Friday, October 30, 2009

Funny, Freaky, Freeing, or Just Plain Irresponsible?

by Robin Sax

Marge Simpson’s "Playboy" pictures are out now in the November issue. It's the first time a cartoon character has been featured on the risqué magazine's cover, and I’ve got to admit -- at first I chuckled. Then I started thinking ... Why? Why Marge? Why "Playboy"?

Marge Simpson is a wife and mother of three kids on Fox's long-running series, “The Simpsons.” The "Playboy" pictures feature Marge (remember, she’s an animated character) sitting naked on a bunny chair, wearing nothing but her signature blue hairdo. The spread also features a story inside called, “The Devil in Marge Simpson.”

There has been much banter about this on the blogs, and I really liked what Hollywood Gossip had to say on the matter:

As a housewife and mother of three, we fear that Marge’s pictorial - which includes a three-page spread and interview -- sets a bad example. What will Maggie [her daughter] think when she gets old enough to use Google? How will Bart’s classmates react to these images? It’s really all the fault of Kate Gosselin. Clearly jealous of the attention that famous mom has received -- Marge set out to reclaim the spotlight. Mission (grossly) accomplished.

Of course this is a tongue-in-cheek post, but it raises an important question: How does this affect the children? As a woman, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s refreshing to see a “regular” (if imaginary) mom on the coveted cover of a major magazine. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual image of impossible perfection we see on every other magazine cover. But how about putting Marge on "In Style", "Harpers Bazaar", "The New Yorker," or even "Parents"?

Why did "Playboy" choose Marge Simpson? What about Jessica Rabbit or Lara Croft or even Betty Boop? If we’re talking about sexualizing an animated character, why not choose one that was created to be a sex symbol? In an age when we worry about kids growing up too fast, we want our public figures to be good role models. So why did "Playboy" need to turn Marge into a sexy hottie when there are certainly enough others to go around?

Some argue "The Simpsons" isn’t really for kids. But I don’t care. Every kid knows who
"The Simpsons" are, and most watch it. It appears on regular TV channels, and Marge is a cartoon character with special kid appeal.

The bottom line: I agree with the folks at
MTV who said that "Playboy" is probably trying to attract younger readers. I guess that’s where my problem is. You put Marge on the cover, and all of sudden kids are going to pick up the magazine thinking it’s for kids, unaware of what's inside the covers.

Perhaps what makes this even more troublesome is that the cover appears right before Halloween, when we’re smack in the middle of the new trend of overly sexualized Halloween costumes. Remember the good old days of princesses, bulky coats over costumes, and bunny faces? Gone!

Now we see lacy garters, bustiers, and devils in mini-skirts.
Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood in Boston, says that corporate marketers are increasingly aiming at girls as young as preschool age as if they were teenagers! Linn, who also wrote "The Case for Make Believe" and "Consuming Kids," said much of it is based on a marketing strategy known as CAGOY, or "Children are Getting Older Younger."

"It's a marketi
ng phenomenon, created by marketers, based on an assumption that children are acquiring the trappings of maturity earlier. There is no evidence of that," she says. Linn said there is evidence, however, that the commercialization of childhood intensifies serious issues like childhood obesity, eating disorders, low self-esteem and precocious sexual activity. It also interferes with imagination and creative play.

So if costumes are sending bad messages, and if over-sexualizing leads to a host of sociological and psychological problems, why open that Pandora’s Box? When will the media and marketers err on the side of caution and start thinking about what’s in the best interest of our children? Yes, this is the same media that criticizes parents for not doing their job protecting their kids. So here’s my question: When will society and the media start doing theirs?


Anonymous said...

The Simpsons is no more for kids than The Family Guy is. And if you let your kids watch it then that is your problem.

Bottom line, yes, you are being prudish.

Leah said...

No kidding Anon, I never let my sone watch The Simpsons when he was vulgar and just bad taste to be a show for kids. I always thought it was for adults...that said, I never liked it.

Laura James said...

I'm with you, Robin, it's amusing -- for about five seconds... when did Marge Simpson become a "MILF"? if there was any doubt before that porn has become mainstream, that our kids are gaining more and more access to it, and our tolerance levels for it have reached an all-time high, here's a sure sign.

If it's prudish to be troubled by porn and stripping becoming an everyday thing that nobody thinks twice about, then I'm a prude too. It troubles me because I knew two young women who got jobs at strip clubs on 8 Mile and thought it was "no big deal today" -- yeah, sure, tell that to your grandmother. It's troubling what these young girls think of as "normal" behavior for a self-respecting woman.

Recently I was reading some medical records for a civil case for one of these strip club alumna. Sure enough, she has positive drug tests (speed, cocaine), genital warts, two rapes, and two abortions in her chart. Oh, yeah, and she's a mother too. All this and the girl is like 22.

But, hey, if "Marge" takes her clothes off for money, what's the problem?

Cheryl said...

I find it intersting that people want to see an animated figure in the nude to begin with. Very stange indeed.

Anonymous said...

Cheyl - people that READ Playboy dont do it for the pictures. Sure they have neked ladies, but that isnt porn. Playboy isnt Hustler. Its an interesting magazine. With intelligent articles.

The nekid ladies are not fingering themselves or anything. Since when is the female body porn?

Americans are idiots.


cheryl said...

Oh boy, the "I look at it for the interesting articles" defense. In case you haven't been around for the last 30 or so years, that argument doesn't wash anymore.

I saw a commercial today for a "Simpsons" trivia game. The children in the commercial were pretty youngish looking.

Anonymous said...

Yep, you are right Cheryl. I am only 10.


cheryl said...

I pretty much figured that out, Ian. Mentally 10 years old.

Ronni said...

With all this marketing of what passes for maturity to small kids, I have to wonder why nobody mentions that dressing little girls up like that is just eye candy for pedophiles.

I guess I have to line up in the "prude" column as well. I never even let my girls wear bikinis when they were small, in spite of my MIL buying them for them and thinking they were cute!

And, while I do agree that there is a lot out there worse than Playboy, the definition of porn is (in part) that it is designed to contribute to arousal, and the photos in Playboy fit that description.

I am appalled to see little girls dressed like tiny strippers, with leopard print tank tops and tiny skirts--for every day wear, not just costumes.

Don't get me started...