We were watching a movie with transforming robots and power ballads and big crashes and lots of CGI sequences. My kids (ages 8 & 10) cheered for the good-guy robots tossing the bad guys off tall buildings and the overall destruction of the city where the battle was taking place.
But when the smoke cleared and the hero and the heroine shared a quiet moment, a kiss and a sunset, that’s when the kids covered their eyes and groaned and didn’t want to watch.
What? Why is it that the violence is okay but the kissing is bad? Basic emotion causes them to freak out but destruction and death is okay? I felt like I had failed them in some way, that these two gentle souls under my care and feeding saw more of a problem with an expression of love, a natural emotion, than with an expression of hate.
But then I realized that this was a bit of an oversimplification.
Because they saw the violence—the robots, the clearly defined good guys and bad guys—and they knew that it wasn’t real. It wasn’t a cartoon, but the violence to them was cartoon-like. They knew that these actors weren’t really hurt or bleeding or worse; they were pretending.
But the kissing? Well, clearly, that’s not fake; they’re really doing that on the screen, and to my pre-pubescent little ones to whom kissing like that is reserved for moms and dads and may or may not be s-e-x? That’s just too real. That’s not something they can rationalize.
Yes, there are many different degrees of violence in television and movies, but in this particular over-the-top action flick—well, it’s about as real as the Coyote dumping an ACME safe on the Roadrunner’s head (or, at least trying to). They understand. It’s entertainment.
It gives me another opportunity to talk to them about right and wrong, about love and what it means and about violence and how we should treat others. Like how they should never throw anyone off of a tall building, even if it’s a bad guy and a giant robot tells them to. And how they won’t be allowed to kiss anyone like that until they’re at least 30.
And right now? They’re okay with that.