op-ed

#MeToo Fails To Address Hollywood’s Penchant For Marketing Sex-Soaked TV To Kids

The Mick YouTube screenshot/JoBlow TV Show Trailers

Melissa Henson Program Director, Parents Television Council

The #MeToo movement that caught fire last fall –when one of Hollywood’s worst-kept-secrets (that of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged serial sexual abuse of young female stars) was finally reported in the press — has so far been the dominant theme of 2018. It was the unofficial star of the 2018 Golden Globes and will no doubt dominate this year’s Academy Awards, too.

But however much heightened public awareness has been called to the issue of female sexual harassment and coercion; however many public mea culpas; however many Hollywood power players have been pilloried in the press for their transgressions; it seems the message of #MeToo has still yet to trickle down to those writing, producing, and distributing media content. And it should go that direction.

Take, for example, Fox’s “The Mick,” which is now nearing the end of its second season. Throughout the series’ run, the child actors on the series have been consistently sexualized and put in the position of saying and doing outrageous things: a teenaged boy becomes aroused by looking at naked pictures of his older sister; a teenaged girl has a sexual relationship with an adult male right under the nose of her adult guardian; a young boy is made to wear dresses so that he can be enrolled in an all-girl private school; the teenaged boy tries to get an adult male to take photos of him naked so that he can falsely accuse another man of possessing child pornography; the teenaged girl attempts to get breast implants, attempts to seduce one of her school teachers, and engages in bondage and domination with an adult male servant – just to name a few. Then there are also the references to rape, prison rape, underage drinking, gambling and drug use – all played for laughs.

There’s no topic off-limits for this series’ writers, no line they are unwilling to cross. That’s fine, to an extent, if you’re dealing exclusively with adult actors on a program targeted to and viewed entirely by adults and rated for Mature Audiences only. However, “The Mick” employs child actors, rates the series as appropriate for teens, and airs it at a time and on a venue that is easily accessible to young children.

But where is #MeToo? Who’s standing up for the child actors who are being relentlessly sexualized on this show? Why isn’t #MeToo pointing out the fact that the writers of this show are actively encouraging adults to view these children as sex objects and active, willing participants in their own sexualization?

The most recent episode of “The Mick” was sponsored, in part, by the movie release of “Fifty Shades Freed,” the third (and hopefully the last) installment of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise – which is all about the power imbalance between a wealthy, powerful, impossibly handsome man – who happens to enjoy bondage and domination – and a mousy, insecure young ingenue.

Again, where is #MeToo? The actresses that protested the pattern of sexual abuse rampant in the entertainment industry, and fostered by deep-seated power disparity, apparently have no problem with a film that celebrates sexual abuse made possible by a deep-seated power disparity?

The hypocrisy from Hollywood is astounding. But worse still is the message that this sends to children and teens.

We need to combat the sexual content being marketed to our children through TV and advertisements. And #MeToo needs to go farther in confronting this problem, otherwise it risks losing credibility for not truly condemning the rampant sex that’s intertwined throughout Hollywood – both from the messengers and from the messages it produces.

Melissa Henson is the program director for the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. Twitter: @ThePTC


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