Saturday, January 22, 2011

I don't know your kid - my (longwinded) thoughts on censorship.

One thing I've come across in two of the jobs I've held (movie theatre, video store) is parents who want to censor their children, but don't really know how, and seek my advice in doing so.

 I need to say: I'm not a fan of censorship. I believe that people reach a certain age (and not necessarily the "18" the government and film board believe) where there's just no sense sheltering them anymore.

The problem is, that age varies depending on the individual. For example, I was never censored in what I watched/read/listened to. I used to get ridiculously scared when someone would get stabbed or hacked in movies, and mom would consistently repeat, "It's not real, you know." It took me a few years to catch on to this fact, but eventually, I was fine with violence and gore and "scary" things.

 As far as language went, where I live, everyone's got a foul mouth on them. In most cases, far worse than anything you'll hear in the movies. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I swear like a sailor. It's not ladylike, it's not polite - but I just plain ol' don't fucking care. I know when it's inappropriate to curse. I don't do it at work (at least, not around customers), I don't do it around the elderly, I don't do it around small children. So I don't consider it a problem. My filthy mouth has nothing to do with movies or television or rap music (LOL always the scapegoat, right?), it was environment and the kids at school and basically every other factor.

I wasn't even censored from "sexual content". This seems to be the one thing parents who censor their kids are concerned with, and I agree with them, for some reason I can't put my finger on, though I don't necessarily know if it's the right thing to do. I was allowed to watch movies with sex scenes. I didn't grow up promiscuous; far from it. I was actually the most moralistic person I knew, and still am. There was not and never will be casual sex in my life, I understand the consequences as well as the value of having a solid relationship if you're engaging in such things. No one will ever call me a slut. I won't get a disease. I won't get pregnant from a one night stand. I'm not saying that this has any relation to the fact I wasn't treated as a child and was never taught that sex was dirty or wrong, I'm just saying, it's possible. 

I've known plenty of over-protected children who have grown into one of two things:
1) Socially awkward young adults or
2) Rebellious young adults who make poor life decisions.

The former is preferable to the latter, but neither are the ideal. In 6th grade I had a silly little website. I'm talking pre-Piczo days. It was an Angelfire site, all text, not a single picture. On it I mentioned my friends - by first name only. One of my friends had a ridiculously common first name. Not only was it a common name, but the most widely-accepted spelling of said name. Anyway, I remember her parents contacting me, referring to it as "this so-called website" and telling me I had to take her name off of it or they'd take legal action.

Yep, they email-intimidated an 11-year-old girl because their daughter, whom they'd named something that a dozen girls in every grade are named, was mentioned in passing on my website. Looking back, it was a lulzworthy event, at the time, I was terrified.

Long story short, their little girl they worked so hard to protect got pregnant and had a kid in high school. Again - I'm not saying there's a direct correlation. Maybe it would've happened either way. But my point is, their extreme protective measured didn't prevent it.

This has just been my personal experience - I was uncensored, unsheltered, and turned out just fine. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise would only cite my lack of post-secondary education, which is something that is all about the $$$$ and has nothing to do with my un-censored upbringing, thankyouverymuch.

Video games are a hard point. The Call of Duty games are ridiculously violent, come with a 17+ rating, but the majority of parents let their kiddies play them. My 10-year-old brother loves them. They've got bad language to match the violence, too. Despite this, my brother isn't a senselessly violent kid; he knows the violence is just a game, and such bizz doesn't fly in real life.

I think it's an intelligence and awareness thing, at the end of the day. Disturbed people who watch violent movies or play Grand Theft Auto might go out and kill someone, however not only are they the minority, but if you're that messed up mentally, if it wasn't the movie/game/song/book that triggered your outburst, something else eventually would've been your breaking point. There's no sense blaming media and pop culture.

That being said,  I don't doubt for a moment my kids will be smart (because I won't mate with anyone who isn't at least as intelligent as I am, I have a very low tolerance for stupidity, in case you can't tell haha), and if they mature at the rate myself or my siblings did, I will treat them as my parents treated me: a human being with real thoughts and opinions, capable of discerning what is real and what isn't, what is acceptable and what isn't, who can watch a movie like Boys Don't Cry or Law Abiding Citizen and be able to handle it, comprehend it, and discuss how it made them feel.

I should mention that, in case you think I sound crazy, I'm not talking about eliminating boundaries for little kids. 10 and under is a whole different ball game. But once you're 11 or 12, you're capable of so much more mentally, and have been exposed to your fair share of how un-pretty the world can really be.

Last year, a woman called looking for recommendations for a horror movie for her 11-year-old daughter. I initially jumped to movies like The Grudge or The Ring. Silly little thrills with minimal violence and language, and no sex. I also mentioned PG-rated titles like The Sixth Sense. She deemed all too scary, and The Sixth Sense, "Had that scene where the boy was a ghost and missing part of his skull for a second, didn't it? Not until she's at least 13!" Had the movie been released in 2010 instead of 1999, her daughter could've went to movie theatre and seen it herself without an adult. That case just seemed a little extreme for me.

You get the other end of the spectrum where people think Pirahna is appropriate for their 9-year-old. Some movies are just filled with gratuitous nudity and gore and language that aren't conducive to the plot, and although a 14 or 15 -year-old would see the entertainment value, it's just exploitation for smaller kids. But what can I say? I don't know your kid. S/He might be insanely mature, who am I to judge? I can only warn.

Which brings me full circle to the top of this blog; sometime, parents ask me to be the deciding factor. Sure, I've seen most of the movies they're asking about. I know what's in them. But how do I know if a movie like, say, What Lies Beneath is going to meet their standards? My sister and I were 12 and 9, respectively, when we watched that movie - every weekend, I might add, we loved it. It's not overly-objectionable, but what if I say it's perfectly fine, and it turns out I ended up with helicopter-Mom who thought The Sixth Sense was inappropriate for a kid going on 12?

Parents, don't put me on the spot. I know what kind of movies I'd let my future kids watch, depending on their maturity. I know people in high school who shouldn't be watching certain movies because they're so immature. And yet my brother sat through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy with me when he was 5-years-old, and was no worse for the wear - in fact, he loved it. I don't know a damn thing about how you raised your kid. I don't know what your values are -vs- my own.

The only thing you can really do is sit down, watch the movie first, and decide for yourself. Or go on IMDb and read their Parental Advisory pages - it has every detail in each category (sex/nudity, language, violence, scary/disturbing images) written out, just the facts, totally unbiased, so you can make the call.

However, as any kid will vouch for - if there's something they really want to see, and you're not letting them. They'll find a way. Just keep that in mind.

I could go on a completely separate tangent in literary censorship (not a day goes by I don't feel terribly for what Judy Blume went through), but that's another rant for another day.


  1. John Milton would agree with you wholeheartedly. He wrote in a piece against the literary censorhsip of the time that "a foolish book in the hands of a wise man will make him no less foolish, and a foolish book in the hands of a wise man will make him no less wise" (This is all terribly paraphrased, but I thought you should know that you have support from a major literary figure).

  2. LOL. I get the general idea and that's what matters : ) I'd glad I'm not a just a crazy person. I believe that books or movies and what have you can only impact you in positive ways, and even then, not seriously. e.g. Fight Club, made me research nihilism to better understand it, gave me some fantastic quotes for my Facebook profile, and has lead to me going on about Rules 1 and 2. But that's it. I haven't gone out and punched anyone in the face, just because.

  3. When I was in 10th (or even 11th?) grade we watched Enemy At the Gates on the last day before winter vacation in history class. It was rated R (17+) and we'd all had to get permission slips signed (we were 15/16) and my teacher still had to fast-forward through the (one?) sex scene. As she stood up to do this she said "You know, guys. I think it's really weird that I can legally show you footage of someone blowing someone else's head off, but not someone having sex with someone else. Because everyone in this room is going to have sex at some point. And NO ONE is going to blow another person's head off."

    Long story short: censorship is weird? Especially at the High School/Secondary School level.

  4. Emily, I actually just laughed out loud. It also reminded me of grade 9 when we watched Titanic in French class - my teacher let the naked painting scene play through, and the boys were all, "OMG BOOBS!" And my teacher just kept saying, "C'est l'art! C'est l'art!" She was trying to make us see it maturely and from an art perspective. I'll always respect her for that.

  5. Although there are many points to your argument which make a lot of sense and it is true that some parents shelter their children far too much, there have also been psychological studies done on children and adolescences which prove the exact opposite of what you have expressed here. Media violence, for example, often results in more aggressive behavior towards siblings and other children. I'm not trying to argue with your own personal opinions, it's just food for thought.

  6. @Anonymous, as I said, they were just my personal opinions and experiences. You're perfectly entitled to provide me with any information you want, be it research or your own opinions! I'm not going to censor you (no pun intended whatsoever). I haven't read up too heavily on the subject, hence why I didn't cite anything other than experience. : )

  7. Nicole In Whose Porch You Used To StandJanuary 24, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    I agree with pretty well everything that you said Brittani, as well as what most people have posted. Reading this post, as well as the comments, have made me really appreciate your whole website. You are very critical as well as so open to other ideas. It makes me feel very comfortable and open for me to share my comments. Kudos to you Britt!


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