So Iâ€™m sitting down to enjoy a Triple Cholesterol Burger at my favorite burger joint recently. I look down at the plastic tray Iâ€™ve just used to ferry my vittles over to my booth, and I notice a paper place-mat which arrests my attention, at least to the degree it can be arrested in the presence of onion rings and a moo-patty. It advertises something called the â€œNickelodeon Kidsâ€™ Choice Awards 2001″, ostensibly a delightful romp through the best of â€œall things kidâ€, at least as so designated by said children. The place-mat doubles as a ballot; children are enticed to send in their votes in a variety of entertainment categories. There is the promise that five lucky winners will be selected among all of those sending in ballots, and that those winners will be carted off to Hollywood, that veritable utopia of child-friendliness, in order to take part in the awards ceremony. How delightful!
Now, when I think of children watching Nickelodeon, I donâ€™t think of my fifteen-year-old, who has long since outgrown the wonders of Little Bear and Blueâ€™s Clues; give the kid Star Wars, any episode, and heâ€™s happy. I think of my six-year-old daughter, who I am fairly certain could do a passable job of rattling off verbatim the morning lineup from this network. In fact, my assumptions seem to be proven accurate as I read, on the place-mat, the following admonition regarding the entering of the contest: â€œget your parent or legal guardianâ€™s permissionâ€. Iâ€™m pretty sure that, were the contest and ballot targeted at my teenager, thereâ€™d be none of this talk about parents. My assumptions are further confirmed by noting the â€œperforationâ€ with a little picture of scissors and the caution: â€œask an adult to help you cut this out!â€ Frankly, Iâ€™d trust a pair of scissors in the hands of my ten-year-old without a lot of hesitation. This sheet is definitely, I decide, aimed at the little ones.
I then turn my attention to the actual nominees in each of the categories offered, and here is where I find myself frankly amazed. Now, I confess that some of the names mentioned were complete mysteries to me. I couldnâ€™t identify someone named â€œNick Cannonâ€ if my life depended on it. He was nominated (one of four) in the category of â€œFavorite Male TV Actorâ€. For all I know, he is a fine and wholesome young man–but judging by the other nominees, Iâ€™ll not jump to that conclusion. Drew Carey was another nominee in this category, and while some find Carey funny–heâ€™s not my cup of tea–I defy anyone to name a TV show he appears on that is even remotely appropriate for children to be watching. Jamie Foxx was another nominee, and I only have a vague familiarity with this gentleman–but what little I know causes me a vague dis-ease over his inclusion. The fourth nominee is Carson Daly, who appears on MTV (yes, I know; Nickelodeon is owned by MTV, and thus Dalyâ€™s inclusion is explained). Problem is that it is hard to imagine any parent allowing children to watch the cesspool that is MTV; Iâ€™d not dream of my fifteen-year-old turning it on in my home, much less my Nick-watchers. But it gets better…
â€œFavorite Female Movie Actressâ€ is another category. Drew Barrymore tops this list. Hmmm…wasnâ€™t she the one who bared her chest to Dave Letterman on network TV? Janet Jackson is next. Insert your own revulsion here. Cameron Diaz is third on the list; again, I confess a level of ignorance a la my Jamie Foxx comments above, but I have the nagging sense that Ms. Diaz isnâ€™t exactly role-model city. Halle Berry rounds out the group–perhaps her fine work in The Flintstones Movie earns her this nod.
In the category of â€œFavorite Male Singerâ€, the name Sisqo appears. Sisqo? Isnâ€™t he the guy who put out the raunchy â€œThong Songâ€ video? I think I caught a snippet of this on Headline News or something. A snippet was enough. Weâ€™re lifting this guy up as a hero to people? And these people are children?
The â€œFavorite Movieâ€ category lists the following nominees: â€œBig Mommaâ€™s Houseâ€; â€œCharlieâ€™s Angelsâ€; â€œHow the Grinch Stole Christmasâ€; and â€œNutty Professor II: The Klumpsâ€. According to a friend I called at a local video store, the rating on the first two movies is PG-13. She couldnâ€™t tell me what rating the second installment of the Nutty Professor carried, but my teenager was pretty sure it was PG-13 as well; not that heâ€™d know by experience, though, for my wife and I had made the mistake of watching the first Nutty Professor (not the Jerry Lewis variety, but the Eddie Murphy). We found it to be pathetic, and determined that no one in our household would even consider a second helping of this garbage. So, what have we? We have three of the four flicks nominated as â€œKidâ€™s Choicesâ€ being movies that those paragons of virtue, the M.P.A.A., had deemed to be unsuitable for children under thirteen years of age. Weâ€™re lifting this junk up to our kids as being worthy of their applause?
I guess I shouldnâ€™t be so surprised. My sister-in-law, a teacher for many years, reported recently that a teacher friend of hers found herself appalled at how many parents of kids in her class had allowed them to see â€œHannibalâ€, the R-rated movie about the cannibal (I think thatâ€™s the subject matter; I havenâ€™t seen the need to sample it or â€œSilence of the Lambsâ€). Oh, did I mention that this lady teaches third grade? I write this the day after a ninth-grader has gone on a rampage in a southern-California school and killed two classmates, wounding thirteen other people. Let me get this straight: we teach our children that they are descended from animals; we take them to violent, perverted movies; then, we react with shock when they behave like the animals we have told them they are. But I digress.
Iâ€™m glad that I had choices when I was a kid. Why, it was tough picking between the Roadrunner and Scooby-Doo, between Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny, between H.R. Pufnstuf and Tennessee Tuxedo. Iâ€™m all for choices–but these â€œchoicesâ€ just are not for kids!