Maybe you were one of those parents who was going about the routine on a midsummer’s morning in July — getting your children breakfast while attempting to get yourself ready for work.
You grab the remote and click on the TV in hopes of glimpsing a brief update on the weather and the traffic, and instead you and your children are introduced to the very sad and sadomasochistic relationship of Anastasia Steele and her abusive boyfriend, Christian Grey, compliments of NBC’s “Today” show. The producers decided it was a good idea to show a slightly edited version of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trailer.
The movie is based on the trashy and pornographic trilogy by author E.L. James. It didn’t matter to NBC that families with young children might be sitting around the breakfast table. To me this seemed like another attempt by the mass media to normalize something that is far from normal: pornography — and violent porn at that. Why else air the clip at that time of the morning and also months before the movie is set to hit the big screen? It is scheduled for release, not so coincidentally, on Valentine’s Day.
In an interview with the The Hollywood Reporter, Melissa Henson of the media watchdog group Parents TV Council said the airing of the trailer was a promotion for “mommy porn.”
“We’re talking about basically the equivalent of a dime-store trashy romance novel. Essentially, what ‘Today’ is doing is they’re promoting what people refer to as ‘mommy porn.’ That’s what it boils down to. ‘Today’ is helping to promote mommy porn. That’s a pretty poor judgment on their part in terms of their attitude toward their audience,” Henson said.
The network also needs to be called out for their heavy promotion of the trailer. It was bad enough, as Henson said, that the network was promoting the airing of the clip days before it actually ran. And then the morning of the big trailer debut, the promos began when the show went on the air; bright and early at 7 a.m. Henson, who serves as the PTC’s director of grass-roots education and advocacy points out this: It is not as if the networks don’t know their audience. They know exactly who is watching and when. They build their advertising ratings and schedules in order to reach the most desired demographic.
“The fact that they’re promoting this so aggressively during a program that we know parents are probably going to be watching while their kids are in the room is also very troubling. And ... the fact that they’re romanticizing sexual violence in this way is also very troubling.”
Let’s not pat NBC on the back for airing an edited version of the trailer. This could make a bad situation even worse, as Henson told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It seems like a very ordinary ... romance story, so the fact that they cut off the last few seconds, if anything, might be a little suggestive, a little misleading because you don’t truly understand what this movie is about unless you’ve read the articles or read the book. ... Here’s a book and a movie that are really normalizing and even romanticizing [sexually violent] relationships, and I think that that’s very troubling, especially the way that this romance is presented in the trailer.”
Sex sells. That’s not exactly breaking news, but it is upsetting particularly when the media are doing whatever they can to sell it to families in the form of pornography — and increasingly when children might be watching. Hopefully this disappointing programming decision will mean that come tomorrow and the mornings after that, there will be fewer families watching “Today.”
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.