A little girl is sexually molested by a cult leader. A woman is strangled by a psychotic who stalks her. A little boy is kidnapped, a man and woman are tortured, a half-dozen police officers are shot down. Is this content appropriate for 14 year olds?
Fox thinks so.
And this is just a sampling of the content found in the Monday, February 25th episode of Fox’s The Following (9:00 p.m. ET) – a program that was definitely Misrated.
During the program, serial killer Joe Carroll, who has masterminded a cult-like organization of followers, has ordered his ex-wife Claire abducted. (In a ridiculous series conceit, this imprisoned murderer has apparently been able to recruit apparently hundreds of followers, all in whatever positions the show’s demented plot requires: Claire’s housekeeper/nanny, ex-military commandos, cyber-terrorism geniuses, local police officers across the country – all in willing thrall to a psychotic murderer. Claire’s captor tells her he will take her to her son, whom naturally Carroll’s other followers have also kidnapped. Demanding to be taken to her son, Claire shakes her captor, who grabs her by the jaw and chokes her, leaving her gagging and gasping for air.
But the show’s violence against women is just beginning. Ryan is held captive by three other “followers,” who force his compliance by displaying another captive, Megan – a young woman whose face has been beaten raw, and who is bound, gagged, and tortured with a taser before his eyes.
Meanwhile, FBI hostage negotiator Debra has a flashback to her own childhood among her parents, who were also members of a cult. Viewers get to see little girl Debra sexually molested by the cult’s leader, shaking and sobbing in terror as he fondles her. Running out of the room, the terrified young Debra hugs her mother, who reacts with anger:
Mother: “What have you done? Debra, you have to.”
Debra: “No! Mama PLEASE!”
Her mother forces Debra back into the bedroom and forces her to have sex with the cult leader.
Back in the main plot, Ryan escapes his captors, stabbing one repeatedly, blood spurting. But one other “follower” escapes with Carroll’s son, shooting down several police officers in the process. SWAT team members appear, but shoot the two other SWAT members and announce that that they are also Carroll’s followers. The episode ends with all the serial killer “followers” free at large, Caroll’s son still kidnapped, multiple law-enforcement officers dead, and Carroll himself peaceful, serenely listening to music as his plan unfolds.
While there is graphic violence (particularly against women) and scenes of child abuse and molestation, the horror of the show goes even deeper. The program’s producers contrive to cast the viewer’s sympathies with the serial killer-worshipping, child kidnapping, woman-abusing “followers” of the handsome, charming, and intelligent Joe Carroll, rather than with Ryan or his motley FBI fellows. Thus, the program is advancing Fox’s apparent agenda to bring as much warped and disturbing content into every home as possible.
As with every episode, The Following opened with a huge “Parental Discretion Advised” warning which filled the screen, proclaiming “The following program is rated TV-14 DLSV,” even spelling out the meanings of the letters:
D suggestive dialogue
S sexual situations
However, similar to the Fox-owned basic cable network FX, one suspects this is less a legitimate warning of content than a way for Fox to proclaim how graphic and “edgy” its drama is.
And in fact, given the show’s content, even a 14 DLSV rating is not strong enough. This program should be rated TV-MA; but since there is a tacit agreement among the broadcast networks for none of them to ever rate a program MA (something heretofore reserved for cable), apparently the networks feel that every single thing they show, no matter how depraved, is appropriate for a 14 year old child. In this, Fox’s The Following is merely the latest (but will not be the last) example of a program that was Misrated.
If you agree that this program was inadequately rated, please write to the TV ratings advisory board at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that the TV ratings once again failed to adequately warn parents about inappropriate content.
For more information about the TV ratings, please visithttp://www.tvguidelines.org/.