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Are You Frozen In Your Thinking About Media Just Being Entertainment?

By Melissa Henson of Parents Television Council

Here is my challenge to you. Tomorrow night when the neighborhood children come trick-or-treating at your door, keep a tally of how many of those children are dressed as one of the characters from the Disney film Frozen, then post the number in the comments below.

Forbes reports “Data shows that costume shoppers are seeking far more wholesome options this year, with characters from Disney’s mega-hit Frozen the most-searched by a wide margin despite the film being almost a year old.”

Indeed, retailer Spirit Halloween projects Anna, Elsa and Olaf costumes to be the hottest this year, in addition to other media-inspired characters like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

This should come as a surprise to no one. Frozen was the highest-grossing animated film in history and the sixth-highest-grossing film of all time. It should also not come as a surprise that kids pay attention to the characters they see on screen, and in many cases even try to emulate them.

Media influence deniers, however, just can’t accept this obvious fact. “It’s just entertainment,” they say. It doesn’t have any impact on real life. Kids don’t act out what they see on screen.


Classic children’s literature is saturated in morality tales. Parents read them to their children hoping that their child will learn the lessons of the story’s protagonists without having to endure the same hardships. We read Cinderella to our children to show them that humility and self-sacrifice are valued over vanity and selfishness. We read Winnie the Pooh to teach them about friendship. We read to them the adventures of Robin Hood so they will learn to protect and defend the powerless against the powerful. We read to them about King Arthur in the hope they will become chivalrous. We read The Velveteen Rabbit so they will learn about powerful, transformative love. We read The Secret Garden so they will develop a love of nature and the out-of-doors. We read to them Little Women so they will learn that even though we are flawed, we always strive to be better. We read Alice in Wonderland so they carry with them a spirit of curiosity and adventure. You could go on and on and on. Any human alive on this planet could name a book or movie that changed their lives. That inspired them to want to be a better person, or to pursue an interest or career, or to change the way they look at the world.

Yes media influences people. What would be the point of creating literature, or movies or television shows if it didn’t?

So let’s stop pretending media is “just entertainment.” It’s so much more, as every Elsa who knocks on your door tomorrow night can tell you.

MelissaAbout Melissa Henson

As Director of Grassroots Education and Advocacy for the Parents Television Council (PTC), Melissa Henson directs a national network of PTC volunteers and trains local grassroots chapter leaders across the country. Ms. Henson also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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