Senators Senators

Five Republican U.S. senators are demanding that tv ratings be adapted to include trigger warnings for LGBTQIA+ characters.

What happened? On May 4, senators Roger Marshall (Kansas), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Braun (Indiana), Steve Daines (Montana), and Kevin Cramer (North Dakota) penned an open letter to the TV Parental Guidelines Advisory Board asking the organization to update its ratings system to include whether a show contains content related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

What motivated letter? According to the lawmakers:

In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria. To this end, we strongly urge you to update the TV Parental Guidelines and ensure they are up-to-date on best practices that help inform parents on this disturbing content.

Which series or films is the letter talking about? The five senators provides no examples in the letter. According to the Kansas City Star, Marshall’s office later pointed a finger at Nickelodeon’s Danger Force and The Loud House, and Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and forthcoming Dead End: Paranormal Park.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

What’s dangers are these kinds of shows supposed to represent? According to the five senators:

This dialogue often involves the promotion of irreversible experimental treatments that involve surgical and otherwise invasive cosmetic procedures that are detrimental and life-altering, and do not evidence medical necessity. The motivations of hypersexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst.

They also argue:

To the detriment of children, gender dysphoria has become sensationalized in the popular media and television with radical activists and entertainment companies. This radical and sexual sensation not only harms children, but also destabilizes and damages parental rights.

Where have we heard these accusations before? The senators’ letter represents an escalation of rhetoric currently being employed by Florida governor Ron DeSantis in his crusade against The Walt Disney Company. And like the governor himself, the letter singles out Disney’s corporate president Karey Burke, who said in a video call at the end of March that as a mother of two queer children, she supports Disney introducing “many LGBTQIA characters in our stories.” She also pointed out that those characters should be allowed to “just be characters, and not have to be about gay stories.”

Is this also related to the Florida Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) bill? Absolutely. Without name-dropping, the letter attacks Disney CEO Bob Chapek for his public denouncement of the law and his pledge to fight against similar legislation in other states. The letter claims that:

This same company has concerningly denounced and vowed to work to repeal a recently passed Florida parental rights law that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Sexual orientation and gender identity instruction often entails a discussion concerning an individual’s pattern of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction. Parents all over the country have rightfully expressed outrage over its inclusion in the classroom.

After Chapek’s comments, DeSantis proposed a bill to remove Disney World’s long-held self-governing status. The bill eventually passed, although Disney later pointed out that the agreement cannot be nullified unless the State of Florida assumes Disney’s outstanding debt. Experts also pointed out that neighboring counties would then also be on the hook to pay for public utilities at the park, which Disney has covered since 1967.

What has been the reaction to the senators letter? Several public figures and organizations have countered the senators’ demands. “We’ve seen enough of Kansas politicians beating up on trans kids and the LGBT community,” Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, told the Kansas City Star. “We certainly don’t need Washington, D.C. senators joining in to use these kids as political punching bags.”

The Indiana Democratic Party issued the following statement after the letter was made public:

There should be a warning label put up every time Mike Braun goes on tv because his antics are more about extreme partisanship and debunked conspiracies than actually creating a better future for all Hoosiers. Mike Braun sure seems to care a lot about other peoples’ love lives — from telling LGBTQ Hoosiers how they should act to believing that interracial marriages should be voided. Democrats join with the majority of Hoosiers and Americans in telling Mike Braun: get a life!

Pictured at top: Senators Kevin Cramer, Steve Daines, Roger Marshall, Mike Lee, Mike Braun