Posts tagged " movies "

When Loving Children Isn’t Enough

November 6th, 2013 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 11 comments

My husband and I flew home from Dallas a short while ago
after a week filled with appearances, including our multi-day presentation on
marriage and money. Two tired travelers, an evening flight and a crowded plane
suggested that zoning out was the best strategy. I had never heard of the movie
being shown, Way, Way Back, but watching it seemed a good way to ignore
my narrow-seated reality.

Instead, it made me realize a new reality of today’s world.
The movie, described as a “poignant coming of age” film, featured a number of
adolescents. All of them were children of divorce and all of them had parents
who put themselves ahead of their children. The kids were sad and troubled—not
because growing up is challenging—but because of their parents’ self-centered choices.

These were not abusive parents. They seemed the type of
mothers and fathers who might well make the statement, “I’d throw myself under
a bus for my kid.” While, they might choose their child’s life over their own
if confronted by such a dilemma, what they would not sacrifice was their own sex
life. If this movie reflects reality at all, today, the right to sexual
activity is more sacred than the ties between even mothers and children. Each
of the teenagers in the movie felt rejected by one parent and ignored by the
other as the adults who were supposed to love them put their own search for new
relationships ahead of their children. The strangest thing was that these
parents seemed utterly unaware that this narcissism was causing deep damage.
Without stretching too far, you could even say it was a form of child
abuse.  Statistics that reveal the number
of children living with adults who are not either their parent or married to
their parent, or whose parents have ‘friends’ stay overnight, suggests that the
movie reflects reality.

Even granting that seeing a movie on a plane makes it less
attractive than usual, none of the parents in this film seemed appealing. That
is not the case for the character of Sarah Braverman in the popular show Parenthood.
Played by Lauren Graham, she is attractive and funny, and her love for her
children shines through. Yet, after marrying poorly, thus providing them with
an alcoholic, irresponsible father, she repeatedly hurts her children as her
personal life takes priority over them. She is incapable of ignoring the pull
of affection and sex, leading her, for example, to sleep with her daughter’s
high school teacher and to uproot her son and move him to her fiancé’s
apartment (though the sexual tug to her boss will end that relationship).
Somehow, Sarah’s desperate desire to be a good mother ends at the point that
she might actually choose sexual and emotional celibacy for herself to protect
her children.

The show doesn’t gloss over the damage to the children,
including an alcoholic car wreck involving her daughter and her son’s excruciating
emotional pain. Both these results directly stem from their mother’s actions.
Yet, none of the other adults in her life force her to acknowledge the
disconnect between her maternal feelings and her selfish behavior. Is it
possible that the adults and teenagers watching the show also don’t see that
this woman needs to tell herself that her role as mother means she must carefully
weigh up the call of that part of her own life against her children’s best
interests until they become healthy adults?

There certainly would be damage as well if the relationships
shown in the above shows were chaste. The message to the child would still be,
“I come first.” Nevertheless, it is clear in the above situations, the
inability to master sexual urges or the lack of understanding that having
dinner with someone is quite different from sleeping with them, propels
relationships more quickly and less thoughtfully. No one even seems to see that
disrupting the children’s living arrangements makes them less secure and comfortable.
Have we truly reached the point in society where we have bought into the
message that as long as you are protected from pregnancy and STDs, sex can
cause no harm? Have we seriously elevated the right to sexual activity above
our obligations to love, protect and cherish our young? 

The movie on the plane did help pass the time. It also left
me amazed at reviews that cited funny lines or heart-tugging scenes but left
unmentioned the appalling cruelty by parents living in a society that
celebrates social mores that inflict cruel and unusual punishments on our

Is this a trend that you have also noticed?


Over 21 Only

December 21st, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Film critic Roger Ebert is proposing that since today’s youth are regularly exposed to profanity, sex and violence, the Motion Picture Association of America should revamp the movie rating system. Aside from the easy availability of anything and everything on computers, he correctly says that with multiplex cinemas it is simple to buy a ticket for one PG-13 rated show and head to an R rated one instead. In his words, “It’s time to get pragmatic about this.”

Perhaps our reaction to these facts should be exactly the opposite. After all, I don’t see proposals floated to admit that we’ve lost the war on obesity and should stop trying to do anything about it. I haven’t seen the argument made that we should simply acknowledge that Americans do not have an educational system that compares with many other countries around the world and rather than try to improve, we should just change requirements for graduation. We certainly didn’t shrug our shoulders about cigarette consumption a few decades ago and let it be. 

Like obesity or illiteracy, being exposed to gratuitous sex, profanity and violence, particularly at a young age, causes damage. I dare say there are enough social scientists and studies that could supply data to support that claim. If that is the case, perhaps we should indeed change the ratings, but in the opposite direction of what Mr. Ebert suggests. Perhaps, like alcohol, more movies should be restricted to an over 21 group. Then, just as happens in stores that sell liquor, government agents could send minors to buy movie tickets and fine theaters that neglect to ask for ID. To stop multiplex hopping, we could legislate that theatres that want to cater to the under 21 crowd cannot at the same time offer any restricted movies. We could draw the lines more firmly, not less.

Actually, those are terrible ideas. I’d like to see less government intrusion in our lives, not more. However, I do think it is valid to ask why as a society, we’re supposed to “get pragmatic” about some things while micro-managing others. If government involvement is required so that you can’t buy a soda without knowing how many calories are in it, why should it be excluded from other areas? Somehow the movie industry is immune to government tinkering. When businesses outsource because costs are less, newspapers castigate them as selfish and evil. Do studios make movies in Canada to avoid paying union salaries? Silence reigns.

Factories use power in order to produce their goods and TV shows expose them as ‘evil polluter’ However, I never hear rebuke of TV and movie production which possess carbon footprints bigger than King Kong’s.

We seem eerily comfortable with government intrusion into our lives under the guise of protecting our bodies, but we are inexplicably uncomfortable when that protection touches a moral issue. If a fifteen year-old gets into a liquor store, you’d think the sky fell in. If the same child gets into an NC-17 movie theater, well; that’s just reality.

Teen pregnancies, eating disorders, cutting, bullying and assorted other ills are not unrelated to a culture that the entertainment industry promotes. These phenomena have real impact on people’s lives, just as diabetes or cancer do. They impact our economy as well. If legislation is valid to ban cigarette advertising in magazines or to get soft drinks out of high schools, then rather than saying, as Mr. Ebert does, “It’s time to admit we’ve lost our innocence,” maybe movies need to be targeted by the regulatory gun just as much as other businesses.

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