TV Is Smutty, but the Parents Television Council Is a Disgrace

L. Brent Bozell is a cheap has-been who died years ago, but that doesn't mean his work-from-home pressure group, The Parents Television Council, can't still come up with the occasional hot title for a press release. Take, for example, this week's shocking study -- more than 35 hours in the making --

Sexualized Teen Girls: Tinseltown's New Target (deep breath) A Study of Teen Female Sexualization in Primetime TV

Just looking at him, you'd guess that L. Brent Bozell's savvy with technology was limited to opening cans, but you've got to hand it to him -- the man can manipulate a search engine.

If there's one thing L. Brent Bozell hates about our sleazy, lowest-common-denominator media, it's teen girl sex teen female teen teen sex girls.

Especially in that dern "Tinseltown," where a smooth-talking sharpie can turn a dizzy doll's head, pitch her some woo, love her up, and leave her table dancing in some gin joint.

L. Brent Bozell is a busted valise, and the PTC is a card table, but the report has already been covered, and taken seriously, by ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Daily News. None of which mentioned that, just to give you a feel for where the PTC is coming from, this week they made a grid of every show on network television, and said only two were appropriate for family viewing -- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Minute to Win It.

Here's the PTC's release about the teen sex sex teen sex thing:

LOS ANGELES (December 15, 2010) In a new report, the Parents Television Council details the nature and extent of Hollywood's obsession with sexualizing teen girls. PTC's report, Tinseltown's New Target: A study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV, is based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime broadcast shows among 12 to 17-year-olds during the 2009-2010 TV season.

This content analysis was limited to just 35 hours of TV -- that's including commercial time -- over two weeks. They only watched scripted shows on the four major networks, so the study doesn't include reality shows, which actually make up half of top 25, or whole channels, like MTV, TLC, Adult Swim or Comedy Central -- the ones that air the shows teenagers actually watch. So remember, this study of modern TV trends has been prepared by people who've never seen American Idol and don't have cable. It's like getting a tsunami warning from a man listening to a seashell.

PTC found that when underage female characters appear on screen: more sexual content is depicted; the teen girls show next to no negative response to being sexualized; more sexual incidents occur outside of any form of a committed relationship; and there is less accuracy in the TV content rating.

Pretty shocking, right, Grandma? Get out your checkbook. But let's take a closer look, claim by claim.

"When underage female characters appear on screen: more sexual content is depicted."

Than when? Than when underage female characters don't appear? Than during reruns of My Little Margie? Than when the Wright Brothers pioneered powered flight? Than when the TV is off?

Not only don't we know what any of these terms mean, we don't know to what, if anything, they're being compared. We just know it's MORE.

So we turn to the study itself, and find the PTC means more sexualized images of underage female characters than adult female characters.

This could be shocking, but remember, the PTC got to pick the shows it gets to talk about. And they picked the (network, scripted) shows that teenagers watch. So, it's not really that weird that they're about teenagers, and not about adults. Would it be less creepy if teenagers were watching shows where adult women had more sex than teenagers?

And what exactly is "sexual content?" According to the PTC, it includes dancing, nudity (partial, obscured or implied) and "scenes in which sexualization was intentionally ambiguous and communicated using subtle overtones and social cues" including scenes that "required knowledge of a previous storyline or history and/or knowledge of the characters' general disposition."

Your move, Taliban.

In other words, everything and anything. They don't know smut, but they know it when they see it, kind of see it, or don't see it at all. This, of course, is lunacy.

"The teen girls show next to no negative response to being sexualized."

According to the PTC report:

"Only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized (excluding scenes depicting healthy sexuality)."

Again, remember: This announcement is being made based on the close study of less TV than the average teenager sees in a weekend, and deliberately excludes the shows the average teenager chooses to watch. And by "being sexualized" the PTC sometimes means sending subtle social cues about a willingness to dance.

Let's look at where they get their 5 percent. It's in Table 3 "Frequencies and Percentages of Female Characters' Attitudes Toward Being Sexualized Based on Age":

Participant's Attitude Positive 16 Negative 2 Unclear/Neutral 23 Total Incidents 41

Look at this another way: Even given their insane definition of sex, and their tiny sample of episodes of shows -- that aren't really representative of anything -- they still find that 25 out of 41 underage characters' responses to being sexualized are negative, unclear or neutral.

That's 60 percent. Which could be better, but it's not bad.

"More sexual incidents occur outside of any form of a committed relationship."

Here the Parents Television Council jumps the tracks entirely. What do they imagine they want? We're talking about children. What sort of committed sexual relationships would L. Brent Bozell like eight year olds to enter? This isn't an argument; it's just dog noises.

"There is less accuracy in the TV content rating."

Goddamn it, here we go again. Than what? Less accuracy than what?

One last shocking figure from the report:

"The data show that 73% of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke."

Outrageous! Except the PTC only looked at 14 shows, and nine of them were comedies. I'm thinking the comedies were the ones making light.

By the way, of the 14 shows in the study, only six even have underage characters: Two and Half Men, Glee, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, American Dad and The Simpsons. So by "Tinseltown," the Parents Television Council means one sitcom, one dramedy, and four cartoons, one of them over 20 years old.

Obviously sexualizing children is wrong. But so is talking nonsense about nothing in language designed to deceive. It's contemptible and obvious, and L. Brent Bozell should knock it off.