Although cartoons for adult audiences are neither a new nor a revolutionary idea, until fairly recently, even those animated programs designed primarily with grown-ups in mind, like Loony Tunes and The Flintstones, could be safely enjoyed by children. This is no longer the case. The recent trend with cartoons like Allen Gregory, ADHD, and Golan the Insatiable, is to not merely make them with adult viewers in mind, but to make them grossly inappropriate for children.
This trend is seeping over into the streaming video world, too, where broadcast decency laws don’t apply, and it isn’t always clear who the intended audience is.
This Friday, Netflix is debuting a new animated series called Big Mouth, a supposedly humorous take on puberty that makes frequent use of the “F-word,” and deals in graphic and explicit terms with genitalia, menstruation, ‘nocturnal emissions,” and more. A trailer for this series is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjrklR3g6To
The series is rated TV-MA, as it should be. But is that enough?
In our recent special report, Over the Top, or Race to the Bottom: A Parent’s Guide to Streaming Video, the PTC found that Netflix often juxtaposes wholesome, family-friendly cartoons next to adult cartoons on the menu screen, so you might see Finding Dory next to Family Guy. If you don’t know anything about Family Guy, you might assume because of this placement that it is equally suitable for your child.
We also found that Netflix and other streaming services heavily promote their original content, so there’s a good chance this program will be promoted on home screens and menus, regardless of your viewing history or preferences, and increasing the likelihood that young viewers will see it and that their curiosity will be piqued. Children have a natural tendency to be attracted to animation, and often have trouble discerning which animated products are for them, and which are not.
Streaming video is fast becoming a favored alternative to traditional over-the-air broadcast and cable TV, especially for families with young children; but it can also provide a false sense of security. If you use Netflix in your home, this is a good time to make sure you have the parental controls enabled, and that you are also using any additional parental controls built-in to your streaming device.
If you see inappropriate placements or promotions for Big Mouth, please let us know in the comments.