The End of a Common "Family-Friendly"
December 21, 2019
Another company falls
You’ve likely heard the disappointing news about the Hallmark Channel. As more and more movies and TV shows have started introducing same-sex sexuality and gender identity into their stories, Hallmark has been the only large entertainment company I’m aware of that could be trusted to not do so. That’s why it was so surprising when a commercial appeared on their channel featuring a same-sex relationship. Viewers were upset and a boycott was threatened, so Hallmark removed the commercial. This in turn resulted in the progressive tidal wave of rage rolling over Hallmark, and they shortly crumbled, turning their back on what their brand represented to a large portion of their audience by promising to restore the same-sex commercial to their channel and implying they would start to introduce same-sex sexuality (and presumably gender identity as well) to future shows.
The disappointment felt by many fans of Hallmark is similar to what happened with the Boy Scouts of America and Chik-fil-A. These are organizations and companies that, for a time, stood apart from the world despite intense pressure to conform, and this lonely resistance inspired loyalty toward them. But that feeling of loyalty turned to a feeling of betrayal when they gave in and ended their stand, leaving us, their customers, to stand alone.
What will happen to Hallmark? Certainly there are many who are pleased with Hallmark’s decision, and some of those people enjoy Hallmark’s shows and will continue to watch them, but I doubt those in favor of this decision represent a majority of Hallmark’s audience. There’s a reason why Hallmark has quietly refused to include same-sex sexuality in its shows until now. I think they know there’s a large segment of their audience who have no interest in seeing same-sex sexuality in commercials or movies. How many of them will watch a Hallmark show that contains messages they strongly disagree with?
Two irreconcilable definitions of “family-friendly”
At the core of all this is the truth that our culture no longer has a single definition of family-friendly anymore, and this puts companies like Hallmark, who wish to be seen as family-friendly, in a bind. The cultural ascension of same-sex sexuality and gender identity is the culprit behind this divide, with progressive families and conservative families lining up on opposite sides of the issue, splitting the concept of family-friendly down the middle.
The two definitions of family-friendly today:
Progressive family-friendly: Age-appropriate content for families who believe same-sex sexuality is moral and gender is based on gender identity.
Conservative family-friendly: Age-appropriate content for families who believe same-sex sexuality is wrong and gender is based on biological sex.
With two separate segments of society both laying claim to the term “family-friendly”, what is a company like Hallmark, who in the past was able to serve both of them, able to do? I can sympathize with their dilemma, and perhaps they think they made the right business decision, but I believe they made the wrong moral one, and it certainly makes them look anything but brave.
What is the right analogy for a same-sex relationship?
To understand why portrayals of same-sex sexuality, as Hollywood portrays them, are inappropriate for conservative family-friendly shows, we need to understand the correct analogy to a same-sex relationship in the eyes of conservative parents. But first, let’s look at this from the progressive perspective in order to understand the difference.
Progressives believe same-sex sexuality is moral. More than that, they believe it’s a core part of what some people are. Now ask yourself, when a progressive thinks of an analogy of a same-sex relationship, what do they think of? That’s simple: They think of a normal, everyday, opposite-sex relationship. In the eyes of a progressive, there is no moral difference, and so in the eyes of a progressive, showing a wholesome (in their eyes) romance between two members of the same sex is morally indistinguishable from showing a wholesome romance between a man and a woman.
But if you believe same-sex sexuality is wrong, then an analogy to normal opposite-sex relationships makes no sense. Instead, a more fitting analogy would be to an adulterous relationship. Like same-sex sexuality, adultery is always wrong. There is no “wholesome” portrayal of it. To conservatives, a “lighthearted romance between a female grad student and a down-on-her-luck female musician” is no more family-friendly than a “lighthearted romance between a middle-age married man and his young secretary, who most certainly is not his wife.”
But same-sex relationships exist in real life!
Yes, same-sex relationships exist in real life, but so do adulterous relationships. Does that mean family-friendly shows are required to portray those relationships as well?
We, thankfully, live in a free society, and that means people are free to make their own choices in life, some of which will be wrong. But the fact that people make wrong choices in life doesn’t mean we’re obligated to watch shows that falsely portray those wrong choices as right. And yes, it’s a choice we’re talking about here. Same-sex sexuality is a choice. Entering into a same-sex relationship is a choice. They’re both choices, and those of us who believe they are wrong choices will not want to show our children shows that portray them as right.
And let’s not pretend that these portrayals are anything other than an endorsement of same-sex sexuality. Anytime a show that purports to be family-friendly portrays same-sex sexuality or same-sex relationships and claims they are doing so neutrally, ask yourself if that show would try to portray adultery in the same way. Obviously they wouldn’t. Why? Because they know their audience believes adultery is wrong and doesn’t want to see it portrayed as anything but wrong. Why do they not realize we feel the exact same way about same-sex sexuality? And why do they not admit that our beliefs are valid and worthy of respect, just as much as theirs are?
What each audience will accept
When your audience is split about a controversial issue, your best option is to avoid the topic entirely. There are three ways a show could handle a controversial topic like same-sex sexuality:
They could not include it at all
They could include it and portray it as moral (the progressive viewpoint)
They could include it and portray it as wrong (the conservative viewpoint)
Of the three options, only the first would be compatible with both the progressive definition and the conservative definition of family-friendly, but it would only be compatible with both definitions if both progressives and conservatives permit the other viewpoint to exist, and progressives have proven they aren’t willing to do that. Hallmark has been taking the first route for years, but that wasn’t good enough for progressivism. According to progressivism, the progressive viewpoint is the only viewpoint that’s permitted to exist. Hallmark was pressured to accept it until they finally gave in.
Takeaway # 1 - We need a “Fox News” of movies
And so the conservative family-friendly audience has been abandoned by Hallmark like so many other companies have abandoned us before them. Sure, many of their shows will still be conservative family-friendly, but as a brand they can no longer be trusted to always be. They are just one more entertainment company like any other entertainment company. With every show we’ll have to be diligent to determine if it’s appropriate for our families or not. The default trust we had for them is gone.
Which brings me to my first takeaway about this: There is no large entertainment company openly targeting the conservative family-friendly audience anymore. This has become a gigantic untapped market. It reminds me of the gap that used to exist in TV news before Fox News appeared and started reporting news with a conservative bias instead of the constant progressive bias shown by every other network. They captured a huge neglected segment of the market by doing that, and a savvy entrepreneur has the same opportunity to do something similar with movies if they have the guts to do it.
But let’s not minimize the challenge this would be. Fox News is absolutely demonized by progressives. A Fox News of movies would suffer the same fate, likely worse. Progressivism is a fanatically intolerant ideology. Anyone who rejects its beliefs is treated like a monster. For a company to suggest there is a valid definition of family-friendly that doesn’t align with progressivism would be blasphemy. Progressives would attack the company with rage, and if it didn’t submit, they would direct their anger against those willing to work with it. Any actor or writer who worked with the company would likely be blacklisted from the rest of Hollywood. The company itself would find itself continually harassed and discriminated against, the same way Chik-fil-A was treated until it finally gave in.
So let’s be honest about how difficult it would be given the current state of society. Yet conservative families are here, our numbers are huge, and our money is good. Surely there exists an entrepreneur with enough spine and enough ingenuity to brave the challenging waters in search of the reward?
Takeaway # 2 - We need a comprehensive resource that informs us of same-sex/gender-identity content in “family-friendly” shows
This second takeaway is something near and dear to my heart because it’s something I think is desperately needed and I would love to do myself if only I had the resources (time and money) to do it.
If we go back in time 5 to 10 years, essentially all family-friendly shows were compatible with the conservative family-friendly viewpoint. But as you move closer to today the newer content starts to move more and more into the progressive spectrum, to where we’ve reached the point now where it seems like Hollywood has a requirement to include same-sex sexuality or gender identity in all of its new shows, making them inappropriate for a conservative family-friendly audience.
How many times have you been surprised in the middle of a movie or in the middle of a TV series to find content inserted that you personally object to and had no idea was coming? Doesn’t it seem like it’s happening more and more each day? And ratings are worthless to warn us about this. Remember, for a progressive, a same-sex relationship is morally equivalent to an opposite-sex relationship. Therefore, what is appropriate to show in a PG movie for an opposite-sex relationship is considered appropriate to show in a PG movie for a same-sex relationship as well. And gender identity completely bypasses the rating system. It’s a belief. There’s no ratings guidance for beliefs. But is gender identity a belief you want preached to your children through the shows they watch?
And there’s no major company that defines family-friendly as conservative family-friendly anymore. Netflix doesn’t. Google doesn’t. Disney doesn’t. And now Hallmark doesn’t either. All of them provide channels or sections of their service that in the past you might have expected to be family-friendly, but today their definition of family-friendly is the progressive definition. You and I are not their target audience. We can’t trust that what they call family-friendly will actually be family-friendly in our eyes. Instead, we’re forced to research each show, one by one, scouring the Internet for clues about what sort of material it might contain.
What we need is a comprehensive resource we can turn to for all shows from G to PG-13 (not R or TV-MA, if you let your children watch those, you’re on your own). Imagine if there was a single website that listed the same-sex/gender-identity content in every one of these movies and TV shows. When there was a new show your kids wanted to watch, you could just go to the site, search for the show, check the brief details reported, and make a decision. Think how much power that would give you as a parent, how much more control you would have over what messages Hollywood is allowed to preach to your children.
And I’m not talking about a site that would lecture about morality. I’m talking about a calm, objective list of the same-sex/gender-identity content in a show: “This show contains same-sex sexuality (Two women kiss)”, with perhaps a short description of where it occurs so a parent can fast-forward through that part if they wish. And that’s all that site would do, no muddled mission, just a comprehensive list to inform parents of what is actually in the shows their children are watching. (Information about books would be great too. The Young Adult genre is an absolute minefield right now.)
Done right, a resource like this would be immeasurably valuable to countless families. I would love to make it happen myself. Do you ever daydream about the ways you’d try to improve the world if you were wealthy? I do, and creating a resource like this is one thing I have dreamed many times about doing. But daydreams are not reality, so I must defer this to others.
Let me be transparent. I published my novel over six years ago, and since then I’ve released dozens of short stories, thoughts, and essays. If I add up all the monetary investment I’ve made into this work, for artists, editors, advertising, web services, etc, I’ve spent in the low-ish five figures. If I add up all the income I’ve received in return, it’s in the mid-ish three figures, giving me a business-award-winning ROI of somewhere in the neighborhood of -98%. (Looking at my results objectively, it appears what I’ve been most successful at is burning money.) And beyond money I’ve invested hundreds of hours of time in studying, planning, and writing. That’s all on top of my primary responsibilities: family, full-time job, and church positions. I provide these details to justify this statement: There is a limit, and I’m at it. I am a writer and I intend to continue as I have been, but that is the limit of my involvement in this conflict. I’m in no position to take on any additional responsibilities beyond that.
I say all this to explain why it is that, although I think this would be such a critical resource and would have such an incredibly positive effect on countless families, unless my situation changes I cannot be the one to make it happen. All I can hope is that someone else will see the need and catch the vision to make this a reality. Perhaps that someone is you.