Monday, July 12, 2010

Child Appropriate Killing

The other night, I was asking my 21 year old about whether he would recommend "Iron Man" for family viewing.  Our family includes our seven year old.  "Sure," he replied, "I mean, its got some violence but only child appropriate killing."

That phrase immediately struck me.  What does that mean?  It means what it says, "Child Appropriate Killing." 

We didn't rent that movie. 

A few days later, our seven year old was watching a movie we purchased for him some months before.  He'd seen it several times.  I stopped to watch a few minutes as I passed through the den.  It was "Spy Next Door" with Jackie Chan.  In the scenes I saw, some bad guy had Chan and some children tied up.  He was pointing a gun at Chan's head threatening to kill them all.  Chan got loose and beat up the bad guys.  Just a few scenes later, another bad guy had a gun pointed a Chan's head telling him that the bad guy will do Chan a favor;  the bad guy will kill Chan first so that Chan doesn't have to watch the bad guy killing the kids.

This is supposed to be a kids' movie.  It was marketed as a kids' movie.  And our kids are supposed to process bad guys killing them?  Is that child appropriate killing?

Some folks will certainly argue that I'm getting all worked up over some harmless violence.  (Now there's an oxymoron if every I heard one.)  That a little dramatic killing or threats of killing doesn't harm anyone. 

There's enough bad stuff in real life that I have no idea why we want to fantasize about more bad stuff.  Is this thanatos at work?  Is this our collective death wish?  Certainly, all our exposure to fantasy violence over the years has not made the crime rate get any better.  Maybe we ought to explore our seemingly constant flirtation with the dark side and give it a long rest, starting with the children.

I'm not asserting "the innocence of child hood."  I'm not saying that the children have to be protected from bad things.  As parents, we do our level best to protect our children from bad things happening to them.  But I am not an advocate of sugar coating the world for the kiddies.  The Gulf Oil Spill?  Bad.  War? Bad.  Murder? Bad.  Not nonexistent, but existent and bad.  And kids have a need and a right to know about that.

I'm not even an advocate of sparing the children of the news of divorce and the particulars as it relates to them.  Many children grow up under far worse conditions.  And the divorce should actually make life better, no more fighting, or just about as brutal,  deathly silence in the home. 

I'm a straight out advocate for sharing reality.

But this fantasy we have, this license we allow to expose ourselves and our children to to mock violence borders on the pornographic.  Our culture is saturated in fantasy violence and plenty to go around for the children, safely rated in the PG variety.  For me, I cannot fathom anything that would constitute child appropriate killing.

Now, enough of tonight's rant.  Me and the family have to get back to watching "Avatar."

Michael Manely


  1. Hey, Michael. 'Good observations, but have you seen some of these killing 'games' that our young play on their computers? It seems to me that they are training activities for our new weapons, video screen targeting from helicopters and remotely controlled drones. As we continue to build walls of prejudice and misunderstanding instead of bridges of compassion and caring, we are arming our children to battle dispassionately from video screens and monitors. It is not an optimistic vision for the future.