I was raised without a television. We were a hippie, vegan family, living in Topanga, California. My parents had numerous complaints about TV, so it wasn’t part of our lives. Of course, as a child, I always vowed that when I had kids, they’d be allowed to watch TV.
Now I’m a parent and, because of my upbringing without any TV, I do allow my kids to watch TV. They watch their favorite shows, but they tend to get bored after an hour or so and move on to doing something else. My kids have been watching Disney Channel shows for several years. I’m lucky that when I say, “turn off the TV,” they usually do it without argument.
The problem is that I’ve recently detected an attitude from my daughter (she’s 10) that seems suspiciously like a few of the characters in her favorite show, Good Luck Charlie. At first, I thought it might be a developmental phase she was going through. However, upon closer examination, I saw similarities between her behavior and the show’s characters that were more than a mere coincidence. The other day, she rudely told my husband to “shhhhh” with her finger over her mouth. Door slamming and telling me my clothes don’t look good on me are another of my daughter’s recent behavioral developments. All this is very unlike her.
So, the other day, I sat down to watch Good Luck Charlie, a Disney Channel show, with my daughter to find out what was really going on. We watched two episodes. I was appalled. In one episode, the family’s teenage son, PJ, 17, takes their baby to a “mommy and me” class. When he returns, his mom asks if the baby enjoyed the class. His response? “I don’t know, I wasn’t watching her.” Jokes about him flirting with the moms were made. Ha ha. Not funny!
Next, the topic of school came up. Cut to the oldest daughter and her friend discussing school. The oldest daughter, Teddy, 15, is a beautiful, blonde who was upset that she got a “B” on a school project. Her strategy is to bring the family’s baby to class to charm the teacher. Her friend is an overweight African American girl who said, between dancing, singing and trying to be funny, she’d be glad to get a “B”. More references to her being lucky to get a “B” follow. I was appalled. The racial stereotypes were blatant and offensive. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
My son is 7 years old. He also likes Good Luck Charlie. I haven’t noticed any behavioral similarities between my son and the show’s characters. Yet.
The other TV show my kids watch is The Suite Life On Deck, a Disney spinoff of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. This show features a group of kids, one, London Tipton, an Asian teen girl, a wealthy, materialistic “celebutant” who is loud, hates school and seems about as dumb a character as the show writers could possibly create. Luckily, my kids seem to have lost interest in this show.
The sassiness (no, more like obnoxiousness) of the characters on the shows mentioned above definitely isn’t what I want my kids watching. Especially since it’s rubbing off and becoming part of their behavior.
While I don’t blame these TV shows for my kids’ behavior, I do think the shows influence their attitudes. Because these are Disney shows, I assumed they were harmless entertainment. Clearly, I need to re-think my assumption.
It’s my job as a parent to curtail my kids’ ability to watch shows that are either influencing them in negative ways and shows that I find portray any specific race in an offensive or unflattering way. I’m African American. My husband is white. My kids, therefore, are mixed. I simply will not have them watching TV shows that have a double whammy: bratty characters and negative stereotypes.
So, in our house it won’t be Good Luck Charlie anymore. It will be bad luck for that show because my kids won’t be tuning in anymore.
Christina Simon, 46, is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles”. She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA.