Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Krep for Kids

No, I have not read the book.

I have seen a few of the movies featured in it, however. And I would not let my tender-hearted children see any of them. And I would not watch them again, because I know what’s in them.

Hearing that cute, cherubic little boy uttering “Yippie kay-yay mother” with the expletive either left out of the book or left out of the book trailer (and I have to hope it’s left out of the book, but given the premise here, I’m not too certain) is evidence enough for me this book won’t be coming into our house.

I admit I’m no bluenose. I listen to Louis CK. I listen to Jon Stewart and his bleeped-out profanities. And most of the time I fill them in, in my head. I probably shouldn’t be listening to either. So I am a hypocrite. And a prig who has not seen the book in question and is condemning it without seeing it.

I’ve seen enough.

But it’s also hypocritical to work on childrens’ movies – some of the best being made, mind you – and then make an R-rated childrens’ book on the side.

Should we really celebrate introducing our children to such dreck?

You might argue that kids are gonna see this stuff anyway. The average kid, you’ll say, has seen thousands of murders on television. Has heard the F-bomb dropped on television, and at school.

Allow my kids to be not average.

Our kids don’t watch TV like the average kid does, unsupervised or with daddy gleefully enjoying the gore and bullets and bleepity-bleeps along with the kiddies. They don’t play violent video games. And while they may hear Daddy utter an occasional dammit or shit, they certainly have never heard the F-bomb, or heard God’s name taken in vain out of Mommy or Daddy’s lips. And what they hear at school, we discuss as a family, as inappropriate.

How can we rail against violence in schools, from Columbine to Newtown, but not rail against violence in the media we allow our children to consume? How is a cutesy Inappropriate Golden Book appropriate? I dislike the NRA and their logic that guns don’t cause violence. I dislike parents who think it’s cute and appropriate to introduce their kids to even slightly sanitized versions of violent and graphic movies under the logic that it’s nothing worse than what they’re going to see in a few years anyway and it’s a way for Daddy to innocently share his love of watching violent films with kids who should have their heads filled with other stuff, rather than the image of someone feeding a leg through a wood chopper, a naked lady being stabbed in the shower or some fool about to pound a nail into another person’s head.

Call me a hypocritical bluenose. It’s an epithet I will wear with pride.

Want to defend this guy? He’s also getting ready to market an international set of misogynistic playing cards.

Ha ha! Hark at the cuteness. I can’t wait to play Go Fish! with my kids with this deck.

And yes, there is violence in “kids’” books and stories. At Christmastime I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” to my kids. And they were very concerned when Aslan died. They also got to see their Daddy in tears as he read that part of the story, and they also got the next chapter the same night. We discuss the violence. They see appropriate reactions from their parents. They do not see a parent cheering because someone on screen just died in an artsy or cinematographic way, thus getting the message that hey, this is cool. We can talk about why Bambi’s mother had to die or why Dumbo’s mom was locked away as a psychotic and have a better thing to say than, well, he was in the way of the bad guy, so he had to go.

The Academy of Pediatrics has this to say: “More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.”

And researchers writing for the Journal of the American Medical Association have this to say:

[T]here were significant, if modest, overall positive effect sizes showing that exposure to media violence was positively related to subsequent aggressive behavior, aggressive ideas, arousal, and anger. Additionally, there was a significant negative effect of exposure to violence on subsequent helping behavior.

In other words, the more violence a child sees, the more he or she is apt to react violently. It’s like muscle memory. As primates, we tend to categorize the things we see as ways to react when we find ourselves in similar situations. The more situations we see resolved with violence, the more apt we are to react violently when we encounter those situations. Conversely, the more violence a child sees, the less likely he or she is to react in a positive, helpful manner when stressful situations occur.

And before you dismiss the science, remember that these same correlations have been repeated in study after study since the 1970s. Deny them, and you’re in the same camp as global warming deniers dismissing decades of study proving the world is warming and humans are the cause of it.

Don’t want to focus on the science? Fine. Focus on what the Academy of Pediatrics says in this little snippet: significant exposure to violence makes children think the world is a “meaner, scarier place” than it actually is. Maybe violent movies won’t incite them to violence. Maybe they won’t go gun up their school. I hope they don’t, and the vast majority probably will not. But do we really need more people going into the world thinking it’s meaner and scarier than it actually is? That’s paranoia. I’d rather have this:

Or this:

Their fantasies are often very different than the truth, he says. Sounds familiar.

Have my kids seen murders? Yes. They’ve seen Obi-Wan Kenobi die. They’ve seen Qui-gon Jinn and Darth Maul die. They’ve heard the Emperor scream as he falls down that shaft, shooting lightning bolts all the way. They’ve seen cute little Ewoks die. But those who believe these stories are the same as the ones depicted in Movies R Fun, stand on your head.

Maybe, like us, you’ll explain these movies to your kids in open court, rather than letting them watch them in camera. I hope so.

I hope as well we could see more stories conclude like this.

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