Many experts are concerned about the effects on children of their being immersed in electronic media from a tender age. They worry largely about the things they are not doing while watching TV or videos: developing their vocabulary through talking to their parents; listening to or reading books; going to the park for healthy exercise and social activities. But two sociologists have come up with a novel reason for fretting about kids’ exposure to media: the risk of seeing heterosexuality as normal and desirable.

Yes, desirable! for heaven’s sake. Karin Martin and Emily Kazyak, writing in the latest issue of, ahem, Gender and Society, analysed all G-rated movies released, or re-released, between 1990 and 2005 that grossed more than $100 million in the United States. And guess what they found…

The analysis found the films "depict a rich and pervasive heterosexual landscape," despite the assumption that children's media are free of sexual content. The movies repeatedly mark relationships between opposite sex lead characters as special and magical.

"Characters in love are surrounded by music, flowers, candles, magic, fire, balloons, fancy dresses, dim lights, dancing and elaborate dinners," the researchers observed. "Fireflies, butterflies, sunsets, wind and the beauty and power of nature often provide the setting for—and a link to the naturalness of—hetero-romantic love."

But wait, it gets worse. These characters are depicted as “overtly feminised women and masculine males, with the male characters spending much of their time longingly gazing at the former. Toys and other products tied to the films later reinforce the images.”

Some people might worry about the sexualization of children’s media and merchandise. Period. In the UK children as young as four are being suspended from school for inappropriate sexual behaviour.

But our University of Michigan sociologists seem more concerned that “children understand the normativity of heterosexuality by the time they enter elementary school, relegating homosexuality to the abnormal, unusual and unexpected, necessitating explanation.”

It’s all the work of Disney artists stuck in the 19th century with the Brothers Grimm, apparently.

Even president Obama, who has declared June to be Gay pride Month, will have trouble changing this, we think. At least until he has finished with health care reform…

Science Daily, Jun 22

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet