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Normalizing child grooming?

In a growing trend, a British TV show glorifies exploitation

Beth and Andy Telford Channel 5

Normalizing child grooming?

A British TV show is sparking backlash for what some viewers see as normalization of child sexual abuse. Britain’s Channel 5 released a promotional video last week for the upcoming season of Age Gap Love with a clip of a couple whose relationship began when the man was 44 and the girl was 16.

The documentary series first chronicled Andy and Beth Telford’s relationship in an episode that aired last November. The season premiere of the show, which features a variety of (usually older) couples with large age gaps, airs this month. “Their 28-year age gap may make them look like father and daughter,” a narrator cheerfully announces in the promo. “But they are, every bit, a married couple.”

The Telfords had already been married for three years when the episode first aired. They met through Andy’s friendship with Beth’s mother. Beth and Andy also became friends, and she developed romantic feelings for him. Andy claims ignorance: “I didn’t know that Beth was getting these thoughts that she wanted me to be her happy man forever sort of thing.” When Beth turned 16, they started dating. Soon after, they declared their love for each other, got married, and now have two children, Timothy and Conway. Beth is now 19.

After the video aired, some viewers began to criticize Channel 5 for portraying child grooming for sexual abuse in a positive light. Marie Gardiner, a U.K.-based writer and photographer, tweeted that parts of the story “make this sound an awful lot like grooming rather than just a couple with an age difference.”

Channel 5 defended the show, telling the Manchester Evening News, “With tens of thousands of couples across the U.K. today involved in relationships where there is a significant age difference, Age Gap Love is a nonjudgmental observational documentary series which examines such relationships through the eyes of those involved.”

But the show signals a wider movement to normalize pedophilia, with perpetrators increasingly embraced as part of the LGBTQ movement. Last year a German medical student made international headlines with a lecture she gave calling pedophilia “an unchangeable sexual orientation, just like … heterosexuality.” A Slate article published in March questioned whether it is “a crime or an illness.”

Snapchat introduced its “Love Has No Labels” campaign this month in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. Along with photo filters featuring labels like gender, sexuality, religion, and disability, users can choose a “Love has no age” filter. Many users expressed outrage over the inclusion of age, and Snapchat removed the filter with no explanation.

In the United States, pedophilia is still a crime, and the #MeToo era has shed light on widespread child sexual abuse cases. But as society increasingly abandons Biblical sexual morality, expect the lines to blur and child exploitation to increase.

Earlier this year, actress Barbra Streisand dismissed two men’s claims that pop icon Michael Jackson groomed and sexually abused them as children. “His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has,” she said. Streisand later apologized for her remarks.

John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, warned about the increasing sexualization of children. “No culture wakes up and decides to exploit its children,” he wrote in an article earlier this year. “But the decades-long process of redefining human beings according to our sexual ideologies rather than their God-designed dignity is what brought us here.”

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu

Not the same

The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss encouraged pro-abortion protesters this week to keep comparing the United States to the show’s dystopian society in which fertile women are chattel.

The Emmy-winning Hulu show, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, depicts a society devastated by low fertility rates brought on by unspecified environmental damage. A theocratic patriarchy overthrows the U.S. government and conscripts the remaining fertile women—handmaids distinguished by red cloaks and white, face-shielding bonnets—to bear the children of the wealthy.

Pro-abortion demonstrators began donning handmaid costumes at protests soon after the show premiered. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California compared Alabama to The Handmaid’s Tale after it passed a law to make abortion illegal at all stages of pregnancy. (The law makes abortion a criminal act for abortionists, not women.)

“It’s an apt comparison,” Moss said Wednesday on the ABC talk show The View.

But the pro-abortion movement has more in common with the evil dictators in The Handmaid’s Tale than its supporters admit. The story’s villains treat babies as property as much as the handmaids who bear them. In Gilead, the tale’s fictional post-America dystopia, handmaids have children not because children are good and a gift but because the barren wives of the upper class want them. Prams, onesies, and cribs are status symbols in Gilead, where there’s no respect for the bond between mother and child. The wealthy steal the children of the poor and then cast aside the mothers.

In contrast, pro-life pregnancy centers work to nurture the bond between mother and child. Babies are respected for their inherent dignity and worth, and women are told they do not have to be rich to be a good mother. True, neither pro-lifers nor the evil lords of Gilead want women to have abortions, but for very different reasons. One group wants children born free and placed in the loving arms of their mothers, while the other wants children born only to serve the desires of the powerful. The pro-abortion movement says that whether a child lives or dies depends not on that child’s worth, but on the decision of someone more powerful—an argument well-suited for Gilead. —Lynde Langdon

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu

Radioactive appeal

A growing number of tourists are flocking to Chernobyl, Ukraine, after a U.S. television miniseries brought attention to the world’s worst nuclear accident that took place there 33 years ago.

Since the popular HBO miniseries Chernobyl aired last month, several tourist agencies have reported a nearly 40 percent increase in bookings compared to May of last year, Reuters reported this week.

The show gives a chilling depiction of the 1986 explosion, caused by poor engineering and a botched safety test, and its aftermath, including a Soviet inquiry into its handling and a widespread clean-up operation. The explosion sent nuclear material across most of Europe and forced tens of thousands to flee. It killed 31 people initially and an untold number of others from radiation-related diseases.

Visitors can see the plant and the wasteland surrounding it, including a neighboring ghost town, Pripyat, once home to 50,000 people, many of them plant workers.

Craig Mazin, creator of the Chernobyl miniseries, visited the site before writing the show. He told an HBO podcast, “I’m not a religious man, but that’s as religious as I’ll ever feel.” —M.J.

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu

Out, but not down

James Holzhauer, the gambler who reinvented gameplay on Jeopardy! this spring, finally fell in an episode that aired Monday after a 32-game winning streak. He did not break former contestant Ken Jennings’ 74-win record, set in 2004, but he can boast of earning the 16 highest one-day scores in the show’s history. His total winnings topped $2.4 million.

The streak made Holzhauer a household name and sent ratings soaring at a time Jeopardy! needed a boost following host Alex Trebek’s announcement that he had cancer.

Holzhauer lost to Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher, who was as willing as he was to make a high-stakes bet in the game’s final round. She risked $20,201 on the final clue, which both Holzhauer and she answered correctly. The clue was: “The line ‘a great reckoning in a little room’ in As You Like It is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death.” The answer: “Who is Christopher Marlowe?” Holzhauer high-fived Boettcher after she won and called her “a terrific opponent playing flawlessly.” —L.L.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.


Leif Le Mahieu Leif Le Mahieu is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.


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