Stop Insulting My Intelligence (Meredith and the 'Protective' Media)
I make no secret of the fact I think American media-- hell, world media in general-- has the collective I.Q. of a mollusk. My apologies to the mollusk for the unflattering comparison, of course. I'm very selective about what I'm willing to turn on my T.V. for and, as older series come out on DVD, I do it less and less. Sci Fi and The History Channel are my primary default settings; occasionally, I'll turn on the Discovery Channel, because who can resist cute monkeys? Not I. The advent of the DVR is a blessing for me, as it means I don't have to suffer through inane commercials. Half the time, you can't even tell what they're selling anymore-- if you manage to figure it out, you generally wish you hadn't.
Last night, Amber mentioned the bizarre 'family' groups that focus on, of all things, keeping Harry Potter out of schools. You'd think that would be far, far down on their list of worries, but it's not. It's 'witchcraft'. These parents not only expose their own stupidity, but they insult the intelligence of children as well. Kids know the 'magic' in Harry Potter doesn't work, even if only by trying it themselves. (One or two 'expecto patronas'? Nope, no dice there. ^_~) It's not going to disturb their sense of reality, any more than The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, or The Lord of the Rings before it. Children need these types of stories-- we all do. It's liberating to pretend, if only for a little while, that there's more to your closet than clothes, more to the clock than cogs, that the landscape outside your window is strange and full of new discoveries. As an adult, I enjoy Harry Potter for the same reasons I enjoy Lovecraft and Chinese Mythology-- its the traveling.
I'm getting a little off topic, but my point is that, if children are as impressionable as some parents contend, we'd have been in trouble long before the advent of Harry Potter. The same goes for those who want to lay the sole blame on violent TV and video games. I'll be the first to admit that a lot of television is random, violent and stupid. But guess what, guys? It's up to you to decide what your children watch. YOU. Not some family coalition, not the government or your automatic content blocker, you. Stop worrying about Harry Potter and start looking more closely at the 'patriotic' cartoons, like G.I. Joe-- which Dave Barry aptly refers to as 'Sergeant Groin and his Testosterone Squad'. Give the kids something to do, for God's sake.
One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me was reading. She hates to read-- standing in a bookstore for more than five minutes gives her a rash. But, from the time I was old enough to fix my eyes on the brightly colored pictures, she read to me. I loved it, and I soon got tired of waiting for her. Now, Mom may have gotten a little frustrated with my endless accumulation of books as the years passed. ('How many books do you NEED, Meredith?' was her frequent question. The answer was always, 'At least one more'.) All those wonderful works of fantasy are still out there-- my friend, a school teacher, tells me of the kids at her middle school who, after having seen Lord of the Rings, decided to follow further adventures and actually read Tolkien. Same goes for my niece, who saw Dune on Sci Fi. Not content with the ending she was provided, she went off in search of 'The God Emperor of Dune', and is currently working her way through the whole series.
So called Christian interest groups worry about 'witchcraft', which they often automatically associate with the modern practice of Wicca. Any literate person can see that Satan is mentioned nowhere in Harry Potter, LOTR, or the Wizard of Oz. The Wiccan creed is 'do as ye will, if it harm none'. Hell, even if HP was somehow connected with Wicca, if the kids could uphold the creed better than the so-called Christians uphold their Golden Rule, I say more power to 'em.
This brings me to the catalyst for this rant. Whether I like it or not, I generally have to turn on the news at 11, if only to make sure the world hasn't ended without me. ^^ The increasingly patronizing attitude of the media is driving me up the wall.
'News Five tells you who you should buy for this Christmas!'
'Family First presents a list of the top ten video games you should keep away from your children!'
'Learn What Every Kid Wants This Christmas!'
Oh, and this is my ultimate favorite-- Are Nursery Rhymes Harmful to Children?
Stop insulting my intelligence! I'll decide who I'll buy for this Christmas, what I'll buy, and what my kids get. It's my money, after all. Can you just tell me what's going on in the bloody world already?
I actually agree with most of the video games on the list-- sleazy college dating games and car-jacking are not exactly high up there in the sense-of-wonder category. What irks me, however, is that these people feel the need to tell us what to do. It's like the law about putting on your seat belt. I always wear mine, because it's stupid not to, but the government telling me I have to? Um, no. Think, people! It's not that hard! Look at the video games before you buy them, read the synopsis on the TV show, spend time with your children. There are tons of multiplayer video games that are fun for even adults to play-- if sit down and play Pokemon Stadium, Mariokart, Rayman Rush or Pikman with your kids, you might even... I dunno... talk to them. Concept.
I'm sorry if I sound as patronizing as those newscasters. I'm sorry if I'm contradicting myself, or saying things that have only been said before. But sometimes, I just want to grab the world and shake it. Wake up! No rating system is going to tell you what you're ready to let your child see. Prohibiting them from watching or reading something on the recommendation of the alarmist media is a waste of time. If you don't want your kid to read Harry Potter-- for whatever reason-- fine. As long as that's your decision-- not the decision of your church, or the media, or anyone else. Yours. Examine your reasons? Why do you feel threatened? You can't shield your child from the world and, trust me, they grow up far too fast. So, while they're still small enough to fit in your lap, make sure you get to know them. Believe it or not, they don't turn into strangers upon reaching puberty. (Another myth perpetuated by the media. 'How to Talk to Your Teenager!' they said. Listen, if you need someone to tell you how to do it, you are in big trouble.)
Finally, I want to add just one more thing. My hands have been aching as I write this, and I just realized why. I want to sign at you guys-- as in, American Sign Language. Of course, you can't see it, but I wish you could. When I was little, my mother took my brother and I with her when she went to take ASL classes at the local deaf school. While she was learning, Sam and I played with deaf and hearing disabled children, under the guidance of Holly, a deaf college student. I will always remember the movement of her hands, her constant admonition to all of us. 'Take responsibility for your own behavior', she signed. Aside from basic requests, those were the first signs I learned. Years later, they are the only ones I remember.
Take responsibility for your own behavior. Don't blame the TV, video games, nursery rhymes, whatever. The universe has given you a sacred responsibility-- the toughest job in this galaxy or any other.
It's called parenthood.
This rant is not a command from me. It's a request to listen. So, please...
Take responsibility for your own behavior.
My sincerest apologies if I only succeeded in sounding like everyone else trying to tell people what to do. That wasn't my intention, but we all know where the road paved with such leads.
With utmost appreciation for your patience,