I like a good horror movie as much as the next person, and I plan to catch The Strangers--an apparent re-make of the 2006 French film Ils (“Them”), itself supposedly if loosely based on a true story -- which opens today. The theatrical trailer is pretty darn good , and quite scary.

And that’s what bothers me: My sister Juli, whose two daughters are eight and four, have been exposed to the trailer during commercials for one of my nieces’ favorite shows, So You Think You Can Dance? I’m generally wary of media censoring, and expect parents to exercise control over the programs their kids watch. But when the commercials interspersed during an otherwise family-friendly program are themselves very child-unfriendly, how can parents exercise such judgments? And what in the hell are the executives at Fox, which broadcasts SYTYCD, thinking?

Fortunately for my nieces, my sister DVR’s the show and was able to fast-forward through the commercials. But not all families have DVR capacity, and the idea that other young kids are getting scared shitless by creepy, axe-wielding people in scary masks during early primetime hours so Fox can sell ads and Rogue Pictures (a Focus Feature subsidiary) can sell tickets is, well, a nightmare.

I fear I sound like Joe Lieberman or James Dobson here, and don’t mean to. But there is a difference between programming and commercial content, and one key difference is that viewers can make ex ante judgments about programming but they have little or no way to anticipate, and thus screen out in real time, the content of the advertisements that arrive during breaks in that programming.

I don’t watch Fox much, and especially not Fox News, but I’m guessing that none of the self-appointed “family values” blowhards from Sean Hannity on down are gonna start calling for standards for their own network. That would be a dream.

--Tom Schaller

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