Parents Group aims to shelter kids from movies, Disney+ platform

Written By Rachel Ross, Co-Opinions Editor

In most cases, when I hear about parents or parent groups trying to censor or restrict media, I get a feeling that I would best describe as “icky.” 


It’s not good. I think it’s because an overwhelming amount of the time, the complaint they have is either over-reactive, hyper-obscure, self-serving, ignorant or completely invalid. Of course this isn’t always the case, but unfortunately, the people screaming at the top of their lungs about how Minions or Pokemon are evil drown out everything else and make a bad name for everyone. 


These things make me feel like we’re closer than I ever would have liked to imagine to some kind of Divergent dystopian society, where everything has to be heavily policed and nothing can ever just be left alone; where there always has to be some kind of problem. One of the most recent cases like this is against the Marvel shows being transferred from Netflix to Disney Plus. 


Recently, a collection of Marvel shows, including Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones, were pulled from Netflix and added to the Disney Plus streaming library. Ahead of the move, The Parents Television and Media Council, which is infamous for creating campaigns to cancel shows such as Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why, spoke out in disapproval, claiming that the addition of these shows would destroy the service’s brand. The council’s president, Tim Winter, made a statement expressing that it would be wildly off-brand for Disney to add the shows, which are more mature in theme and content than other content on the platform, after parents put so much trust in the service to be family-friendly. At one point, Winter questioned if the next thing to come would be adult entertainment shows at Disney World, which is one of the funniest slippery slopes I’ve ever heard. While the council “applauded” Disney Plus for enhancing its parental controls ahead of the arrival of these new shows, they claimed that this was not enough; that having the shows on the platform at all, “violates the trust of families, and may well turn them off entirely.” 


This complaint definitely sorts best into the “self-serving category,” although I could see an argument for “over-reactive” as well. Really, this serves as a great example of what it looks like to take something too far. If this council would have come forward in a calm and reasonable fashion and said, “Hey guys, we heard you’re bringing Charlie Cox and the crew on board and we’re a little concerned about the kiddies; we would like you to consider adding extra parental controls to your service just to be safe,” there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with that. I would have thought their request was completely valid and legitimate. Yes, some of these shows are rated TV-MA, and so there should be some kind of way that parents can ensure their kids don’t have access to them if they don’t want them to. That would have been a fine inquiry to make. But that’s not how they handled it. Instead, they charged in yelling about ‘broken trust,’ ‘destroyed images’ and potential park expansions, and wouldn’t accept Disney’s solution to the problem. They don’t want to see it, they don’t want anything to do with it, get Krysten Ritter away from them. Just because they don’t want their kids to see these shows shouldn’t mean that no one should be able to see them. It’s all about them and what they want. The adults that want to be able to watch these shows and the parents who find the enhanced controls sufficient don’t matter – This one group has decided it’s no good, so no one is allowed to participate. 


I’ve spoken at length in a previous piece about my thoughts on sheltering and over-protecting kids, and how it’s one of the most detrimental things that can be done to them growing up. Now I’m not in any way advocating that kids should be allowed to watch these shows; I actually haven’t seen any of them, so I can’t attest to the actual content itself. I just question how heavily-policed everything needs to be. How deathly terrified do you have to be of your kid seeing these shows that a parental control system isn’t enough, or that you don’t even want them on there at all? Maybe you shouldn’t rely on a streaming service to police your children for you, and then be bold enough to question the manner in which it does so. You can’t be bothered to monitor what your kid is watching, but then you want to complain that the technology you’re choosing to pass the responsibility off on isn’t good enough. “Well, I certainly can’t do it, and the technology can’t do it, so I guess we just can’t have it on there at all.” 


I’m not trying to be insensitive to the struggles that parents face trying to raise their kids and make the best decisions possible for them; I get it, sometimes kids don’t listen, and you have to take necessary precautions to make sure they’re not seeking things out that you don’t think they should see. But if you’re at the level of concern that your own policing and the service’s policing isn’t enough, then maybe your kid shouldn’t be using streaming services at all. 


I think something else worth making note of is this idea of the “Disney brand.” I think most would agree that, yes, Disney is synonymous with children’s entertainment primarily. They cater to kids with most of their movies, TV shows, parks, etc. But the last ten years have also seen Disney making acquisitions of major companies that don’t cater to kids nearly as heavily. Sure, kids like Marvel, and they capitalize on that where they can, but there is also a side to Marvel’s content that features a lot of mature themes and violence. Maybe the content already on the service isn’t as mature as the shows they just added, but there is plenty of peril and exploration of difficult issues. Then there’s 20th Century Fox, famous for such family friendly classics as, “Deadpool,” “Logan,” “Black Swan,” “The Revenant,” etc. Several of these titles are now available on international Disney Plus catalogs. The Disney library is shifting and changing; all of those movies are their property now, which puts the company in a very different place then it was in previously. I think a perfect example of this is 2021’s, “Free Guy,” a film released through 20th Century after Disney’s acquisition of it. Trailers advertised that the film was from the same people who made Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. I watched Free Guy recently, and the biggest question I had walking away was, “Who was this made for?” The concept itself is something that seems to be trying to attract children, but a lot of the jokes and humor are surprisingly mature, sometimes going past innuendos and flat out stating somewhat risque remarks. This is a very different direction than Disney would usually take for its movies, as it’s nowhere near as safe as most of the media they produce. Free Guy is on Disney Plus, so why doesn’t that matter to the parent groups? Because the maturity isn’t in the visuals, but rather in the language and references used? I guess that’s also why they don’t have anything to say about some of the other offerings on Disney Plus that are certainly not being advertised to kids, such as, “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Never Been Kissed” or “The Simpsons Movie” (or the entirety of the show, which is also available on the service). 


The bottom line is that everyone has different standards for what their kid should and should not be allowed to watch, as well as what precautions need to be taken to prevent them from seeing things they shouldn’t see, but none of that should impede on anyone else’s enjoyment of something. Disney shouldn’t have to withhold these shows just because you don’t deem your own monitoring or parental controls as good enough. Other people shouldn’t have to suffer because you want to encase your kid in bubble wrap and shield them from the mere idea of unsuitable content. It’s an adult world, and kids are just living in it; nothing is ever going to be completely kid-friendly. There’s seldom a place on the internet where you should just be letting them peruse freely. If you’re looking for a spot to dump them within the digital world that completely meets your standards and is devoid of any mature content or influence, you’re never going to find it. Maybe you shouldn’t be trying to change everything else, but should rather be changing your response. If you don’t like how Disney is choosing to run their streaming service, then go invest in some Blu-Rays.