The other day, I was in the kitchen doing kitcheny-type things (dishes or preparing dinner, I can’t remember which), when DD came up beside me and said something that sounded like the word “sex”. I paused, turned towards her and calmly said, “Excuse me?” She looked at me with a huge grin on her face and said – much louder and more clearly – “SEX!” It’s at this point that I think I made a face much like Ferris Bueller, whenever he gave a glance at the fourth-wall. Uh…
It seems that the little miss, inspired by the kid-requested heavy rotation of the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack, had decided to latch onto the word “sex” from the Treblemakers’ cover of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” during the “Riff-Off” medley. Hmm. At this point, I took a quick breath and decided to explain that sex is something between two consenting adults in a committed relationship and how the song is about wanting to TALK about sex before actually DOING anything that would ruin a relationship. Her eyes glazed over and she wandered off, fairly bored and having her sex balloon completely deflated. Score 1 for me?
[Of course, I don’t think that my description of sex is a 100% accurate case; there are plenty of folks who’ve had more than 2 people involved, and “adults” is a bit of a strong term, and “committed” is a state of mind and and and…but I wasn’t in it for accuracy; I was aiming to get her to think it was more than just a game, like “Monopoly Junior”.]
DD has seen movies aplenty before, mostly in the house, and I even screened “Pitch Perfect” for her fairly recently. And sure, the movie has a few mature things in it here and there – but that’s the whole “P” in “PG” – parental guidance. I remember seeing “No Way Out” with my father, on VHS no less, and he sent me out of the room when the infamous limo scene came on. He then called me back out and replayed the scene, explaining that it was a 3 out of 10 in terms of sexual content. Apparently, he was so disappointed in it, he didn’t care that I saw it. I think I found it rather silly back then, and something tells me I’d now find it as laughable as the pool sex scene in “Showgirls”.
Of course, this SEX thing happened in the same week where I took ds to his first movie in the theater. He’s seen movies before, at home, but this was the first time I was taking him outside of our four walls in order to catch a flick. He was excited about the prospect of seeing “Planes” (TALKING CARS AND TALKING PLANES, MOMMY!!!), so I took both of the kids for a show. While he was fine during the movie, I wasn’t even sure that he would make it that far: he lost his nut during the trailers. The very first trailer was for “Free Birds”, an animated feature about a pair of turkeys that try to go back in time to the very first Thanksgiving to get turkey taken “off the menu”.
There’s a scene in the trailer where the more militant turkey (voiced by Woody Harrelson) is squaring off against the happy-go-lucky turkey pardoned by the President for Thanksgiving (voiced by Owen Wilson). When Wilson’s turkey draws a line in the dirt and says not to cross it, Harrelson’s turkey slaps him. Repeatedly. It’s a funny scene, for adults, and dd seemed to enjoy it. DS saw the first slap and IMMEDIATELY turned on the waterworks. He just lost it completely.
I pulled him onto my seat and immediately started cuddling with him, kissing him, stroking his hair, and generally trying all of the tricks that one uses when trying to calm your child. I was really grateful that we were in a fairly empty matinée attended only by people with similarly-aged children; I’m sure that the other parents heard ds and thought, “There but for the grace of God go I…”, much as I do whenever I’m the one with the well-behaved kid, hearing some other kid completely losing it.
And so this all makes me wonder: what age IS the right age to introduce these things? Cartoonish violence, like that of the “Free Bird” trailer, seems perfectly acceptable to me, but I was raised on “Looney Tunes” cartoons. ACME anvils, Wile E. Coyote’s thousand-foot drops into canyons, and point-blank rifle explosions into Elmer Fudd’s face were the norm. None of it was considered real. Wait 15 minutes, and another cartoon will come on showing the same character, back exactly as they were before whatever befell them in the prior cartoon. As much as I love “Marvel’s The Avengers”, I’m absolutely not ready to show that to my kids because the violence is way too much. And the profanity and references to sex in “Pitch Perfect” went blissfully high over dd’s head (or were edited out/explained by me, so as to gloss over them).
Given the dearth of G-rated films in the movie houses these days, I feel like I’m backed into a corner to either live on a steady diet of DVDs or take them to/show them movies that are in the PG range…and ds’ sensitivity may preclude a lot of his viewings. Trying to get a sense of whether it was just that movie or all violence in general, I did play about an hour of “Looney Tunes” for the kids this past weekend, and both kids saw Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Gossamer and Marvin the Martian in some of their most famous pieces. Both laughed. There was no crying whatsoever.
So, maybe it was just that trailer. Or, maybe it was that ds was extra-sensitive from being hungry, since he hadn’t yet really plowed into his food at that point. Or, maybe still, part of what we need to do – much as my dad did for me with that lukewarm sex scene in “No Way Out” – is pick what we think is good enough for acclimating them to the stuff gradually, so they will eventually make their way to the harder stuff they’ll really want to see in later years. I can’t figure what the perfect approach is, but for now I’ll just labor under the impression that letting them pick the pace at which they “progress” up the ratings scale will probably work far better…and just help them along the way as I can. Honestly, I’m not sure what else I can – or should – do, when faced with so few new feature options that are free of sex and violence.
And yes, I know that Bambi’s mother got shot in, like, the first 10 minutes of that movie, and Scar is a scary lion, and Maleficent is a scary witch and…OMG NOTHING IS SAFE. Oh just forget it. I think I’ll just put “CARS” on repeat. Don’t mind me.