Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mr. Schprock’s Guide to Irresponsible Parenting

Lesson 4: Inappropriate Entertainment

In the late eighties, my wife’s and my then 12-year-old niece came to stay with us for a week. We took her around Boston and showed her all the usual sights: the Boston Tea Party Ship, the Children’s Museum, Faneuil Hall, the Public Garden, the Top of the Pru, etc., etc., and even, toward the end of her stay, spent a day in Newburyport, a beautiful coastal town about an hour north of Boston that had a fair of some sort happening. On her last night, I was given the responsibility of choosing a movie to take her to. Robocop was playing then and, despite the R rating, I thought it might be an entertaining movie for us all to see. Hell, the stores were already selling Robocop action figures, so surely it had to be appropriate for older kids, right? Probably the R rating was only because of a bad word or two, but nothing our niece couldn’t handle. And what could be better than a Doer of Good Deeds in gleaming metal? Sort of a modern day Sir Lancelot, you know? So we drove to the theatre, I purchased the tickets, popcorn and soda, and we strolled in.

A half an hour later we strolled out, with my niece protesting my efforts to simultaneously block her ears and her eyes with my hands (try doing that — not easy). It turned out that right from the get-go the F-word was mentioned just a little too frequently, the violence was a tad too intense, and there was a men’s room scene where one of the characters, in a rush to leave the urinal and scoot out of there as quickly as he could, didn’t take the time to keep his pee pee from dribbling down the front of his trousers. Yep, the movie squarely earned its R rating and was, indeed, too strong for my niece’s impressionable mind. I couldn’t possibly watch the whole thing with her sitting next to me, because a keenly felt responsibility to monitor the imagery reflecting onto her retinas and the language vibrating her eardrums would torture my conscience from opening title sequence to ending credits. So out we went.

Okay, let’s fast forward to two years ago, shall we? When my youngest daughter was 12, she asked me to take her to a Marilyn Manson concert. Judging from what you’ve just read, what do you think my response was? Incredulity? Outrage? Anguish? Tears? A hasty call put in to the local exorcist? All of them good guesses and quite reasonable to expect. But wrong, wrong, wrong. My initial reaction to her request that I, her father, take her to a concert put on by this generation’s version of Alice Cooper was a profound sense of flattery. And do you know what I did? I took her.

Remember my squeamishness about the F-word? MM’s first words to the audience was “Hey all you motherfuckers!” Ouch! Strong stuff, no? Not very much like the Monkees, my band of choice when I was 12. And, of course, there were those lovely song lyrics of his, mercifully incomprehensible due to his propensity to practically swallow the microphone. And what else? Oh yeah, the two women on stage with him, ostensibly for back-up vocals, but really there to dance like strippers, only stopping just short of actually removing their clothing. Add to that the decibel level, which was dangerously high, and the audience, which looked like a Halloween costume party, and what you’ve got is a Family Value-Free Zone. My old Lutheran pastor would have needed ’round the clock medical care after this one. The Department of Social Services would surely have made my daughter a ward of the state had they known. In short, Daughter Number 2 and I had a wonderful time, and, to this day, she looks back on the event as a highlight of her life. She’s actually proud of the old man for taking her to it.

How could I justify it, you might ask. After all, Robocop was the very food of the devil for my niece, and yet, in the case of my daughter, Marilyn Manson — the devil’s own spawn — was acceptable? Hmm, that is a tough one. I think in part it was because I felt I knew my daughter and I thought she could handle it. Also, there was something in the old stratagem of co-opting the controversial rather than putting it out of bounds, with the effect of making the thing less an object of desire than it should be. And there was another reason, purely selfish: I was interested in going myself.

Before I agreed to take Daughter Number 2, I had her give me some MP3 downloads to listen to and I liked what I heard. True, Marilyn Manson’s lyrics aren’t what anyone would call wholesome, but he has an original sound that’s extremely interesting to listen to, especially the instrumentation, which is (in my opinion) complex and unique and appealing. You can tell he works hard on his music and goes out of his way to defy the mainstream. He takes a lot of risks. Antichrist Superstar has become one of my favorite albums. I can’t say I agree with what it stands for, but as music I find it enjoyable to listen to.

Well, the latest indication of my parental unfitness occurred a couple of weeks ago when I took Daughter Number 2 to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Have you seen it? I think it’s the funniest movie since Meet the Parents. It’s both innocent and profane and has definitely earned its R rating. Yet never once did I feel uncomfortable watching it with my 14 year old daughter sitting right next to me with all the F-words flying around and the explicit sex talk. Weird, isn’t it? I'm going to hell, right?

You know, maybe on the way home tonight I’ll rent Robocop. I don't think my kids have seen it yet.


Blogger trinamick said...

Wow, and I thought maybe all parents set a curfew of 9:00 and banned all movies with a worse than PG rating. Guess I was just lucky. *sigh*

Incidentally, I didn't see Robocop until my irresponsible babysitter (brother) rented it while my mom was gone.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Flash said...

I've been reading your blog for some time now, through Moo!, and I've enjoyed it greatly every time.

But this post I feel I had to leave my 2-cents in, because I couldn't have related to you more, but on a different level.

I was a kid when Robocop came out, and my mom rented it and let me watch it without thinking twice about the language or violence. I grew up with Terminator movies, Rambo, Dirty Harry, and Charles Bronsen flicks.

I grew up and never had the urge replicate what I saw on screen to another human being, because my mom always said it's fake and told me what would happen if I did indeed do that to someone. As for the language, well, my mom wasn't a saint by far. Anything I heard in those films, I heard on a daily basis.

As for Manson, I never thought I would like his sound, but it grew on me. For me, it's gets no better then "Beautiful People" for the description of our society.

Thanks for the posts.

7:19 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Ah, Trina, we finally have the explanation for your saintliness! You wuz raised right! I just hope that when your brother unleashed Robocop on you, it didn't send you scurrying to your room trying to find a happy, safe place.

(Actually, I was kidding about "saintliness," but given some of your posts, maybe you are a saint!)

Hey Tony, thanks for the kind words. At that Manson concert, the guy we sat next to thought it was pretty cool I took her, and mentioned that, when he was 15, his father (divorced from his mom) allowed him to see Marilyn Manson, and the mother then tried to use that fact to get total custody!

Quite honestly, if I felt my daughter couldn't handle it, if it would warp her in any way, I wouldn't have taken her. She's a good kid, very stable.

7:41 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Nah, no more warped than usual. The second my mom went to bed, my bro & I always snuck out of our beds to watch Forever Knight, Twilight Zone, or whatever else we could late at night. He had me corrupted at an early age with The Lost Boys. There was no hope for me after that. :P

8:06 AM  
Blogger Mrs.T said...

LMAO~ I've always subscribed to the idea that the more open you are about things, the less likely they are to seek them out in the wrong places..

8:15 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I've always subscribed to the idea that the more open you are about things, the less likely they are to seek them out in the wrong places."

Amen, Mrs. T. That's probably the best way to go in a good many cases. BTW, I like the avatar you're using. Great picture of you.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Chloe said...

I was fortunate enough to see MM twice. The first show (on the night of Columbine, no less, right before they cancelled their tour) was the best concert I've ever been to. Of course I had to lie to my parents about where I was going and change into a goth princess in the car.

You sound like one of the coolest dads around, Mr. Schprock!

1:32 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Of course I had to lie to my parents about where I was going and change into a goth princess in the car."

Oh yes, my daughter went goth too. I, on the other hand, wore my Beatles T-shirt. No blending for me!

2:14 PM  
Blogger trinamick said...

That's like my sister - she wore her Bob Dylan t-shirt when we went to see Quiet Riot. No conformist, that one!

2:30 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Ha! Your sister's my kind of people!

2:36 PM  
Blogger :phil: said...

mr. schprock,
You won't believe the profane word that 'your' word verification generator generated. Let's just say it had a 'f' in the beginning and a 'k' at the end and two other letters in between. I'm glad my kids didn't see it, what the fuck would I tell them????
That was a very funny story, my wife and I just saw the '40 year old virgin' and laughed our asses off. I'm glad you took your daughter to the movie and the concert. I guess he is the Alice Cooper of the day. I just heard Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' on the radio and it brought back memeories. We rented the first Austin Powers movie when our oldest was about 6, we all laughed like crazy. I think it is different to introduce things like that to your own flesh and blood than it is to a niece or nephew. It's up to us to corrupt our own children...

6:15 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I think it is different to introduce things like that to your own flesh and blood than it is to a niece or nephew. It's up to us to corrupt our own children..."

I think you're right there, Phil. I'm not going to do anybody's corrupting for them. Let them get off their lazy asses and corrupt their own kids for crissakes!

4:53 AM  
Blogger jenbeauty said...

When hubby and I attended Green Day in May we saw lots of parents their with their tweens and teens. Those kids were going to go one way or another. I know I snuck to any concert I could. So I thought it was a good choice on those parents made to be there with their kids. They had control of when, where, who and all that.

Plus there is the added benefit that your daughter thought and still thinks it is cool her dad took her.

8:17 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

My mother was pretty passive when it came to stuff like that. Passive, or just lazy I'm not sure actually. Friends of mine though had the kind of parents that freaked about everything and once ripped down all her posters when she was at school. How passive agressive can you get? At least have the guts to take down the posters when she is there! Geez!
I corrupt my niece and nephew all the time, but it's kind of hard to top the things my sister and her husband have alread exposed them too!
Ah well.

8:40 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Plus there is the added benefit that your daughter thought and still thinks it is cool her dad took her."

Daughter Number 2 might think I'm cool, but Daughter Number 1 thinks I'm a "*cough*loser." Ah, well…

"I corrupt my niece and nephew all the time, but it's kind of hard to top the things my sister and her husband have already exposed them to!"

Oh Nypinta, apply yourself! You can top them if you try!

9:57 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

Wow, mr. schprock, I'm completely....impressed! Far from making you a "bad" parent, I think the fact that you took the time to listen to the music with an open mind makes you a better parent. Your daughter knows she can share things important to her with her dad.

I'm the oldest and my own dad was very controlling and tried to be a stern disciplinarian. I was always a good kid and never got into trouble for the most part. But it really backfired because I never wanted to confide in and share anything with my dad. I ended up making a lot of stupid, "rebellious" type of decisions during my teen years and caused everyone in the family a lot of grief and pain.

Then my dad realized he was too hard on me and went the other way with my younger sister. He was more lenient with her. Maybe a little too lenient, but she's always been much closer to my dad. I'm only now having a better relationship with my dad. I guess being a parent now helps with that.

A couple of years ago, I bought a compilation CD with heavy metal artists which had a Marilyn Manson song, This Is The New Shit (great song). Well, I guess I left it where my dad found it and decided to listen to it. I thought I misplaced it and I just couldn't find it anywhere. I figured I lost it when one day my dad told me, "You know I've been listening to your CD with all the heavy metal songs on it. That song "This Is The New Shit" by Marilyn Manson. That's a really good song." ...I never did get my CD back, lol ;)....

I worry a lot about Brianna learning the right things, but I also know that I'm not going to be able to shield her from everything. I just hope she thinks I'm cool enough when she's a teenager to ask her mother to go to a concert with her! She already listens to a lot of rock because of me, but it's all on the radio and they already blur out the curse words. When I listen to my music on the computer or CD, I always put my headphones on or I wait till she's not in the house. And she definetely doesn't listen to Marilyn Manson....yet. He's a little too rough for my baby's tender ears.

Really good post, mr. schprock! I feel less guilty about exposing Brianna to the rock music that I listen to! I've been listening to Marilyn Manson since I read it....with the headphones on ofcourse. ;)

8:03 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Hey Michele, you know, I think I'm a bit like your dad in that I was stricter with my older daughter than with my younger. Now I'm "judiciously laissez faire" with them both, perhaps more respectful of their privacy and opinions than I used to be, and certainly less Puritanical with regard to what they're exposed to. I figure they hear it all and see it all anyway; I can tell they're good kids, just interested in the things everyone else is interested in. I do intercede when the need arises, of course. For instance, I caught Daughter Number 2 using bad language while instant messaging one time (purely by accident, BTW) and I imposed a week's worth of Internet timeout on her. She knew it was wrong and took it in good spirit.

I know Brianna is very young and it's a whole ’nother ballgame with her. There must be a great desire to keep her innocent. When my girls were her age or a little older, any R rated movie they saw or "parental advisory" music they heard was at someone else's house, not ours. I was careful to make a great show of reluctance for them to see things I considered not age-appropriate, while tacitly acknowledging that it would happen anyway. Just so they knew their old man would never blithely pack them off to Sodom and Gomorrah. Just wait until she's 18! Daughter Number 1 lives at home while going to college now and I'm working very hard to give her the respect owed to adults. I'm walking a fine line these days.

Thank you for your very thoughtful comments.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I don't shelter the children from anything, but I will admit, sometimes they do have to hide their eyes during *ahem* surprising parts of films. They always say, "MOM, we know sex isn't like that!" Not comforting coming from an 11 and 12 year old, but I get what they mean.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Paul (rock star wanna be) said...

I can relate to your post Mr. S. I became a huge KISS fan in 76' My walls were covered in posters and I had every album they had out at that point.

Around 77' my mom got on a religious kick we visited with relatives. I came home from school one day and my walls were bare. My mom bought into the "Knights in Satans Service" gimick that was folowing the band. She threw out everything.

However in 79'(I was 14)after she realized how stupid the hype was, she took me and my little brother (he was 10) to see KISS. Like you expressed, I will never forget that night. My mom became cool that very night.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Tooooo funny
Good stuff Schprock.

I sat down on Saturday after a hard day of putting up a fence-put on Superstation WGN--what was on? Robocop.

3:35 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"They always say, 'MOM, we know sex isn't like that!'"

Yes, I love it when kids are so worldly like that. (shiver)

"My mom became cool that very night."

Yes, taking you to see the Knights in Satan's Service was very cool indeed. I like your mom without ever having met her.

Henry, if it was on WGN, at least it was the cleaned up version. So how long was it? 25 minutes?

7:51 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I saw Robocop when it first came out and HATED it, and I was well over the age of 12. The only thing worse was Robocop II.

My father almost didn't let me go to my first concert (Bob Seger) because he was sure I was going to come home smoking pot. *sigh* Nothing like trusting that you raised your kids properly. Like Trinamick I had a bedtime of 9:00 (8:30 up to sixth grade) and was definitely not allowed to see movies that were not G rated.

11:10 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Well, there's that old adage about erring on the side of caution. At least your parents showed they cared.

What if your dad took you to the Bob Seger concert?

11:43 AM  

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