Sunday, October 23, 2011

Don't be afraid of the movies, but be very afraid of the movies

My parents were very selective about what movies and TV shows we were allowed to watch - not too much skin, no sex, no profanity and limited violence. I think they had to resign themselves to bathroom humor, but let's face it: we're human, and bathroom humor is going to play itself out on a daily basis at home no matter how hard you try to excuse yourself from the room to fumigate somebody's bed pillow (kidding...I don't think it ever happened in my house, at least it never smelled like it). It's hard not to be silly without things most people would consider public behavior, but show me a parent that positively connects with their children without being silly and I'll show a terribly inhibited soul.

As most kids of the period, going to matinee movies was the prize for good behavior, not like the underage chick-trolling gauntlet it seems to be today, and at least one of my parents was always with us. Animateds (mostly Disney), Disney live-actions starring Kurt Russell, and Irwin Allen disaster films always felt like a treat. The only 'R' rated movie my mother permitted us to see as a kid was "Jaws" as a favor to a close friend, and even then it was after considerable debate. I didn't go because I was afraid of the shark. We went into the movies in good spirit and came out refreshed, like taking a nap, only having had a good laugh and probably (re-)learning something useful. Isn't this what family day(night) at the movies is all about?

Most movies out now are filled with death, destruction, gore, flashy graphics and gaudy personalities. For entertainment purposes, I understand its value and in some cases, I welcome it because there is a place for it. But like anything else that goes unchecked by a child's parents, I'm deeply concerned about the impression it makes on a child's mind. I recently attended a crime summit, headed by our local sheriff, in which its main topics were teen violent crimes and human trafficking/exploitation. Children killing children is not supposed to be a routine occurrence in our culture, but it does happen frequently. The summit suggested that the primary causes of teen violence were poor parenting skills, bullying, and violent images portrayed in music, movies/TV, video games/toys, comics, and even played out and planned between friends. While the First Amendment may protect the ability to express fictional violence, it doesn't mean that we have to lay a buffet of violence out for our children to consume. I think it's important that they need to be aware of things to protect themselves, and that it is a parent's primary duty to proactively teach their children "right" from "wrong".

The maxim here is this: Have fun wherever you are, but always be aware of what's around you wherever you are.

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