TV personalities as varied as the fictional Walter White of “Breaking Bad” and real-life dance teacher Abby Miller of “Dance Moms” are among the 10 who have been named to a new list of “The 10 Worst TV Role Models.”
Others on the wide-ranging list include funnyman/animator Seth MacFarlane, the entire Kardashian clan and even Will Ferrell, by virtue of the show he produces for Comedy Central, “Drunk History.”
The list comes from a San Francisco-based media watchdog group called Common Sense Media, which keeps an eye on TV and other forms of entertainment on behalf of parents and their children, according to the group’s Web site.
Rounding out the list: Olympic swimmer and reality-TV star Ryan Lochte; teen star Ariana Grande and the character she plays on Nickelodeon’s “Sam & Cat”; Tough-talking Angela “Big Ang” Raiola of “Mob Wives”; the characters on the Seth MacFarlane Fox sitcom “Dads”; and the characters on Comedy Central’s animated series “Brickleberry.”
“Each year, Common Sense Media calls out the TV characters and personalities who have the most and least to offer kids and families,” the group writes on its Web site (read the list and the explanation for each item HERE).
“You’ll see some familiar faces on the ‘worst’ list (the Kardashians, for the third year in a row),” the introductory text notes, “and a few newbies, who may or may not stand the test of TV time.
“Even with all the new devices competing for kids’ attention, regular old TV still dominates kids’ screen time. That means all the characters they watch or otherwise absorb through popular culture make a big impact on kids’ still-forming identities. But even the worst role models can help you start important discussions with kids about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior,” the group says.
The text doesn’t say how the group came up with these 10 “worst” — specifically, how they were able to limit their list to just 10 when there must have been many more under consideration.
But these 10 are on the list for a variety of reasons. For example, Ferrell (and “Drunk History” co-creator Derek Waters) made the list because their show “makes drunkenness look appealing,” Common Sense said.
Each item on the list comes with a pithy, one-line “worst offense,” and then a fuller explanation. For example, the Kardashians are cited for “putting appearance and attention above substance and accomplishment.”
“Although the family sometimes exhibits a charming loyalty among themselves, as an entity they represent some of the worst things about our culture,” the Common Sense citation reads. “Kim’s insistence on being in full hair and makeup while giving birth is just one example of how this family values appearance over substance,” it continues.
The citation for Ariana Grande points out that she made the list not for the way she conducts herself in real life, but because of the fictional character, “Cat Valentine,” that she plays on her Nick series. Her “worst offense,” according to Common Sense: “Reinforcing [an] ‘airhead’ stereotype.”
“Actress and pop singer Ariana Grande is not without talent,” the watchdog group concedes, “but her character on this spin-off of two mega-popular Nickelodeon shows (‘iCarly’ and ‘Victorious’) is the epitome of a ‘dumb girl.’ She speaks with an affected, whispery voice, regularly misunderstands common vocabulary, and seems generally self-absorbed and, frankly, annoying. Young girls and boys who are just figuring out their identities might pick up some really confusing messages about what’s funny and appealing thanks to Cat,” the group complains.
In another citation, Abby Miller — the assertive, screaming instructor on “Dance Moms” — is criticized for “encouraging unhealthy competition.”
“Not only does she use shame as a motivator for her young charges,” complains Common Sense, “she screams and insults their parents too. Thanks to Miller’s influence, the moms also bicker with one another and openly criticize both their own kids and others’.”
So why is Walter White on the list? Like Cat Valentine, he too is a fictional character played by an actor, Bryan Cranston. White also happens to be the main character on one of TV’s most critically acclaimed series. Nevertheless, he is cited for “offering a confusing message of morality.”
“Many of us here at Common Sense Media really love Walter White’s character and the ‘Breaking Bad’ series overall,” says the text about “Breaking Bad.” “But,” it continues, “the more we’ve seen babies dressed in Walter White Halloween costumes, the more we realize what a huge impact this character has made in pop culture. So even if kids aren’t actually watching the show, they’re absorbing the message that when an everyday person meets tough times, drugs, murder, and sacrificing one’s family is a viable, or even admirable, solution.”
Do you agree or disagree? Read the whole list and the text — right here.