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Stop Cartoon Network from Broadcasting Violence Through Animals

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We are Da Yeon Jang and Minyoung Kim - high school students from South Korea that love animals and cartoons like any other person. We’ve recently re-watched a few Cartoon Network shows that we loved when we were young and became aware of something that we didn’t realize before. The violence portrayed by animals cartoon characters was more brutal and more ubiquitous than we recalled. It came to the point that we wondered if these cartoons were really appropriate for the general audience to watch. After a bit of research, we came to a conclusion this in fact was a problem that needed to be addressed immediately.

Remember the days we spent in front of the television, waiting for our favorite cartoon shows to come on? Even if you didn’t have a television set at your house, you still knew who Tom and Jerry were, or what a Pikachu was. Masked with cuteness and humor, the animated animals did sickening things to each other - things that would never have been for the “general audience” if they were portrayed by human characters. However, since it’s ‘just’ animals and animated animals at that, children were merely delighted when Tom burnt his tail and broke all his teeth while chasing Jerry. They were enchanted by the thought of imprisoning wild Pokémon into small balls. Balls they were only let out of to fight pointless battles with another imprisoned Pokémon.

Cartoons depict animals to be as humanlike as possible. The animal characters wear clothes, talk, think, and overall act like humans. Yet the severity of violence differs considerably depending on whether the violence is between animals or humans.  

As avid lovers of cartoons, we are concerned that the difference of violence portrayal between humans and animals in cartoon programs will have a negative impact on the core audience of cartoon shows - the children.

Our worries aren’t off of baseless fretting. Research shows that violent cartoon programs can provoke aggressive behaviors out of its watchers. According to Professor L Rowell Huesmann, senior research professor at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, in the USA, media violence even in animation programs can lead to aggressive behavior and ideas, provocation and anger in viewers. Especially when the main characters are animals, children feel a distortion between them and the characters, which weakens the uncomfortableness coming from violence.

Children’s perceptions on animals may be distorted in a human-oriented way when animals are shown being tortured, stabbed, abused, etc… By having different standards against animals, the cartoon implies that violence against animals is justifiable; just by letting the cartoon be broadcasted.

Cartoon Network is one of the most popular and loved cartoon channels in the world. This also makes it one of the most influential. Although Cartoon Network covers all ages, it’s main consumer is children aged from 6 - 11, and children spend on average 24 hours a week watching television around the world. Research shows that children are affected largely by its cartoon shows, starting from dress code to fighting to behavior. According to Hassan’s research; ‘Cartoon Network and its Impact on Behavior of School Going Children: A Case Study of Bahawalpur, Pakistan ‘, children mostly rely on Cartoon Network’s programs when it comes to media, and quite a lot of the violence is getting to them. However, Cartoon Network is well known for its lax standards when it comes to censorship, and many of Cartoon Network’s programs are finding their way out of censorship by personifying animals in their shows and then putting the violent elements in, most of the time to make it comical. In fact, some programs with animal characters contain so much violence that makes watchers doubt if the cartoons are supposed to be targeted for children.

From the past Cartoon Network has aired shows in which extreme violence was shown. People might ask, how exactly can cartoons be violent? It’s cartoons. It’s just for fun. That’s why this is so important. To give some examples in the past, there would be ‘Pokémon’, and ‘Tom and Jerry’, and ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’.. ‘Pokémon’ is a cartoon with the plot based on pet animals battling against each other. They zap their opponent into ashes, they crush their opponent into bits, they try to tear them up. For what? The ego of the human Pokémon trainer.  In ‘Tom & Jerry’, Jerry, the witty mouse, always pulls violent pranks on Tom, the cat. Most episode ends with Tom being painfully and comically revenged on, whether it be hammered to the ground, skinned, or amputation... much to the enjoyment of the kids.

Even now, violence is still on air. Previous show series mentioned are continuously being broadcasted without any censoring. The cartoon ‘Happy Tree Friends’ is rated 16+, but only watching a few episodes tell us that it isn’t for high school students. For instance, in one episode a green cat passenger happens to have a pendant on her necklace close to the faucet hole in the bathroom of the airplane, and as the plane loses its balance and starts rocketing to the ground, the faucet hole swallows up her necklace and she is literally choked down through the tiny hole, leaving fountains of blood behind. No images on ‘Happy Tree Friends’ will be on this petition for the sake of young readers. All of this happens suddenly, without any precedent warnings on violence. Watchers can do nothing but be cautious for the next bloody scene. The problem is that scenes like this are thoroughly depicted with scarlet blood and teared out bits of flesh. No movie with such content would ever be rated 16+. If you are still not persuaded, please go to YouTube and watch one episode of Happy Tree Friends; you will be persuaded immediately.

To solve the problem of children developing wrong perceptions on animal rights and also prevent future violence, we request Cartoon Network to clarify the currently ambiguous standards for violence in their cartoons at the department of ‘Standards and Practices’, and set the same standards to animals and humans for violence as soon as possible. We request that Cartoon Network censor its programs being broadcasted in all regions, for children throughout the world are all being influenced by the violent elements in its cartoons.

After the standards become clear, Cartoon Network will be able to reinforce its image as a cartoon program for children. Most importantly, young watchers of the cartoons will no longer be completely vulnerable to the violent elements shown throughout cartoon shows. This will protect young minds from building their egos with human oriented thinking while also decreasing the possibility of children mindlessly mimicking violent behaviors shown in programs in the past.

From the past to until now, this problem has not been properly addressed. People have brushed it aside because it’s “just cartoons”, and “just animals”. But the violence of animals in cartoons is like wolf in sheep’s clothing. Children learn quickly especially because they are young. We fear that if the violence portrayed in cartoons isn’t categorized with clear standards, aggressive behavior could be instilled in the younger generation. Insensitivity towards violence is the last thing our society needs.  Please heed our concerns.

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