Protect Kids, Or Just Their “Virgin Ears”?

In the movie A Christmas Story, after young Ralphie says something that sounds sort of like “fudge” within ear shot of his dad, his mother attempts to pry out where he had heard such a word.  As the narrator, (Ralphie as an adult), says, he had heard his father say it a thousand times.  Of course all of us don’t have parents that “use obscenities as an artist uses an easel”.  However, I doubt there is one of us that didn’t hear the “f-word” as well as other cuss words on an hourly basis throughout middle school and high school.  I might have even been in elementary school when I first learned of the versatility of that word that Ralphie actually said instead of fudge.  Frankly, there are few words thrown around as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb so easily.  I’m bad.  I’ve probably used it as each in one sentence.

So the MPAA has given the movie Bully an R rating because of foul language.  The fear is that some people think it might be disturbing for a middle school kid to hear vulgarity.  I can appreciate it when a parent doesn’t want their kid exposed to anything nasty or bad for them.  But, and it’s a big but; has everyone forgotten what it was like in a middle school locker room before or after gym class?  The language truly is an art form in there!  There is a one up-man-ship that occurs in there that escalates the foul language to new levels.  I KNOW that hasn’t changed in the past 50 years.

Another thing to consider is the real danger kids are witnessing for themselves in school, and I don’t mean bad words.  Oh, if it were only bad words!  If it was, then they can just look back at their school days as the good old days.  The bullying situation, like so many other things today, continues to escalate.  I hear so often that bullying has always been around.  Of course it has.  That’s like saying that fighting and drug use has always been a part of school.  The issue though is a matter of degrees.  In the 1960’s or 1970’s a fight consisted of a few exchanged punches before the participants were separated.  It would have been shocking if someone pulled a knife or a gun.  Escalation comes in various forms.

When true bullying occurred in school years ago it was either handled at the student level between mutual friends or dealt with by the principal with corporal punishment or something else. (For better or worse, teachers or principals have had some of their powers to reprimand removed.)  I don’t recall a circumstance where the victim of bullying went home, picked up several loaded weapons and came back to school and opened fire on their classmates.  Read the news.  It’s a different world out there.  More escalation. 

When I was in school I didn’t know of any “out” homosexuals.  They were there I’m sure, but people kept it to themselves.  I’m certainly not saying that was a good thing, only stating it as a fact.  If someone threw a gay slur on a ball field for example it was meant to enrage or get under someone’s skin, but not because it was believed to be true.  That didn’t make using the “other f-word” ok; only less painful when it was directed at someone who was straight.  Thankfully, many kids can be more open today, but with that openness comes the fact that when a gay slur is directed at an out homosexual, it is as inflammatory as using a racial epitaph. It has a more direct meaning.  It’s much more personal, and so the strength of the word is escalated.  (If a white kid calls another white kid the “n-word”, it’s just stupid.  If it’s directed at an African American kid, the meaning takes on a power that needs to be halted.)  If we were talking about racial slurs or anti-Semitic slurs being tossed about in schools to taunt one another, we wouldn’t be hearing things like, “that’s OK, people have said that forever.  It’s just a part of growing up”. 

Something else that wasn’t present in the good old days was the internet. As with many valuable tools, the bully can find a way to use it for his/her bad deeds.  So we now have “cyber-bullying”.  If for example, a young woman was accused of being a bit too loose, previously the word may have spread by mouth as far as the doors exiting the school.  Certainly not good, but today with the advent of social media, gossip spreads farther and faster than would have been imaginable in the 1970’s.  I know of a circumstance in high school where a young lady allowed her boyfriend to photograph her topless with a Polaroid camera.  The picture ended up on a bulletin board, which of course caused tremendous embarrassment.  Today, that same picture taken on a digital camera would be passed around so quick it would make your head spin.  It would be on the internet within the hour and perverts the world over would have something else to view.  That’s a clear escalation and similar in type to the episode that caused Tyler Clementi to jump from the George Washington Bridge to his death at 18 years of age. 

My point of course is that just because bullying has been around forever, doesn’t mean it is the same bullying we remember.  It also doesn’t make it right.  Racism has been around forever.  So have a number of other things that shouldn’t be ignored.  One way the differences in the bullying today could be demonstrated to the masses would be if someone had the wherewithal to make a documentary about it; filming real participants and victims in action.  Fortunately that task has been completed and it shows some very graphic language and violence.  It’s REAL!  I recognize some parents don’t want their kids exposed to this, but think about this for a minute.  Your kids ARE exposed to this everyday.  Perhaps you need to see it to realize what it is they see while they are “safely at school”.  Forbidding them from seeing a movie that shows what they probably already know is not the problem.  By stopping them from seeing Bully, you are a major part of the problem.  Both you, as concerned parents, and the MPAA need to start being part of the solution.  Stop freaking around and let the freaking freaker you call your kid, see the freaking movie.

Phil Hicks

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About MetroDC PFLAG

Our Mission:Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays promotes the equality and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons, their families and friends through: Support to cope with an adverse society Education to enlighten an ill-informed public Advocacy to end discrimination.
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