Graphic violence, profanity and sex overflow on television shows based on children’s comic books, the Parents Television Council (PTC) found in its latest study.
The Parents Television Council (PTC) found 6,000 incidents of violence, 500 deaths, nearly 2,000 profanities and at least 155 sex scenes in the study period.
PTC President Tim Winter called out The CW network as the most egregious for its shows “Arrow,” “Black Lightning,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and “Riverdale,” and urged the network to make the shows more child-friendly.
“The PTC has documented graphic, adult-themed content that is appearing in The CW programming based on historically child-friendly franchises,” Winter said Aug. 4. “Network programming executives – and the creative community in Hollywood – must remember that these programs were built on the backs of children and on the wallets of their parents.
“Those same executives know that these programs are inherently attractive to kids,” Winter said, “and they know kids are watching.”
The PTC study “Not for Kids Anymore” reports 6,000 incidents of violence, more than 500 deaths and nearly 2,000 profanities in seven years of prime-time shows based on comic books. The study monitored “sweeps” periods in November, February and May from November, 2012–May, 2019.
“It is no longer in serious dispute that children are influenced by the media they consume. Children learn by observing, imitating, and adopting behaviors, including those seen in entertainment,” the PTC said in the report’s introduction, citing corroborating findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Among children, prolonged exposure to media violence leads to an increased acceptance of violence as an appropriate means of solving problems and achieving goals, the PTC said. Such exposure leads to higher levels of aggression as children age, and higher levels of physical and mental health problems including bullying, fear, depression, nightmares and sleep disturbances, the study said, citing the AAP and APA.
“Compelling and entertaining stories – and even adult-themed stories – can be told without resorting to the crutch of graphic sex, violence and profanity,” Winters said. “For decades, child-friendly franchises were huge commercial successes without explicit content. They can be just as successful today without that explicit content.”
The PTC released its findings as networks prepare to feature their programs at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, ending Aug. 8.
“As The CW showcases its upcoming fare, including ‘Nancy Drew,’ we urge the network to be considerate of its young audiences and tone down the adult content,” Winter said. “Supergirl” and “The Flash” were the safest for children among The CW shows, the PTC reported.
Among major findings:
The CW’s Arrow was the most violent show, exposing children to 1,241 acts of violence including deaths, gun violence, and torture, and 492 profanities.
The CW series Riverdale, based on Archie Comics, showed 78 instances of sexual content, 242 instances of violence, 153 profanities and various scenes of casual drug use. The content is especially disturbing, the PTC said, since the series’ main characters are all high school teenagers.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, also on The CW, included 77 scenes of sexual content, 785 violent scenes including deaths and torture, and 368 profanities.
FOX’s “Gotham” featured 35 explicit, gory scenes of beheading or dismemberment, 144 deaths, 13 torture scenes and more than 1,100 acts of violence.
ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” and “Marvel’s Inhumans,” all rated TV-PG, showcased a combined 1,194 instances of violence, 115 deaths and 254 profanities.
“Children are fascinated by and attracted to comic book characters,” the PTC said, “but the network programs today make no accommodation for a prime-time audience including a sizeable percentage of children.”
Comic-themed shows explicitly marketed to adults, such as Hellblazer’s spin-off TV series “Constantine,” “Lucifer,” and “iZombie,” were not included in the study, available for free download at go.parentstv.org/comic-books/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)