September 2009 Ethics Dunces

The Disney Corporation

Disney owns “The View,” that usually infuriating, occasionally provocative, girl-talk afternoon TV show that regularly features Barbara Walters defacing her reputation, Whoopi Goldberg making pronouncements about matters she knows little about, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck doing her job, which apparently is to make politically conservative arguments in the least articulate and persuasive manner imaginable. It also features occasional “guest hosts,” and its recent “get” was none other than Kate Gosselin, the control-freak, gunslinger-eyed mom on TLC’s cable hit, “John & Kate plus 8.” The program, once billed as a documentary, has turned into a battleground over the issues of child exploitation by parents (the Gosselins have parlayed their tiny charges into millions, which they have spent on a mansion, their own cosmetic surgery, and various other things unrelated to their children’s long-term wlefare) and the sneaky way TV ‘reality shows” skirt child labor laws. It has also become an increasingly unpleasant soap opera about marital infidelity and dysfunctional family life, as the dual stresses of celebrity and parenthood turned “John & Kate” into “John and date,” alternating with “Kate and hate.” They are splitsville, and taking turns trashing each other in tabloids and on TV.

Now, wouldn’t you think that Disney, built by Uncle Walt on the smiles of innocents, would want to make its position on child mistreatment crystal clear, as in, “We’re against it!”? But no. Disney, in its hunger for ratings, is willing to promote the TLC program and ignore the fact that a Pennsylvania investigation of potential child labor law violations by “John & Kate…” is ongoing. Disney, a supposed herald of family values, is willing to use its show as a self-serving vehicle for Kate Gosselin, who has done her part to make the children of multiple births an enticing commodity, like two-headed calves in carnivals. Next up: a reality show about the Octomom and her litter. At least her test tube children won’t have to watch video of their family being torn apart on national TV: they don’t have an identifiable father.

The View’s Viewers, who are seemingly more sensitive to these issues than the House of Mouse, have bombarded The View’s website with demands that the program include child performer advocate Paul Petersen on the show with Gosselin, so she can try to explain why putting toddlers in front of cameras for many hours a day doesn’t make them performers, especially since she collects big bucks for their non-labor. But Petersen’s a tough and persuasive adversary (he is currently waging a legal battle to make sure the aforementioned Octomom does right by her children), and his presence would only raise public awareness of the many ways the entertainment industry uses, abuses, and warps its young. When one considers that Disney’s biggest TV teen star, Miley Cyrus, just emulated a stripper by doing a suggestive pole dance on an awards show, the question of whether on-screen is the healthiest way to raise a child is not one Disney wants answered.




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