Author’s Note: I wrote this column a full week before the horrific Aurora, Colorado shootings. It’s not an indictment of anyone who went to see the Batman movie or a commentary on the sicko who committed the crime. It’s merely something to think about the next time we choose a movie for our children to watch. I’m just sayin’.
The following was a recent exchange between an acquaintance and my son.
The Mom: "Star Wars" is my favorite movie.
My Son: I’ve never seen "Star Wars".
The Mom: You haven’t??? How old are you?
My Son: Eight.
The Mom: You have to see it!
My Son: I’m not into violence.
The Mom: Oh, it’s not violent.
My Son: Don’t people fight and get killed?
The Mom: Well, yessss….
Just for the record, I haven’t brainwashed my child against "Star Wars" or any action movies, for that matter. I did teach him, however, that there’s nothing fun about violence. He grew up without action figures, so he only learned of their existence from the backpacks of his pre-school buddies. But without the early conditioning, he found them to be about as appealing as Barbie dolls. So while other boys his age are lining up to see Spider-Man or Batman, our theater trips are still to the likes of "Cars 2", "Chipwrecked", and "The Muppets". (Ok, that last one was for us, too.) Sure, we would’ve preferred our night to include "The Avengers" rather than sitting through "Madagascar 3", but I’m not about to complain that he prefers goofy fun over world domination.
After hearing this mother’s denial of "Star Wars" as violent, I had to wonder, has violence become so pervasive that it no longer registers with us? Have we become so numb to it that we don’t think anything of introducing our children to it at a very young age? I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with playing good guys vs. bad guys (as long as my kid wants to be the good guy). I just wonder why we seem to push our kids towards experiencing violent images on screen at such a tender age or buy them toys that glorify it. Some parents might be excited to share their favorite movies or characters with their kids, but chances are they were our favorites when we were 12 or 13, not five or six. And think how many more movies they watch than we did as kids with their limitless access to DVD’s. There’s such an outcry about the types of food we give our children, but what about what we’re feeding their minds? I’d much rather give my son an occasional Chicken McNugget than let him sit through a film with lots of killing and call it entertainment.
I’m not a crusader against violence in films. I’m a fan of "Goodfellas" and "Pulp Fiction", among others. But I saw those movies as an adult when I could assimilate them into my existing world. If children grow up constantly seeing violence in movies, then the violence they eventually see on the news might not be such a big deal, either. That’s just life, right? Oh, well. How do we teach kids, boys in particular, that violence is unacceptable when we’re spoon feeding it to them from the time they’re two?
If I’ve got to sit through endless animated sequels because that’s what my peace-loving son prefers, I will happily do so. "Madagascar 7", bring it on!