Monday, June 24, 2013

Guarding Innocence

I don't really do many reviews or the like around here, a lot of really great bloggers do, but, I don't, mostly because I don't really like to do that sort of thing and, uh, well ... no one has asked me.  However, we watched a movie tonight that was pretty good, spectacular, really, Rise of The Guardians.

I get a lot of grief from a younger generation of bloggers on my position about Star Wars and the endless supply of movies and merchandise it has spawned, because I think my kids are too young to see them.  In fact I was included in this white paper on Dorkdaddy on the right age to expose your kids to these movies.  I voted never, and I had a lot of snarky and flip reasons why.  You can take a look if you want, I'll wait...

Tonight though, as we watched this movie, I blundered upon what I would guess was the real reason I don't want my kids to watch jacked-up overly- amped movies like the trilogy and so many others:  What the hell are the going to expect later?  I mean if they see these highly engaging, boisterous, crazy funny, clever and cloyingly didactic spectacles as EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS, what on earth is going to satisfy them as teenagers, let alone adults?

I mean, really, I didn't have anywhere to go but up from reruns of Petticoat Junction and Gilligan's Island, both excellent and exciting (read sexy) shows but hardly "epic," as Zack described tonight's movie.  Speed Racer had nothing on that super-charged sleigh Santa was rocking in Rise, and Bambi seems mundane in comparison to dancing penguins and talking Zebras.

So often, when I mention - and subsequently am made to defend - the position that I think a lot of movies kids see today are way beyond them, visually, contextually and, frankly, metaphorically, I am made to feel like some under-mediaed Luddite who wandered out of Norman Rockwell's studio and was hit with a turnip truck.  I ain't.  I get it - these movies are exciting and creative and, well, epic.  They fire us up and get us very excited and anxious and ... a kid doesn't need that.


A kid needs to learn storytelling from Aurthur, before he can take on the complex moral ambiguity that is paramount to the plot - which is believing in Santa and The Tooth Fairy and Mr. Sandman and Jack (whateverhappenedtohim) Frost so hard so the evil Bogeyman won't take all the light and joy and wonder and happiness away from the children of the world.  Hell, Nick just wants everyone to be happy and sincerely hopes George wins the chess match.

A kid needs to dream of becoming a fireman or a veterinarian or dream of having their own restaurant before he can aspire to Defender of The Universe.

He's got to understand the dangers of a house fire and lightning before he can begin to understand the fiction that is an exploding man-made planet (I am such a loser, the DeathStar, is it?) or flying fortresses that fall, assuredly killing everyone.

He's got to cope with Old Yeller's death or Aunt Bee's little drinking problem before he can handle who Luke's Father is/was.

A boy needs heroes and hopes, dreams and love, pain and humility, humor and failure all explained to him very carefully.  Plopping a kid in front of a sixty inch plasma TV and showing him movies that you loved as a teen or young adult, hoping to "pass it on" to him does not serve that child well.

Folks tell me times have changed, that kids are exposed to so much more so much earlier, that they can handle it.  The internet and mass-media have changed how much stuff we see and, mathematically, because a lot of kids watch a gazillion minutes a week of it, they are ready for these things a lot younger.

Yeah, I agree, times have changed but, the heart of a little child hasn't.  It isn't their fault times have changed, it isn't their fault we forget to let them be little, naive, joyful and free.

I know this position will annoy some folks, and, that's fine.  I also know that some folks know exactly what I am saying.  The folks who feel that guarding innocence is more valuable than passing a few hours and checking off a movie, or seven, off of some foisted-upon them childhood bucket list.  I know that people long for less violence and more decency, fewer explosions and more hugs, not for themselves, but for their kids.


Speaking of Mayberry innocence, we went to a Columbus Clippers game the other night, we had a lot of fun, as much fun as we had last year.  On the car ride home, after the boys read for a while and looked out the windows and chatted, they had a little improv between their stuffed bears, Bear-Bear and Barry.  I didn't catch most of it, I was driving and listening to classic Country thinking how odd it was that I knew all the words to all the songs, and I don't really multi-task, but, when we got home and had everything put away, the little dudes made these:

The Beartown Claws played last night, minor league team, but they do have their own "platypus limo."

Zack also made this, the cryptographers are still working on it; they think it's significant:

As I walked by the dining room table, where so much of this nonsense foments, Nick held up this piece of paper:

It says the same thing on the other side:

He thought that was really funny.

It's weird here.

From  Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

Z: “When I level up, I get the carrier.”
N: “When I level up, I get the chicken.
You know, the gun chicken.
He has guns on his wings ...
... and on his beak.
The gun chicken.”

(Why do I feel there is a theme song coming?)

The gun chicken, dumbass...


  1. I understand what you're saying, and of course, each parent does his own thing according to what he feels is right for his kids. I'll just say that, for me, it felt like the right time for my boy to watch it when he was 5, and for my girl to watch it with him when she was 3.

    First, the girl--it didn't matter what age she saw it, because she was too young to get the drama. She thinks it's a comedy ("Dark Vader's friends fell! To the ground!" and "My favorite in Star Wars in Babba the Hat!").

    It's more complicated with the 5-year-old, because he understand that people die in the movie. In the end, I chose to show it to him because I saw it in the theater when I was 5, and I loved it. Hey, that's the fun part of having kids--getting to relive our childhood. And although people die and suffer, there's magically no blood (unless I missed it), so that's something.

  2. I saw Guardians and have to say it was one of the BEST kids movies I've seen in a while. Which says a lot. I love the double meanings of many of the characters and the animation was fantastic.

  3. I totally appreciate what you're saying. Sharing something with my oldest -- he's 4 -- is an impulse that I fight fairly often. But I'm with Oren. These are by-the-kid kind of judgement calls rather than unilateral decisions.

    YouTube has been a help. Jack sees so much just from being around that I can cherry pick scenes of movies and shows that I feel are appropriate to watch with him, rather than plunk him down for the full movie.

    Where I disagree with you is Guardians. That one just missed me totally and completely.

  4. I identify with the heart of what you're saying. I do look forward to sharing Star Wars with Addison, as both my wife and I loved it growing up...but it won't be real soon. And I agree, there is something sad about a generation that might find older classics "boring" because they've gotten so used to movies that are amped up on the PCP of computer animation and facilitate short attention spans.

    Still, and while each kid is different, it seems to me that kids "get" a lot of things that we don't expect, and that they can have surprising intuition and thoughtfulness about life even when we don't deliberately teach it to them or explain it to them. I'm with you on limiting the violence we show to kids (Wreck-it Ralph, for instance, is not something I'll have Addison watch anytime soon), but I think she's already a pretty capable defender of the universe.