True Blood vampires and the explicit TV sucking the innocence out of our children
By Olivia Lichtenstein
Any parent with a teenager will be painfully aware that for impressionable young TV viewers, there's nothing sexier than a vampire - and it's got nothing to do with Halloween.
Channel 4's latest attempt to seduce us with a mixture of swearing and sex comes in the form of True Blood, the latest in the long line of sexually explicit, violent and vulgar programmes that have, sadly, become the norm on British television.
True Blood is a shocking tale of depravity, explicit sexuality (bordering on pornography) and vile language.
Even before the opening credits have rolled in the first episode, we see a young woman pleasuring a young man while driving her car.
The plot is lazily set up at the outset via a television broadcast of a lady vampire informing us that since scientists have found a way to make artificial human blood, vampires no longer represent a threat to society.
As the tale unfolds, we learn there has been a horrifying reversal of events and that some humans, known as vampire drainers, like to drink the blood of vampires as it increases their strength, sexual appetite and performance.
The programme is full of others with fantastical powers. Set in Louisiana, there's the telepathic waitress, Sookie, and the 'shapeshifter' Sam.
Then there are the 'fang-bangers' - humans who like having sex with vampires - and the drug dealers.
More offensive than all this is the sheer distasteful nature of the content. There's oral sex, overt discussion of genitalia, graphic sex scenes bordering on the deviant, and foul language.
We see a man having sex with a woman while watching a video of the same woman having sex with a vampire. The excitement engendered in the pair leads to rough sex and results in her murder.
It's animalistic, violent, corrupt and scary, and it airs on one of our terrestrial channels at 10pm on Wednesdays, a time when tens of thousands of children under 16 are still watching TV.
Sure, it's an hour after the watershed, but I can't help but worry that children will find their way to this programme, which is a massive hit in the U.S..
If only True Blood were a one-off, I wouldn't be so depressed that this is what Channel 4 wants us all to watch.
But a glance at our schedules reveals that sex, violence and vulgar language have become the staples that make up the British TV diet.
Content that would have had viewers up in arms 15 years ago rarely causes concern today.
Various U.S. studies have shown that teens who watch a lot of sexual content on TV are more likely to initiate intercourse or participate in other sexual activities earlier than peers who don't watch sexually explicit shows.
This, of course, is why we in Britain have the watershed to signify when family viewing ends and programmes with adult content can begin. It is set at 9pm and stays in force until 5.30am.
However, the criteria for what is suitable for broadcast before and after the watershed is somewhat woolly.
Take sex, for example. Ofcom states that: 'Representations of sexual intercourse must not occur before the watershed, or when children are particularly likely to be listening, unless there is a serious educational purpose.'
The problem today is that, while Channel 4 would no doubt argue that True Blood is screened after 9pm, the watershed is not as effective as it once was.
First, the breakdown of the traditional family means that many children might not be supervised adequately.
And even if a parent does try to stop a child of 15 watching True Blood on a Wednesday night, the fact that so many have a TV in their bedroom means they can watch it anyway.
That aside, with the proliferation of television channels, instant recording facilities and the internet, it's increasingly difficult to monitor children's viewing.
Worryingly for parents, one quarter of 12 to 15-year-olds watch television or film content via websites (such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Player or ITV Player).
On its website, the BBC states that it 'expects parents and carers to share in the responsibility for assessing whether programme content is suitable for their children'.
It is now far too easy for unsuitable content to slip through the net by becoming available online.
Already, our children are far too knowing, and their television viewing has long been sucking the innocence out of them.
They've been subjected to a string of programmes that have corrupted their eager minds: Gossip Girl (screened at 7pm), Skins, Sex & The City and Desperate Housewives.
Many of my 16-year-old daughter's peers have been sexually active from the age of 13 or 14. There are no longer any taboos, and there is little they won't discuss - if not do - with each other in the most explicit terms.
There is, it seems, no subject out of bounds and little sense of privacy. I am far from being a prude, but I find myself longing for the days when, in a movie, if a couple were kissing or lying on a bed, they had to keep one foot on the ground.
When television started, it was, as set out by Lord Reith, given a mission to inform, educate and entertain in that order.
In a ratings-obsessed culture where many broadcasters are fighting to stay on the air, it appears that those tenets have been all but forgotten.
Interestingly, Ofcom has done no research into the effects of such programming on children and adolescents.
With the watershed rendered obsolete by new technology, I think it's high time we, as a society, should all think about how to protect the minds of the young before they become so desensitised that they regard as the norm behaviour which is, essentially, abnormal.
So alas, dear readers-- shall we sharpen the stakes of censorship for Brit TV after the watershed?
Source (sorry for forgetting it the first time around!)