Tag Archives: television

Sex, Drugs, Violence And Dirty Words

My son and I sat down to watch a classic movie with a PG rating – Beetlejuice.  

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

I had fond memories of the 1988 movie – the Tim Burtonesque feel, the comic genius of Michael Keaton, and the Banana Boat Song.  And it was not even a PG-13 film like Iron Man or The Avengers – both of which he saw and I had no problem with.

I had forgotten a few critical scenes, words, and concepts my son might not have been ready to take in.  I had forgotten a PG rating in the 1980s could be just this side of an R rating.  Watching it again, I wonder if Beetlejuice should have been rated PG-13.

I began talking with other dads about this.  There was the one who showed his son The Bad News Bears having forgotten about the amount of language and drinking in that PG film.

We have also talked about our tendency, especially with our boys, to afford more leniency with violence than we do sex and nudity.  How can we show them Braveheart and The Patriot because of the overarching story and message and turn our heads at the brutality, violence and blood?

I have another friend who will allow for a moderate level of violence in the media his son consumes, but draws the line when the story involves the mistreatment and disrespect of women.  But even those story lines can provide great opportunity for conversation about the consequences of being a jerk toward women.

So, what is the right answer?  Do we let the Motion Picture Association of America decide what our kids can watch based on their age and MPAA guidelines?  Do we say “no” to everything with adult content?  Do we shelter our kids as long as we can?

I do not have all the answers and, frankly, have quite a few questions.

Even if I censor the content at home, my son still goes to school, still visits friends (with older siblings), still rides in the car and sees billboards for local adult boutiques and Captain Morgan Rum.

I want to hear what you think, but here is my attempt to develop some boundaries:

  • Stay engaged in your kids’ lives and know what media they consume.  This seems like the first, logical step.  Ignorance is not bliss.
  • Educate yourself on the content they want to consume.  I routinely use sites like IMDB, Kids-In-Mind, and Common Sense Media to get reviews and recommendations about the content my son consumes.  He usually knows which films I will say “no” to, but often I need more information – especially if I have not seen it before and want a sense about what he will see.  Some of the sites even give you topics to discuss following the movie.
  • They probably know what you watch, so do not be surprised if they think the same content is OK for them.  In the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do category, our kids take cues from us, so if you do not want them watching horror movies, you may want to reconsider your Friday the 13th movie marathon.  They can see the “recently watched” shows on Netflix just like you can.
  • Engage in the discussion with your kids.   I remember watching a movie called Phantasm at a friend’s house when I was in late elementary or early junior high.  For whatever reason, I could barely go get the mail in broad daylight for several days after seeing it.  I was just waiting for the Tall Man to jump out from behind a tree or show up behind me when I looked in a mirror.  I have told my son about that experience, and it may have tempered his desire to watch a horror movie…for the time being.  Be honest about why you set boundaries on the movies they watch and let it be a conversation, not just a lecture.

What limits have you set on movie/TV content for your kids?  How do you approach the subject with them?

Life Lessons From Saturday Morning TV

What television show you loved as a kid did not quite live up to the memory when you saw it one night on TV Land?

I have had this experience – especially some of the old Sid and Marty Krofft shows from Saturday morning. What could possibly go wrong with Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors as robots piloting a flying saucer? (Yes, I’m that old).

When I was about seven, one show really captured my imagination and provided source material for hours and hours of play with my friends and me. The story involved another boy who stumbled across a secret and was given the power of six immortals – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. The show was SHAZAM! I not only watched the show, but had the comic books as well.photo-3

Fast forward nearly 40 years and I heard the studio released the show on DVD.

I ordered the series on DVD in 2014 hoping to share a little of my childhood with my son. The package arrived and it only took a moment to look at the jacket art to know this show would probably not age well.

With some trepidation, I put in the first disc, called in my son, and pressed play.

What shocked me was how much he engaged with the show. Yes, he chuckled at some of the “special effects” and did not always understand the cultural references from the early 1970s when the show was filmed, but the stories went deeper.

Today’s superhero movies have amazing special effects, compelling super villains, A-list actors, and reams of source material to draw stories from.

But my son seemed to connect with SHAZAM! because the hero, Captain Marvel, did not fight super villains, but instead interacted with everyday people (mostly kids and teens) facing everyday issues like peer pressure, bullying, not fitting in, and the occasional car thief.

The show addressed issues and questions my son had either asked or could imagine himself asking. The show sparked conversation about why people do bad things and how to make better choices.

We do not have the same conversations after today’s superhero blockbusters – we talk about the big battle scenes or the funny lines.

But following those 25 minute episodes of SHAZAM!, we had some good talks about making good choices, how we treat friends and family, and the consequences of telling what seems like a small, white lie.

I hear DC Comics will make a movie adaptation to be released in 2019 starring The Rock as the super villain (of sorts), Black Adam. Whether or not the movie ever happens, I expect the green screen effects will blow us all away, but I wonder if the story will connect with those important questions our kids ask about everyday life.

What show from your childhood have you shared with your kids? What was the reaction? What source material do you use to assist you in teaching your kids moral tales (Aesop’s Fables and the like)?

Learning to sit down

I don’t even remember exactly what I was doing. Probably laundry.  Maybe something more frivolous, like gathering trash from around the house to take to the curb for Tuesday garbage pickup.  Who knows.

What I remember very clearly was my son sitting alone on the couch with his favorite stuffed animal and blanket.  He was winding down.  Homework was done.  Teeth brushed.  He even flossed.  He was occupied and I could get stuff done.

Photo Credit: treefell via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: treefell via Compfight cc

He was watching something – probably Phineas and Ferb (one of my personal favorites), but he wanted company – he wanted dad to sit and pay attention to him.

“DAD!  Please sit with me.”  

He didn’t use many words, but they had an impact.  I immediately thought to myself, “but I have to get all these chores done, when will I do them if not now?”

Fortunately, some additional synapses fired immediately after that thought.  My son just asked me to sit down next to him, to pay attention to him, to put my arm around him and cuddle with him.  He was giving me permission to quit doing chores and sit and watch TV with him…to join him in his world.  I’m glad I did.

Time, touch, and attention.  We both needed it, and a child’s need for those should always trump a chore you can do later.