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Cable, Passwords, and the American Family
by Isaiah Z. Sterrett
30 September 2003Comcast

When prominent corporations degrade the family in order to sell their product, we know we're in trouble.


Liberals have been knocking the American family for decades now, railing against women who want to stay home and mother their children and salivating over the idea of abortion clinics on every corner, and they've made a definite impact on our society.  But voted-for-Dukakis left-wingers are no longer the only ones.  When prominent corporations are using the degradation of the family to sell their product, we know we're in trouble.

The ad -- of this corporation -- begins with a forty-something woman and her balding husband sitting in an attractive Italian bistro.  They’re discussing their son, who, we learn, has been left at home.  His mother, pretending to be concerned about her child, begs reassurance from her husband.  (Their son, we learn, is not only at home, but home alone.) 

Then we see the son -- he’s about thirteen -- feverishly trying to access some sort of program that his parents would rather he didn’t.  We presume it’s some sort of squalid adults-only show, but it could be anything.

The father does his best to reassure his wife, but then bursts out laughing as he remembers that his son hasn’t yet discovered the parental-control password that they’ve set, which he would need in order to watch the kind of tasteless stuff from which they’re trying to shelter him.   An Italian opera blares in the background, and the husband-and-wife giggle, thrilled that they’ve outsmarted their teenager.

For months now, Comcast Digital Cable has been running this advertisement, and I’m sick of it.   It must be working -- selling the product, that is -- inasmuch as I’ve seen it only slightly less than I’ve heard John Kerry tell somebody he was in Vietnam, but it’s a bad ad and Comcast ought to take it off the air. 

The ad is wrong on several levels, but it seems appropriate to start with its revolting exaltation of poor child-rearing.  

Most parents feed their children and buy them Christmas gifts and hug them when they want to be hugged.  Most parents love their children, care about their affairs, and scold them when their naughty.  But truly good parents -- parents who nurture their children, teach them proper values, educate them, and help them grow into mature, responsible, honorable adults -- are pitifully scarce.  It is ads like this one that keep that statement true.  

Comcast doesn’t show these parents working all of their son’s life to earn his respect, so that their wishes will be honored.  It doesn’t show them teaching their son the virtues of style and sophistication, so that he won’t want to watch sordid television when his parents are out.  To the contrary: it shows two lazy people, gloating to each other because they had the overwhelmingly common foresight to put a password on the porno channels.  And that brings me to my next objection.

Very rarely are teenagers given the credit they deserve.  They’re not all sex-crazed MTVers whose lives are based on nothing but cutting class, sampling everything in the liquor cabinet, and throwing trashy parties when Mom and Dad are gone.  Some of them obey their parents, follow the rules, and watch Nick-at-Nite.  Some of them do their homework and like to go to bed before 10.  But this ad doesn’t acknowledge that.  It defines teenagers as nothing more than rule-breaking ninnies, who couldn’t possibly survive without Comcast’s passwords, and out-of-touch parents.

I’m not asking for propaganda.  Comcast is not going to sell anything flashing pictures of Phyllis Schlafly and Pat Buchanan across the screen, preaching about the merits of the American family.  But I think they could manage to stay away from venerating listless parents and bashing teenage boys.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I’m not suggesting that Comcast is on some crusade against children and parents.  They’re just trying to sell cable.  But, as many have noted over the last couple of decades, there is far too much anti-family rhetoric being spewed from far too many sources, which, after a while, begins to have quite a negative impact on America.  With this ad, Comcast has effectively added itself to that list of sources.

Isaiah Z. Sterrett, a resident of Aptos, California, is a Lifetime Member of the California Junior Scholarship Federation and a Sustaining Member of the Republican National Committee.

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