In response to Disney’s commitment to increasing the amount of LGBTQ content in their children’s progamming following the fallout with the state of Florida over its newly-passed Parental Rights in Education law, a number of U.S. Republican senators are calling for a major change in the way said content is rated.
On May 4th, GOP Senators Roger Marshall (Kansas), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Braun (Indiana), Steve Daines (Montana), and Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), sent a letter to Charles Rivkin, the Chairman of the TV Guidelines Ratings Boards and whose organization is responsible for designating TV programs with content ratings such as TV-Y, TV-14, and TV-MA.
In the letter, the Senators urged the organization to update their content warnings in light of their belief that LGBTQ content in children’s shows are inappropriate for a TV-Y7 rating – the most common rating for children’s programming.
“In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria,” the Senators opened the letter. “To this end, we strongly urge you to update the TV Parental Guidelines and ensure they are up-to-date on best practices that help inform parents on this disturbing content.”
Turning to the topic of a leaked video in which Disney President of General Entertainment Content Karey Burke can be heard declaring that she will be putting her focus on ensuring more LGBT representation in Disney’s content, the letter declares, “To the detriment of children, gender dysphoria has become sensationalized in the popular media and television with radical activists and entertainment companies.”
“This radical and sexual sensation not only harms children but also destabilizes and damages parental rights,” the Senators asserted. “This same company has concerningly denounced and vowed to work to repeal a recently passed Florida parental rights law that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Parents all over the country have rightfully expressed outrage over its inclusion in the classroom.”
“A former creator of Disney children’s content [writing under a pen name and whose identity has yet to be publicly revealed] recently published an article acknowledging that every children’s TV writer knows to be careful about ‘modeling behavior’ as children will often imitate what is projected through the TV scripts, especially preschoolers,” they said. “Sexually-related content not only negatively influences and exploits its young audiences, but also harms child actors.”
The senators then cited former Disney Channel star Cole Sprouse’s recent assertion that “the young women on the channel we were on [Disney Channel] were so heavily sexualized,” positing, “Time and again, child actors from major children’s TV channels, including Disney, have revealed trauma from being sexualized at an early age.”
They continued, “Considering that the cognitive markers of sexual desire emerge during puberty when adolescents undergo natural hormonal and physiological changes, it is wholly inappropriate to display this content in a TV-Y7 category and for other young audiences.”
“This dialogue often involves the promotion of irreversible experimental treatments that involve surgical and otherwise invasive cosmetic procedures that are detrimental and life-altering, and do not evidence medical necessity,” the group elaborated. “The motivations of hyper-sexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst.”
“The Board is obligated to ensure the rating criteria helps parents be informed about mature content before it is displayed to their children,” stated the Senators, before requesting, “In light of parents raising legitimate concerns on sexual orientation and gender identity content on children’s TV shows, we expect the Board to fulfill its responsibility in updating the TV Parental Guidelines to reflect these concerns.”
“In updating the TV Parental Guidelines, please consider precedent on how the Board has rated sexually related, violent, and obscene materials to ensure it is applied without ideological bias,” they concluded, ultimately asking the Board for a response no later than May 18th and “an in-person briefing” with its members at a to-be-decided date.
This letter has drafted an interesting response from GLAAD, the largest LGBTQ lobby in the country, who through a spokesperson responded to the Senators by stating that Hollywood productions are only reflecting the world we currently live in today.
“LGBTQ people are in every family, workplace, school and neighborhood,” said the group. “Media is simply reflecting and representing this reality and growing acceptance of LGBTQ people across the board. An overwhelming majority of Americans reject efforts to ban books and censor conversation.”
Despite their statement, GLAAD has become more directly involved in increasing the amount of LGBTQ representation and content – especially in children’s programming.
Last month, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told Hollywood creators during the Los Angeles ceremony of the 2022 GLAAD Media Awards that Hollywood needs to be on the front lines fighting for LGBTQ rights.
“Hollywood must take meaningful action and will soon convene the biggest brands, agencies, studios, and streamers together with two goals,” she informed attendees. “One, to commit to improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ images, especially in kids and family programming. And, two, to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation in favor of rights like the Equality Act.”
In 2018, Ellis called on studios to include LGBTQ characters in 20 percent of their releases by 2021 and 50 percent by 2024.
In the most recent edition of the organization’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report, the organization praised that a record 12% of all TV characters on broadcast television, cable, and streaming were depicted as members of the LGBTQ community.
GLAAD also announced that they will be introducing their own ratings system which will grade major studios on their LGBT advocacy based on political donations to left-wing candidates and censorship of LGBT scenes in international markets
As of writing, the TV Guidelines Ratings Board has yet to comment on the GOP Senators’ letter.
What are your thoughts on the U.S. updating its television content ratings to reflect LGBTQ content in kids’ shows? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!