Sick Obsession--It's nothing new that tastelessly told human drama stories permeate TV broadcasting like incurable viruses, but it seems as though this trend has recently gone to a whole new level. I’ve noticed an unusual amount of stories in the last few weeks on network television dealing with children who’ve been sexually abused and adults who are sexually attracted to children and teens. It’s a topic to take seriously, and one which has affected more people than most of us would like to imagine. But from its excessive coverage, pedophiles and sexually exploited children have become analogous to the proverbial car crash.
On NBC’s "Dateline," it appears as though Stone Phillips and his team will never have to think of a new topic, as every show lately seems to highlight a sting operation wherein someone poses as a young teen advertising his or her sexuality, making or responding to inappropriate come-ons. What follows is a situation that is creepily close to entrapment. The “teen” requests alcohol, makes a date, and later the man shows up, booze in tow, not to meet some "hot teen," but "Dateline" cameras and public humiliation.
The topic is also one of Oprah’s favorites. For example, a recent episode profiled a family in which the father turned out to be sexually abusing his young daughter.
Also, a month or so ago I caught a half-hour show, on a national news station, packaged as news, about a girl adopted from Russia by a pedophile. It went into great detail.
So have the past few years seen a huge boom in pedophilia that we need to know about? Are the networks just looking out for our children’s best interests? Or is it that consumers have reacted to these fear-based programs with high ratings?
It’s obviously the latter. The networks have trivialized a serious issue, while disguising presentations with concern and cheap appeals to base emotions for the sake of making money. It’s irresponsible on the part of the networks to entertain TV consumers with tales of the exploited, instead of moving them to action, but what’s more disturbing is the consumer appeal (by now we should expect this ruthless lack of taste from the networks).
These shocking yet innocuous stories would not continue to air if our culture was not at least on its way to being obsessed with them; which is one of the things we should be concerned about. These programs accomplish nothing aside from causing parents to worry their idiot kids are going to get picked up on MySpace. In the meantime, real absentee parenting is happening and real children are being victimized and enslaved, and these shows are posing as the solution?
For real resources on child abuse, visit rainn.org.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.