[SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead season 7 premiere.]
Fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead were alternately shocked, outraged, sad and/or angry over the events of the show’s season 7 premiere; an episode that paid off a months-long wait to discover the outcome of the cliffhanger ending to season 6 with the brutally-violent death of not one, but two beloved main characters. Fan-favorite characters being susceptible to suffering graphic deaths is part of the foundation that The Walking Dead TV series has built its large following on.
Nevertheless, the extra-gory nature of those characters’ deaths, coupled with the popularity of the victims, clearly makes this instance an especially troubling turn for The Walking Dead fans. At the same time, the season 7 premiere episode has also drawn attacks from non-fans – to be specific, the conservative “media watchdog” group, The Parents Television Council.
In a statement to THR, PTC President Tim Winter decried the level of violence on display in the Walking Dead season 7 premiere; holding it up as an example of the type of media his organization has always crusaded against. The head of the PTC (which mobilizes reactionary efforts against TV, film and other media programs it deems indecent or offensive) also cited the episode as evidence that supports the need for their “un-bundling” or “cable choice” movements:
“Last night’s season premiere of The Walking Dead was one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television, comparable to the most violent of programs found on premium cable networks. It’s not enough to ‘change the channel,’ as some people like to advocate, because cable subscribers — regardless of whether they want AMC or watch its programming — are still forced to subsidize violent content. This brutally explicit show is a powerful demonstration of why families should have greater control over the TV networks they purchase from their cable and satellite providers.”
Founded in 1995 by right-wing religious activist L. Brent Bozell III, The Parents Television Council remains the most prominent conservative media criticism outfit in the United States. The organization publishes reviews and organizes campaigns against entertainment companies regarding programs they deem indecent or unsuitable for viewing by children. The group’s stated philosophy is that any content freely available to be accessed by children must be acceptable for their viewing. However, the group has been criticized for advancing their own political and religious agenda – by including non-violent and non-explicit content (such as positive portrayals of LGBT relationships or left-wing social causes) in their criticisms.
More recently, the group (which has targeted The Walking Dead before) has become active in the “cable choice” movement, which advocates for cable companies to offer consumers the ability to pay for only the channels they wish to receive rather than selling them in bundled packages. While the Parents Television Council argues that it is “immoral” to ask consumers to effectively “subsidize” channels with content that offend their political or religious sensibilities, other groups (and cable companies) have countered that such “bundling” has allowed for niche channels catering to smaller and diverse audiences to thrive where they may otherwise not have.
It is unlikely that the PTC’s criticism will warrant a serious response from AMC, as media companies have long since taken to dismissing the organization’s attacks. In 1999, the organization was sued for defamation by World Wrestling Entertainment. As part of a $3.5 million settlement, Bozell was forced to issue a public apology for claiming that the company had caused the deaths of four children whom Bozell claimed had been imitating actions seen on one of the media giant’s professional wrestling broadcasts.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘The Well’ @9pm on AMC.
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