Some may find it outrageous that my dad gave me a VHS copy of “The Terminator” for my sixth birthday. I’ve always found it outrageous that there’s never been a ratings system in place for quality and substance.
Father might be able to take me aside and explain that when Mr. Schwarzenegger robotically mutters the phrase, “Fuck you, asshole,” this is but a colorful piece of vernacular representative of the urban malaise encapsulating a dystopic Los Angeles. And that the phrase need not be uttered by a young boy living elsewhere.
When a movie is gratuitously violent or sexual in nature, these elements can be explained objectively, directly. If the film just plain sucks, we’re entering the fickle realm of the abstract, the subjective. We’re dealing with the attrition of the child’s sense of cultural awareness, his attention span, the lowering of his standards, which might lead to his perpetuating a cycle of more crap being produced when he gets older and more independent.
I’m far less offended by Justin Timberlake ceremoniously unbuttoning Janet Jackson’s brassiere on national television than I am of the network’s choice to air such kitschy tripe in lieu of, say, a “Twilight Zone” marathon.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” may have broken the domestic opening weekend box office record (due more to inflation and higher 3D screening prices than actual ticket sales). But does that mean it’s any good or could compare to commercially less successful masterpieces like “Labyrinth” or “The Dark Crystal”?
When noted film critic Kenneth Turan bashed “Titanic,” director James Cameron (yes, helmer of my “Terminator”) pointed to his overflowing bank account as a riposte. Turan famously quipped that McDonalds being the world’s most popular restaurant means zilch about its inherent culinary quality.
“I think you’ve got to pay attention to what kids like,” said Arsen Kashkashian, buyer for Boulder Book Store for the last two decades, when I asked him what parents can do to nudge their young ones toward more substantive fare than the hottest pop pap. “Segue into what they are already reading. Roald Dahl is so funny and might be good for kids who are reading ‘Captain Underpants.'”
“We want our kids to read classic books, but watching classic quality films serves a similar purpose,” said Jill Clateman, an English teacher and director of Louisville’s Old Town Cinema who is developing an after-school film club for area middle school students.
“The films and books that raise questions, sometimes difficult ones, are the ones with those interesting layers that are so great to unpack together,” continued Clateman.
Albums on the Hill’s Andy Schneidkraut admonished that “parents should respect their kids’ choices” when it comes to music, noting that “a great jam is a great jam.” He also suggested that parents remember that they can never go wrong with the Beatles and the British Invasion.
To Schneidkraut, it’s equally a matter of parents keeping abreast of music, film, books so that they can help their children to navigate the pop morass and discover hidden gems.
Hmmm: On that note, perhaps it might be best for me to actually see “Potter” myself….