Chud.com, an irreverent site that tackles all manner of movie and television news for genre fans, movie buffs, fan boys and the like, recently posted an editorial called “When Bad Parents Go to the Movies.”
The article is a tad inflammatory and harsh, making gross (literally) assumptions about parents who take their children to movies and thereby ruin the experience for others, but it’s also pretty dead-on. Taking your kids to movies that aren’t appropriate isn’t the best way to win Parent of the Year. But taking young kids to any movie is a dicey proposition.
When you become a parent, going to the movies stops being easy. But that’s the parents’ problem. Let’s not make it everyone else’s.
Having a kid changes your life. This blog began as a place for me to vent about my struggle to avoid letting my son’s existence change my life, but today it’s also about accepting that some things need to change. You don’t have to change everything, but you’re gonna have to change some things. Part of being a good parent is making sacrifices for your kids.
There are a million of them: you have to stop swearing so much (at least, you probably should); you have to stop sleeping through the night (it’s no longer possible); you have to stop not cleaning someone else’s feces; you have to stop caring only about yourself (if you didn’t when you met your partner), you have to stop watching porn when your kid’s in the room, etc. And you’ll probably have to stop going to so many movies.
I love going to the movies. There’s nothing like it. For someone who’s not a professional film critic, I used to see movies like they were my job. Nothing could stop me from seeing the latest buzzed-about indie flick, the newest summer blockbuster, the hard-to-find foreign film. I went by myself; I dragged willing and unwilling participants; I stood in line for hours to get into special screenings. It was rare for me to let two weeks go by without visiting a movie theater. I’ve even collected my stubs ever since I bought a ticket to Addams Family Values but snuck into Basic Instinct instead.
And then I had my son. My stub collection has dwindled considerably.
I can still go to the movies, sure. I could get a babysitter and Mom and Buried and I could go see Zero Dark Thirty (I did see ZDT, actually, and it’s fantastic). But babysitters are expensive and when we shell out for one we usually don’t want to spend three hours in a dark theater not talking to each other. We’d rather spend three hours in a dark bar, drinking and not talking to each other. (Just kidding, honey!) The point is, if we’re paying to finally get out of the house without the kid, odds are we want to spend that precious free time doing something a little more extravagant than just going to the movies. Especially when we can likely rent/stream/buy the same title in a few short months.
Don’t get me wrong; I still love going to the movies; I always will. And whenever we visit my parents or my in-laws – i.e. free babysitters – we always make sure to catch a flick. But I have come to terms with the fact that taking fewer trips to the multiplex is one of the many sacrifices I have to make as a father. And no matter how badly I want to see a movie, whether it’s PG or something by Vincent Gallo, there’s no chance in hell I’d ever bring my son. That’s like bringing a boombox into a library. Not only is the boombox is loud and disruptive, it can’t even read.
People attend movies for many things: to see something fast, first and unspoiled; to see something on a screen bigger, louder, and better than even the best HDTV they can afford; and to see something with a group of other people. The unspoken camaraderie between moviegoers is one of the subtle joys of the experience. An audience watching a great movie forms a kind of collective: they laugh together, gasp together, cry together (the women, at least) and leave with the same glow Tom Cruise has after every e-reading. You know what eliminates that glow? An errant cellphone ring; an obnoxious seat-kicker or constant talker; a crying baby or a bored toddler. And only one of those carries the weight of criticizing someone’s parenting methods, and provokes the backlash that often comes with it.
I do my best not to judge other parents. As the song says, what might be right for me may not be right for some. And I understand as well as anyone how hard it is for parents to get out and have fun when you have kids. But that doesn’t give you the right to rob everyone else of that enjoyment, whether they have kids or not, and it certainly doesn’t make it appropriate to take a kid with no attention span to a place where he needs to sit still and shut up and watch something that he likely doesn’t understand, probably doesn’t care about, and may scar him for life.
In the Chud piece, the offending parents took their kids to a showing of Warm Bodies, a movie that seems to be positioning zombies as the new monster heartthrobs, a la vampires and Twilight. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t be sure about that. But the previews alone indicate that it’s violent and at least a little gory. So yeah, it’s probably not appropriate for children. But while taking your kids to movies that are too mature may be questionable parenting, taking your kids to movies because you have nowhere else to drop them is just plain poor citizenship.
I can’t wait to show my son the movies I loved as a kid and the newer ones I love as an adult. And I can’t wait to take him to see his first flick in the theater. But I can wait until he’s old enough to sit through 90 to 240 minutes, and I can wait until that is appropriate for him and that he wants to see. And I probably don’t want to be in the same room with him when he sees Basic Instinct.
Have some respect for the movie-going experience, the other audience members, and your own kids. Parenting isn’t just about what you tell them to do, it’s also about what you show them, and I don’t want my kid going to Die Hard to Get an Erection in 2028 and have to sit in front of a bunch of screaming toddlers who don’t even know what Yippie Ki-yay MEANS.
Besides, judging by the way pop culture seems to be going, if you scare the youngsters off zombies now, they’re going to miss out on a ton of undead material in the years to come.