Friday, February 20, 2009

But Where Are Those Good, Old Fashioned Values?

Sex, drugs, violence, bad language. TV is full of it. So are the movies.

As parents, we try to find a balance between overexposure and unrealistic sheltering. As the kids get older, this becomes more difficult. They've seen beer commercials and know that sex sells. They've been to the mall and heard bad language. Hell, they don't have to go to the mall for that. They just have to go school.

But here's what I find interesting: given the two, sex and violence, what's worse? My girls have reached the age where they're really into horror and slasher flicks. Since I also like horror and slasher flicks, I'm digging this stage. And as a parent, I watch the films first beforehand so I'm not surprised by anything. I recently enjoyed "Diary of the Dead" (George Romero really is the master of the genre) and I can't wait to watch it with the girls. No nudity, little bad language, lots and lots of blood and guts.

The thing is, as human beings, they will have sex. They will see people naked. I, for one, hope that they have healthy, happy sex lives when the time is right. But they will make mistakes. We all have. And they will learn from most of them, just like we have. (Notice I didn't say all - there are some things we just never learn.)

As middle-school/junior high students, they've heard just about every "bad" word there is. I've read my daughter's blog. She uses them correctly.

Unfortunately, sometimes people experience violence. But we all hope that this never happens to us or our children. And for the majority of us, it won't. Certainly not to the extent that we see on TV. And yet, sex and language seem to be of most concern. But why is that? Do we really think George Carlin's 7 words will do our children irreparable harm? Will seeing a breast or a penis scar them for life? How about watching someone get shot in the head?

Maybe it's just our own discomfort that leads to this. I was watching "Robocop" with my youngest (11) a couple of weeks ago. She was unphased by the massive killing machine at the beginning (too fake) and the violence (the guy losing his hand was cool and the guy splattered by the car was gross). But the language bothered her. To be honest, I forgot how bad the language is in that movie. Even so, it wasn't anything she hasn't heard before. But she was uncomfortable with it. And so was I.

Some weeks before, all four of us watched "Interview With The Vampire". Again, the blood and violence was just no big deal, though it did make for a great movie. The nudity, on the other hand, made us all uneasy.

So maybe it's our own uneasiness with sex that causes us to guard against it more. Or maybe we don't feel the need to shield them as much from things they may never experience (and I'm not just talking about vampires and zombies - there's plenty of realistic violence on TV as well).

I don't have any answers here, other than to turn off the TV I suppose.


Tammy Howard said...

You can turn off the TV, but you can't turn off the world.

You make a really interesting point about not feeling as much need to shield them from things they'd never be likely to experience. I'll have to ponder that...

We had a nice talk about language last night (after the MOTY let them listen to the new Lily Allen CD). It's confusing. It doesn't offend me, but I understand how it can be offensive. We've raised the girls to be themselves at all times and that is sort of biting us - or at least me - in the butt on this issue. They want to be told "is it ok, or is it not", not "this word is ok here and these words are ok here but never say these words there..."

Aw, man, I don't have any answers either. But I sure do love watching the movies we love with them!

Dennis Haberkern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dennis Haberkern said...

In my opinion, real violence is far worse than sex as it applies to what kids are exposed to. Fake violence (like horror films) we typically don't watch because we're not interested in it, so it's never an issue.

Sex is a beautiful, natural thing that the majority of human beings will take part in at some point. Violence, on the other hand, shows us the worst and darkest parts of human nature. The fact that we as a species keep coming up with new, horrible ways of hurting each other is a disturbing fact, but it is a fact and unfortunately there's no escaping it.

We as a society get off on being frightened...slasher films, horror movies etc. And although there may be gore, we know its all fake. What bothers me is the real violence that people become increasingly passe over... ESPECIALLY in America. The media loves to show violence and loves to be as graphic as they can get away with. But show someone with no clothes on and people loose their minds.

Here's the perfect example...when I have to explain my point of view to people this is what I tell them:

Every November 22nd, we get to see a film that shows in graphic detail the president of the United States getting his brains literally blown out of his slow motion and in full color. AND it's all real. Janet Jackson shows part of her nipple for a split second during a half time show and people go absolutely nuts. This to me makes absolutely no sense.

As far as my kids, I don't purposely watch anything with extreme violence in it so they're unlikely to see it. There have been occasions when I'll be watching the History Channel and suddenly they'll be showing Nazis executing Jews or that guy in Viet Nam who shoots a VC point blank in the temple. So far I've been able to grab the remote in time if the kids are watching with me, but I know eventually they'll see it and there's nothing I can do about it...aside from getting rid of our TV.

But you know what they'll never see on TV? A naked they'll be corrupted for life from seeing that and not from seeing a kid laying in the street with blood shooting out of his head from being shot . It's ridiculous.

Then there's the internet...and we all know it's all out there. We currently have Net Nanny installed on the kids PC, but you know eventually they'll have a chance to get to see all the sicko crap that is hard to escape from. I just hope that by educating them now they'll be able to make the right choices when they do have unlimited access.

So for now, I avoid the violence on TV whenever it's possible. And if it's sex, I'll try to warn them about it and then they can make the choice whether or not to watch (not rape scenes obviously, I consider that violence). Usually my 13 year old son is too embarrassed to watch any kind of nudity with a parent in the same room. As far as my 10 year old daughter...well...I tell her to ask her mom if it's ok. Seriously, as long as it's nothing graphic I don't have an issue with it. And as far as the violence goes, if it's real and graphic, the kids can't watch.