If you’re ever looking for
a movie to show 9-year-old boys, forget it. It’s not possible.
The mother of one of my
son’s friends was planning a birthday party sleepover, and she naively sent out
an email to mothers of the guest list, asking for input on what movie to show.
“What about Indiana Jones?” she asked
One mother simply rejected
the suggested title. The other two mothers (including me) used the opportunity
to pontificate on exactly what makes
a movie inappropriate (basically to prove what awesome mothers we are).
“I don’t mind the
occasional swear as much as I mind the sex,” one chimed in.
The response: “I’m more
worried about the language and violence, I feel like sex goes right over their
Then everyone started
throwing out movies, and even though I think I’m the prudest of them all, every
movie I suggested was shot down.
What about Ghostbusters? There’s a scene where a
ghost gives Bill Murray a blow job. Oops, forgot about that. Airplane? “That’s even worse,” one
mother retorted. “One of the characters has a blow-up doll girlfriend.” I did
remember that, but hadn’t really taken in the sexist implications. I guess
that’s not a great message.
What are we really trying to avoid here?
Naked Gun? There are “beaver” jokes.
Space Balls? Not that funny.
School of Rock? Adult themes.
Back to the Future? One child had already seen it.
The verdict? Drum roll
please: National Treasure. The least
offensive denominator, most mutually acceptable film we could come up with was
a Nicolas Cage history drama. There’s got to be more to childhood.
I don’t know what I think
of this whole dialogue. Part of me wants to puke from the hyper-vigilant
parenting of it all, and part of me appreciates that people are actually
thinking about how impressionable kids are. But what are we really trying to
Nightmares? Totally get
that. I have one kid who could have a bad dream about anything; she’s woken up
in tears and a cold sweat because she
dreamed someone took her spot at the lunch table. My son, on the other hand,
seems to have escaped all nocturnal issues. He’s never wet his bed, never had a
nightmare (maybe once), and doesn’t need a blankie or a nightlight or water at
But maybe it’s not just
nightmares we’re worried about. What would seeing a bunch of kissing do to a 9-year-old? Or hearing some boner jokes? Will he have sex earlier than other
boys? Will he objectify women? Will he start locking his bedroom door to
masturbate? I’m not terribly psyched about any of the above.
I wasn’t allowed to see
any R-rated movies until I was 17, when it was officially legal. Of course no
one was ever carded at the movies, especially the ones I wanted to see: The Breakfast Club, Class, Flashdance, St. Elmo’s Fire, Risky Business. For the most part, I stuck to the rules and missed
most of the movies that defined my generation.
It was extremely annoying
to have these restrictions as an adolescent and preteen, and I swore to myself
I would never impose the same rules on my children. That, and going to Sunday
school. But I’m doing exactly that, almost more so. It feels right, but it also
feels self-indulgent on my part. Am I not trusting of culture, or not trusting
of my children’s ability to handle culture?