Ethics Dunces: Jimmy Kimmel and Too Many Sadistic Parents

How hilarious.

ABC late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel suggested to parents among his audience on Halloween  that they lie to their young children and tell them that they ate all of their Halloween candy, and video their reactions to post on YouTube. Kimmel ran the “best” of the results on his show, introducing the segment by saying, “I didn’t expect so much crying.”

Oh. Well, it’s all right then. It’s all right to appeal to the true assholes—there is no better word — among his audience members and urge them to upset their own children for his entertainment and the entertainment of YouTube viewers. That’s Jimmy! It’s good to know who the sociopaths are among late night entertainers. Letterman, we know about. Ask Conan about Jay.

It is not only alarming that so many parents thought that it was perfectly appropriate to induce emotional trauma in their own children for the fun of it, but that these parents, after seeing their children collapse in grief, went ahead and posted the video evidence that they are miserable parents and human beings—just like their idol Jimmy Kimmel. I’m sure Jimmy will have some cool ideas later about how they can get funny animal videos too, by, say, tying cans to dogs’ tails or covering cats in duct tape or strapping them to pitbulls. Let the fun commence!

In case any of those mega-jerks who took Jimmy’s advice to torture their own flesh and blood for laughs are reading and puzzled, here is what is ethically wrong with the excercise:

  • It is dishonest. Lying to one’s child is rarely justified; lying to one’s child to upset the child is irredeemably wrong.
  • It is cruel. Obviously. These children are not old enough to get the “joke.” Inflicting emotional pain on a child for the fun of it—the fun of it!—is the essence of conscience-free behavior.
  • It  is a betrayal. Parents have a duty to protect young children from people like Jimmy Kimmel, who think they are mere props for their own pleasure, not aid and abet such individual’s warped schemes.
  • It is a breach of the child’s privacy. It is wrong to put any child’s actions on YouTube before the child is old enough to understand the implications of being exposed to millions of strangers, forever.

The use of YouTube to humiliate children has got to stop; it’s not fair, and it’s not funny. As for Jimmy Kimmel, he should be ashamed of himself, but won’t be. Sociopaths—the kind of people who enjoy torturing kids—are like that.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Jimmy Kimmel and Too Many Sadistic Parents

  1. I remember when his ex-girlfriend (a celeb in her own right) was on the show, and he showed a clip from her childhood. She wasn’t pleased with this, and he just showed it again after she confronted him for this.

    I think sociopath is a bit harsh for Letterman (maybe ‘louse’ would be appropriate, if I have a good mental record of his sins), but that sounds closer to apt for Jimmy, someone for whom I’ve had a dwindling fondness since his glory days on Win Ben Stein’s Money.

    • I dunno—his shrugging off the serial sexual harassment—real, live, genuine sexual harassment—and joking about it lost me for good. Most comedians are jerks, and most stars are louses. Letterman is several steps worse.

  2. Pingback: Ethics Dunces: Jimmy Kimmel and Too Many Sadistic Parents … « Ethics Find

  3. Does Kimmel have children? A wife? A girlfriend? Any friends?
    Torturing (and that’s what it was) for a laugh is sadistic and sociopathic. I pity the poor children whose parents would buy into this cruel scheme just for the opportunity to get on Kimmel’s show.

    He is, face it, an asshole. I’ve always thought so, and this proves it. I’ve watched his show once,and never will again. I intend to write his network to say so. And, let’s assume he’s just a glib IQ 80, where the hell was his staff in all this?

    Jerk. Sadistic. Mean. Cruel. Sociopathic. And we were supposed to laugh? His apology later only proves he doesn’t know or care about kids. And the parents who filmed their childrens’ horror and upset should be investigated by Social Services as unfit parents. These are CHILDREN we’re talking about, not adults on a reality show who choose to be upset and humiliated.

    Kimmel should be fired. And a pariah in his field. (Admittedly, they’re not all perfect), but this is the first time I’ve seen a late night talk show host set out to demoralize and traumatize children, and not incidentally, even if it’s explained to them when they can really understand their parents venal motives, will likely have lost a huge amount of trust in their own parents… who are, of course, supposed to be their bulwarks against the rest of the mean world.

    Shame. No excuses will do. Just get the hell off the air….

  4. I could only make it a little way into the video; it was just too cruel. I’m assuming the parents think it’s funny because it’s only candy, not remembering how exciting Halloween actually was when they were little, and how much joy was in having your own stash of candy. It’s just sad.

  5. It seems to have become a byword among celebrities that, when their popularity is fading, they should resort to “controversy” in order to re-establish themselves. This is based on the old showbiz adage that “all publicity is good publicity”. It doesn’t always work! But in the modern environment- without moral standards or guidelines- this concept is not only pursued, but can be taken to bitter extremes. Kimmel’s example is hardly the worst, but it betrays his mindset in common with all others who would engage in destructive pranks (or downright exploitation) where children are involved. Kids have become easy targets and tools of adults’ agendas.

  6. I’m eating all of my daughter’s Halloween candy. I eat it right in front of her….but she is only 13 months old and doesn’t even know what it is yet.

  7. I’m so pleased to see that others feel the way I feel about this! Sadistic and cruel are words that came to mind. I was surprised because the few bits I’d seen of Kimmel, he always came off as a warm person with a good, respectful sense of humor. Parents can deal with things on an adult level–though I think this kind of humor is overrated even among adults–but kids don’t. The world is new to them, and they’ve just had an experience where they got to do something really extraordinary, dress up and get candy. On Halloween, they’re experiencing the adult world in a friendly way, and even a taste of suiting up and showing up and collecting the rewards (important lesson for a joyous life), and then these–great word–dunces play this sadistic trick on them. I would never do this to kids. I remember being laughed at by adults as a child and it made me feel hurt and ashamed, as though I had been deeply betrayed and used. I’m consequently painfully, acutely tuned into kids’ feelings and make it my obligation to try and respect them. It doesn’t mean not having boundaries, you just don’t use children for your own sadistic pleasure, or to display it to others for them to share in the pleasure. This is bad, narcissistic, immature parenting…shocked at how many people got into it among my friends on Facebook.

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