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EDITORIAL: ABC ‘Family’ is not a rose

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The saying goes, “A rose by any other name is a rose,” but I have a corollary I’d like to offer, “You can call a dead fish a rose, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dead fish.”

This analogy came to mind as I caught some recent commercials about shows in ABC Family’s lineup of programming. Two in particular, “Greek” and “Slacker Cats,” seemed to punctuate with an exclamation point ABC Family’s newest tagline, “a new kind of family.”

“Greek” is not a docudrama about Aristotle Onassis, but a raunchy series about college life, with gratuitous emphasis on binge drinking and sex combined in an atmosphere of crudities. It portrays the next generation in negative stereotypes, not at all reflective of so many young people whose lives are not one continuous foray into self-gratification. Network officials seem to think nothing says “family” like watching actors depict collegians drinking body shots.

Then there is the animated “Slacker Cats.” As I write this, I have only the promotional trailers to judge, but it is clear from ABC Family’s marketing efforts that it is selling coarse behavior as family entertainment:

— in one scene a cat rubs himself suggestively while looking at a “kitty” calendar.

— another outtake has a “CENSORED” box appear over each animated character’s mouth while the dialog is interrupted to suggest inappropriate language.

— a third shows a cat jaunting upright from hind foot to hind foot, pulling his haunches apart while passing gas.

Just like a dead fish, this kind of programming stinks.

The channel has declined a long way from when Pat Robertson launched what would become The Family Channel, which featured wholesome original movies like “Night of the Twisters” and reruns of “The Waltons” — while experiencing remarkable growth in cash flow and operating revenue. Now the only semblance to its former self are the twice-daily airings of “The 700 Club” — the result of a contract rider passed along in the original sale of The Family Channel to Rupert Murdoch and on to ABC Family.

The characters of “Greek” and “Slacker Cats” also are a far cry in character from Jiminy Cricket and Mary Poppins who popularized Disney, the company at the top of the food chain for ABC Family Channel.

Unfortunately, the differences are deliberate. ABC Family Channel has embarked on a mission of “storytelling about today’s relationships with all of their diversity, dysfunction, humor and passion” according to the Disney-ABC Television Group. Sadly, it appears they have settled simply for diverse dysfunction.

I’ve always been told a fish rots from the head down, and the head is where consumers — especially Christians — should start in trying to make a change. Call, write a letter or send an e-mail to ABC Family’s president and express your concerns. The corporate office provided the following contact information:

Paul Lee
President, ABC Family
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
(818) 569-3350
e-mail c/o: [email protected]

Let him know the issue is not just protecting our children from viewing such garbage; parents simply can switch off the channel. Responsible citizens also have a duty to shield our children from the toxic cultural fallout that eventually poisons the world where they live — the commercials, the T-shirts, the plastic toys that litter kid’s fast-food bags, and the imitative behavior of peers contaminated by the scatological humor of “Slacker Cats.”

Contact some of their sponsors. Kohl’s Department Stores is featured on ABC Family’s website. Tell the store chain’s president your disappointment in Kohl’s support of ABC Family. If you shop at Kohl’s let him know how much you spent on jeans and shoes to send your children back to school:

Kevin Mansell
President, Kohl’s Department Stores
N56 W17000 Ridgewood Drive
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
(262) 703-7000
e-mail c/o: [email protected]

Once a fish spoils, there’s no going back. But perhaps that’s where the metaphor breaks down in this case. Maybe with some cooperative citizen action a dead fish can be made a rose.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press, a national news service supported by contributions from Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program.

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  • Will Hall