Sex, drugs and profanity have infiltrated the world of TV cartoons watched by millions of children, a stunning new study reveals.
“We’re not talking about cartoon characters slipping on banana peels and ramming into doors,” says Tim Winter, president of the always-vigilant media watchdog group known as the Parents Television Council, which conducted the study. “Our data demonstrates that today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth. There is now more sexual content on these cartoons than violence – even when counting traditional ‘light’ cartoon violence,” Winter said.
To do the study, all the PTC had to do was learn from Nielsen data which animated TV shows (and the networks that aired them) ranked highest among viewers 12-17 years old, and then monitor the networks and their prime-time animated lineups for about four weeks last March and April.
What did the study find? “Collectively, PTC analysts viewed a total of 123 episodes and found a total of 1487 incidents of explicit sex, drugs and/or offensive language within 57 hours and 20 minutes of animated cable programming,” a report on the study’s findings said.
Of the networks it monitored, the gravest offenders were the Turner-owned Cartoon Network and its offshoot, Adult Swim. Of course, technically, the offbeat cartoon shows on Adult Swim are aimed at adults. Nevertheless, as the Nielsen data used by the PTC demonstrates, plenty of children are watching these adult shows. “Parents might not be surprised that there is an abundance of adult-themed content on a cable network called Adult Swim,” Winter said in a statement posted on the PTC’s Web site.
“But those same parents are likely to be very surprised at just how adult the content is and how often teens and pre-teens are flocking to the network. Many don’t even realize Adult Swim appears on the same channel as the decidedly kid-centric Cartoon Network,” he said.
The PTC study was made public on Tuesday. You can read the entire report – titled “Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter: Sex, Drugs and Profanity on Primetime Animated Programs” – right here.