Channel Surfing: Ad Nauseam

Let Me Tell You What You Think

Jun 28, 2001 at 2:06 pm

I'm sick of other people deciding for me what is and isn't appropriate to watch. Can't I decide?

Sure, I'm going to have opinions. I write, therefore I get pissed off. But my beefs shouldn't stop you from experiencing on your own whatever it is I'm railing against. Take my column last month on prescription drug commercials. Please. I got worked up about them (and felt a certain amount of vindication when the American Medical Association last week came out against them). But I still think you should see them and decide for yourself. Maybe you'll have a fresh take on them that I hadn't considered.

At the end of that thoughtful debate, we can decide as a society whether or not to censor something. We don't need Big Brother doing it for us.

(Is now the time to make a sassy comment about a certain Clifton movie theater?)

There are two instances of this floating around the advertising world right now. One is about condoms. The other involves Senator Joe Lieberman. Couldn't pick two more opposite ends of the spectrum.

We'll start with Puritan Joe. He's been a crusader for family values in the entertainment industry for a long time now. His latest brainchild is a bill that would prohibit movie, music and video game sellers from advertising adult fare in venues with a "substantial" child audience. The gist is, he doesn't want Showgirls advertised during The Rugrats. Seems reasonable on face value.

Problem is, before this bill sees a vote, most of the studios, record companies and game-makers will have policies in place to police themselves. Is that stopping said bill? No. Onward to Congress it goes.

The other problem is that the bill wouldn't stop Tomb Raider's Angelina Jolie and her PG-13 breasts from being advertised to kids. They are, after all, the target demographic. Seems to me, Joe's plan has a few holes in it.

Do we need our elected officials wasting their time on movie commercials? You're telling me our governing body doesn't have more pressing issues to debate than Tomb Raider?

There have been blatantly sexual commercials selling everything from car batteries to shampoo on the air since Bewitched switched Darrens. Yet this is Lieberman's cause célèbre. There are bigger fish, babe. Much bigger fish.

Those movie tickets, albums and CD-ROMs ultimately need to be purchased. Advertising risqué material could whet kids' appetites, but shouldn't parents actively protect their children from getting their hands on it? That's our responsibility, as guardians. Not Uncle Joe and his consumer police.

Besides, there is precious little Joe can do once little Billy hears about the latest blood-and-carnage video game at school. How are you going to stop word-of-mouth advertising, Joe?

Our friends over at CBS might have managed to trump this bit of micro-government with their firm stance on condoms.

A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89 percent of television viewers were in favor of condom advertising on network television, so long as they were shown after 10 p.m. This would jive with networks' more adult programming at the time.

But CBS chief censor Matthew Margo told The New York Daily News that the network refused two condom commercials because of their content. Mind you, this is the network that brings you Becker every week.

I shouldn't single out CBS, since the other major networks haven't accepted condom ads either. But Margo's claim that the ads would be considered only if they portrayed sex in a "monogamous, matrimonial situation" is laughable.

The very people who should be seeing condom ads are the ones who don't exactly relate to monogamous, matrimonial sexual situations. It just doesn't make sense.

They're called brains, Margo. Some of us got them. If the tribe has spoken (and 89 percent of the tribe has), then maybe it's time you step aside and let us decide for ourselves.