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Your Kids Watched What?

  I was born in 1975. That means I was a youngster right around the time that vcr's and cable became things that even poorer families were starting to be able to afford. This had the effect of making movies that kids before had little access to easily watchable by them. Many parents didn't pay a lot of attention to what their kids watched. Some didn't think they'd actually show anything inappropriate on television, even cable, or have those movies out to rent in the video store. Some just didn't care what their kids watched. Before I was 13 years old I had seen Revenge of the Nerds, Emmanuelle, Porky's, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Hellraiser, 9 1/2 Weeks, Body Heat, Robocop, Dawn of the Dead, and dozens upon dozens of movies that parents would never let their kids watch now.

How do I know they wouldn't? I listen to them. I have had parents tell me in shock at how they let their kids watch Ghostbusters, only to discover to their horror that in this beloved children's classic there are people smoking cigarettes. I am always a little bewildered by this, since I saw so much worse than this. And do they think that if their kid spots Bill Murray with a cigarette dangling from his mouth they will immediately run out and start puffing on the old cancer sticks? This brings up the chicken and egg argument. Do people smoke because of the smoking in movies, or is there smoking in movies because people smoke? Are people violent because of the violence in movies or is there violence in movies because people are violent? Does art reflect society or shape it? I think good art can do both.

Of course everyone has their own standards. I myself declined to let my kids see Robocop until they were older, after a rewatch reminded me how bloody that movie is. But there is a part of me that wonders if we don't overprotect kids now. Soon after I grew up there were channels devoted solely to kids that had "safe" programming. So they weren't exposed to the flesh eating monsters or (even worse to some) the flesh. But now our culture seems overly sensitive to a lot of things. Maybe if everyone had grown up watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, no one would be getting their panties in a twist about drag shows. Maybe if more people has seen The World According To Garp there wouldn't be so much fear and confusion about trans people. Of course if more people had watched First Blood and fewer Rambo, maybe we'd have fewer people who romanticize guns and gun violence. Or maybe this is all so much nonsense, I'm not a political or social scientist. I'm just a guy who loves movies and who thinks it's a shame they have gotten so sanitized over the years. Of course, reverting to the chicken and egg argument, are movies more bland because people are so sensitive, or are people more sensitive because movies are so bland? In the end, everything I have written is so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.


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