Let’s Go Raise Us Some Dumb Kids, by Mike Gold
Lately, my wife Linda and I have been watching the Maverick reruns on one of the many Starz channels IDW’s owners foists upon our cable system. Maverick was one of the very few live-action teevee shows I enjoyed as a kid, and I’m amazed to discover that it is actually even better than I remembered it. The writing, in particular, was amazing – a standard rarely reached by broadcast television today.
Then Linda noticed something. The show was rated TV-14.
The television ratings system was proposed by Congress 12 years ago, caving in to a bunch of professional busybodies who firmly believe that we, unlike our parents and their parents, are too stupid to raise our own children without their blue-nosed “guidance.” I don’t know if it preceded the V-chip or not and I do not care to look it up: the V-chip allows parents to completely avoid the bother of being involved in their children’s television experience by having a slide of silicon do their thinking for them.
The idea behind the TV-14 rating was not that parents shouldn’t let their kids watch these shows. According to the guidelines, “Programs issued the TV-14 rating are usually unsuitable for children under the age of 14 without the guidance of a parent or guardian.” Please note that last phrase: “without the guidance of a parent or guardian.” Since it has been proven that today’s parents are too lazy or too stupid or too “busy” to provide such guidance, they can fire up their V-chip and let the teevee do all the heavy lifting, thereby denying their children such fine writing and acting on shows from 1957 such as Maverick.
Linda’s reaction was propelled by the fact that if we hadn’t watched the show when we were 10 years old (give or take, depending upon the season), we wouldn’t be watching it today. Three generations of Americans enjoyed The Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny without becoming homicidal maniacs; today, the teevee brain won’t let you run ‘em for your kids.
Advisories are mostly okay as long as parents put them in perspective and use them as a guide. You probably should be watching Schindler’s Listalong with your kids and the warning, be it TV-14 or PG-14 or R or even X. But, then again, you probably should let your kids watch Schindler’s Listwith you sitting there offering explanation and support.
The minute you let somebody else, let alone something else, do your decision-making for you as a parent, you have abdicated your responsibilities to your child to provide moral and social guidance. And all you’ve done is chase your child away to their friends’ teevee sets. You’ve made the hard stuff forbidden fruit.
As comics enthusiasts, we should know better – and I’d like to think that most of us who were raised under the evil specter of Fredrick Wertham and the Comics Code Authority do know better.
I hope I’m right about that.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.