UPDATED WITH CLARIFICATION ABOUT LAZY TOWN PHOTO . . .
Two Orange-based moms launch The Mothers Against Nickelodeon, which is critical of the cable channel's marketing to children, with a free Chapman University screening Thursday of a film critical of "the commercialization of childhood."
Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp's 2008 documentary Consuming Kids has children's advocates, industry insiders and health-care professionals casting wary eyes at the relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that targets youngsters and their parents. The film shows "how youth marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to transform American children into one of the most powerful and profitable consumer demographics in the world," according to the Media Education Foundation.
That puts the picture in the wheelhouse of Kristine Simon and Janelle Maluenda, who are using the screening to officially launch The Mothers Against Nickelodeon (or The M.A.N.). The M.A.N. website begins with this message:
Until Nickelodeon creates a mission statement that includes a public affirmation of parents and family, stops undermining parents and ceases to claim to "empower" children, when in reality they are turning them into consumers, and until the network agrees to promote excellence in childhood by eliminating the use of farts, boogers, belching, rehab, pin up ads, rotten role models, lingerie, and other forms of risque programming to create Us Vs Them rivalry.
Over on the site's FAQ page, Maluenda explains the crusade was born out of her own college studies of advertising and how manipulative it is.
She and Simon believe Nickelodeon's marketing strategies and messages targeted to young children are harmful and dishonest. Simon says she does not allow her twin girls to watch Nickelodeon, while Maluenda claims to be keeping her television off until her seven-month-old daughter is 2 years old.
"I am starting the group for a few reasons," Maluenda responds in a self-interview. "#1 to stop Nick. #2 to connect to other moms that are as passionate as I am about protecting children from the hands of consumer media. #3 to educate my peers during my last semester with them about the serious dangers of advertising to children before they all venture into the workforce."
But their campaign also ventures beyond commercials to actual children's programming. Before dismissing them as busy-body shrews, check this out from their website.
"That's a disgusting screen shot from Lazy Town, a show on Nick Jr. and Noggin, where a young girl hangs out with a 30-year-old man by herself all day long," warns the website. "He's 'her friend.' They sing and dance. He wakes her up in the morning. She wears skimpy little dresses throughout the show." Lazy Town viewers and others responding to this post point out the above photo was Photoshopped to place the man's head in that position. This next one, also on The M.A.N. site, appears legit, however.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"Did I mention that her only human friend is an older man? He is creepy. This show is creepy," reports the site. "Little girls will watch this show and want an older man friend of their own. Little girls will think it's OK to dance around with older men that offer them candy. Every thing about this show is just WRONG!"
Maluenda says Nickelodeon, of course, is not the only television outlet guilty of exploiting children. "I have a problem with all networks and brands that make money selling idiocracy to children, but we have to start somewhere. Why not start with the biggest?"
The free screening of Consuming Kids features a guest speaker, Dr. Allen Kanner of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. It begins at 7 p.m. in the Folino Theater in Chapman's Marion Knott Studios in Orange. RSVP here.