Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mr. Petersen has posted another article addressing the show on his website A Minor Consideration .

Oh, They're So Cute
Kids and Animals on TV

Congratulations, America. This past week saw 31 new little stars drop into our living rooms with the premieres of "Kids by the Dozen" and "17 Kids and Counting" on The Learning Channel. You can hear the ooohs and aaahs in Timbuktu. The scramble is on to learn each of the children's names, their likes and dislikes, and where they fit in the family's pecking order. Add to this childhood menagerie the on-going exploits of the Gosselin Family from "Jon & Kate +8" as revealed in People Magazine's four-page spread of that family's trip to Maui, Hawaii, and you'd think television has turned into amateur home movies.

Only these shows aren't really home movies, are they? Of course they're not. They are professionally photographed and edited productions that employ scores of adults that you never see on-camera. The Parents who have permitted the cameras to chronicle their various families are being compensated, some quite handsomely, and some less so. If you chanced to watch the excruciating "Jon & Kate" episode that showed the family engaged in an endless photo shoot for Good Housekeeping magazine's cover (coming soon) you might have noticed that all this so-called "fun" looks a lot like work.

We all have a soft spot for kids and animals. It's a biological imperative. We are biologically compelled to notice and care for children, to protect and husband animals. They are means by which we got from there to here.

One thing you can say about all these media darlings is that most appear to be remarkably normal given their unusual circumstances…so far. Today's kids see the media in a different light than we adults because they are immersed in its impact from birth, with or without cameras present. The question is, other than their numbers and the fact that they were born into large families, what part of being "normal" can prepare or protect a child from the effects of celebrity?

The American Humane Association, which came into existence back in the 1870's to advocate for children, but is better known as the protectors of the animals we see in the media, has this to say about the welfare of animals in film production:

*Animals should be trained and prepared in advance to perform the required action.

*Costuming and/or props shall be made available to American Humane for inspection prior to filming. Animals shall be adequately conditioned and trained to wear or use all costumes or props. Costuming and/or props shall be comfortable, provide ease of movement, and shall not restrict the animal’s breathing or cause the animal to overheat.

*Tie-downs, waist ties and hobbles shall not be used on animals not properly trained to wear them.

*American Humane recognizes that unique or unforeseen situations may arise that might require on-site judgment differing from these Guidelines. American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives will make that judgment in the interest of the safety and welfare of the animal.

*Training and/or cueing equipment such as collars, leashes, muzzles, whips and other devices must be used safely and humanely under the supervision of American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives.

See full details at:

You can see where this is going, I hope. Producers of popular entertainment who utilize animals in their work do not cross the American Humane Association or the Certified Animal Safety Representatives that travel the world to protect animals in film. When the AHA says, "No animal was killed or injured in the making of this film" you can believe it.

In other pages on this website we have put together a Compare and Contrast chart so inquisitive people can see how the State of California's regulations concerning children in entertainment (the best this country has on the books, by the way) compare to the global Industry protections afforded those birds and beasts over whom we have dominion. It can be found here:

At the risk of angering those souls who continue to believe that parents always do what's best for their children, let's see what the Industry has to say when it comes to Casting Guidelines for children utilized in the creation of popular entertainment:

Notice that space? It's there for a reason. No such guidelines exist for even considering what sort of child is eligible for participation in the entertainment industry. If such a guideline existed to determine what sort of child one might see on television or in movies, do you think it would start off with normal?

…To be continued