Homos, etc. . .

hmm. Maybe they should stick to promoting soft-core. . .

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not exactly the Streisan... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 9:19 PM | Posted, in reply to Blargh's comment, by Alone: | Reply

not exactly the Streisand effect, which is accidental. Here, I have to wonder if it isn't on purpose. But otherwise, yes, pretty much agree with you.

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I imagine PTC faces the sam... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 9:53 PM | Posted by Chris: | Reply

I imagine PTC faces the same pressure as anti-defamation groups like CAIR, ADL, and GLAD do: they have to be publicly offended by something at least once a month or they won't have any news coverage to brag about in their fundraising letters. Indignation factories can't just ramp production up and down according to demand, or their revenue streams will be unpredictable, making it harder to pay staff and buy envelopes.

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<a href="http://www.watch-g... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2009 3:10 AM | Posted by andrew: | Reply

Gossip Girl online watch this...

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"Blame Canada" of course...... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2009 11:47 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Roger: | Reply

"Blame Canada" of course...

We have to blame someone else before someone thinks of blaming us...

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I smell a scam, it's like t... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2009 2:06 PM | Posted by HannaG: | Reply

I smell a scam, it's like that video game based on Dante that staged fake Christian protests.

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andrew is spam<a h... (Below threshold) You misunderstand the PTC's... (Below threshold)

November 7, 2009 11:20 PM | Posted by Jimmy Havok: | Reply

You misunderstand the PTC's purpose. It isn't to keep sex off of TV, it's to get money from people who are outraged by sex on TV. If they applied quiet pressure, their paychecks would disappear.

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That's just titilation for ... (Below threshold)

November 8, 2009 4:57 AM | Posted by Effit: | Reply

That's just titilation for the sexually repressed. The influence of family/society is much stronger than TV anyway.

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Well if teens weren't watch... (Below threshold)

November 11, 2009 3:27 AM | Posted by Kat: | Reply

Well if teens weren't watching the show before, like you said the average age of the viewers is 27, mostly women age 34, the teens will certainly be watching it now.
The "outrage" over this episode has been everywhere, it's being discussed on all kinds of shows and online magazines, there are ads everywhere telling people about the "threesome" episode on all kinds of websites aimed at teens.
If the PTC is trying to protect teens from "bad" shows like this, they are doing a horrible job.
Their own statement about the show is being used in ads to get people to tune in.
Teens might just watch the episode to see what all the hub-bub is about. hahahaha

Sorry, but I have to laugh at this, they are going about this all the wrong way. LMAO


P.S. Great site by the way. I have been reading quite a few posts of yours starting with your Rob Zombie Halloween post, and really enjoying your writing and articles.

I have a question though.
If Zombie's Halloween was just pure trash, torture porn as you say, and not mentioning the bad parent issue at all, I could write a lengthy comment about just that, but if Zombie's Halloween was so horribly bad, gross, vile, nothing but over the top torture porn as you said, may I ask why you went to see it?
Zombie is well known for his over the top gore fests, House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, seriously violent blood fest films, and you knew/know this, why did you go and see it knowing what it was going to be?
I am truly curious why.

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I think it has something to... (Below threshold)

November 11, 2009 9:34 AM | Posted, in reply to Kat's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I think it has something to do with rum.

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You're right: once p... (Below threshold)

November 11, 2009 5:34 PM | Posted by Caroline (SpeakHealth.org): | Reply


You're right: once people make a big deal out of something being violent, gross, or perverse, those kids are going be just climbing over themselves to see it. I call it the "rubber-necking effect". humans like to watch trash, whether it be with a cookie-cutter barbie actress, or a car accident.

I think if i were the parental control group, I'd be more concerned with people's interest in seeing this crap* than with a network's ability to show it. People will seek this stuff out, (and with the internet, they will find it it spades).

The Green Movement is a trend that is pretty amazing to me- people willing to pay more, make an extra effort to better something other than themselves. I would love to see these same principles applied to our media consumption: no body watching porn and trash TV-- not because it isn't being MADE or AIRED-- but because we as a society, as consumers, want to better our world, and are willing to make an effort to reject media that doesn't further this goal.

Pipe dream??

~c

* i dont watch gossip girl. I don't actually know if its crap. im just making an educated guess. I'm so tired and discouraged by TV that panders to the lowest common denominator.

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Hey, I adore your site. It ... (Below threshold)

December 21, 2009 7:31 AM | Posted by Movieforget: | Reply

Hey, I adore your site. It   seems most of us don't actually bother publishing blog articles that lack substance these days. this one was a great read though!

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i like gossip girl... (Below threshold)

July 2, 2010 1:50 PM | Posted by gossip girl : | Reply

i like gossip girl

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