Monday, July 28, 2008

An answer for Mr. Ebert & a modest blow for civility

I read Roger Ebert's scathing review of the new Will Farrell vehicle Step Brothers on the train going to work Friday and I was composing a blog post en route in answer to this question posed by Mr. Ebert in the course of his review:
Sometimes I think I am living in a nightmare. All about me, standards are collapsing, manners are evaporating, people show no respect for themselves. I am not a moralistic nut. I'm proud of the X-rated movie I once wrote. I like vulgarity if it's funny or serves a purpose. But what is going on here?
What's going on here is that people think that because they can do something they must. Artistic freedom has been confused with wretched excess... the dumbing of America continues... lowest common denominator....

Oh, yes, I was on a roll -- but, once I got to the office, I was swept up in the turmoil of a number of end-of-the-week crises and I never had the opportunity to finish my essay and inflict it on the Blogosphere.

And aren't you grateful.

But I brought home the pullout Weekend section from the Friday Sun-Times, the section containing all of Mr. Ebert's reviews. I had a premonition I might need to cite the Step Brothers review.

I figured Youngest Son would be the one who'd lobby to see it first, since 15 is about the upper limit of the mentality that such a movie aims for.

But, as usual, I was wrong. Sunday afternoon Younger Daughter said she had made plans to see this movie with some friends. I pulled out the review and read it to her... and to an increasingly horrified Long Suffering Spouse.

The language used in the film, Ebert wrote, "would seem excessive in the men's room of a truck stop.... In its own tiny way, it lowers the civility of our civilization." And Mr. Ebert was equally as enamored of the violence in the film as he was of the language.

Long Suffering Spouse, as I'd hoped, put her foot down: Younger Daughter would not be allowed to go see this movie. The Death Glare from Younger Daughter did nothing to sway either Long Suffering Spouse or me. Middle Son and Youngest Son both tried to lobby on their sister's behalf: They were interested in seeing the movie, too. But we stood firm. A few minutes later, after Long Suffering Spouse left the room, Younger Daughter tried to bargain with me: If we would let her go see it with her friends, she said, she'd promise not to like it.

The bottom line: Younger Daughter did not go see Step Brothers yesterday. I have no illusions: I'm sure she'll see it at some point; she just won't tell us about it. Middle Son will see it too. They are both past 17 and can see R-rated movies whether we like it or not. But we struck a modest blow for civility yesterday and the children may -- some day -- come around to our point of view.


Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i don't mind a good swear word when necessary and i do believe that on occasion it is necessary but geesh!!! this is just embarrassing here.

hope it flops but it probably won't.

smiles, bee

Lahdeedah said...

How about The Dark Knight?

It's rated pg-13, but even my husband thinks it's rated too young because of the dark subject matter. Yet, it seems to be targeted to an audience that shouldn't watch it. I mean, all the Dark Knight toys and promotional food products that mostly pre-schoolers and elementary kids eat seem to be everywhere. Even my four year olds who don't watch much television are talking about 'The Dark Knight.' We had to tell our eldest she was too young for the movie. That went well...

Dave said...

You're right, she will see it. Just like we did things our parents forbad. But, you made your point and she will remember. Probably for the better.

Ellee Seymour said...

I haven't heard of this film in the UK. I guess the more you tell your kids you don't want them to do something, the more they will want to do it to find out what the fuss is about. But dad has to lay the law down sometimes. I can't abide swearing either.

Kacey said...

Profanity, immorality, nudity, insanity....are creeping into our daily lives bit by bit and we are beginning to accept things we never would have thought of fifty years ago. I remember writing a letter to our public library, because a book had some filthy stuff in it and my then thirteen year old daughter could check it out of the library. The answer came back that I was very naive and more people complained about what was not in the library than visa versa. We are marching in lock step into an abyss of our own making.

Shelby said...

This was funny, but full of good parenting skills. Good things.

My daughter has made similar bargaining strategies with me.. I don't know where she gets her ideas.

me - blinking.

Shelby said...

This was funny, but full of good parenting skills. Good things.

My daughter has made similar bargaining strategies with me.. I don't know where she gets her ideas.

me - blinking.

Ralph said...

Bravo! Your instincts are correct. Even though the kids might see the movie anyway, they know your feelings and may consider them in making their future value choices.

They may hate the movie anyway. Then, touché!

I look at bad language generally as stupid. I know that much of the world talks this way, it forces me to lose attention. What ever happened to well written dialog that compels one to pay rapt attention, instead of language that offers not more than shock value to try to keep your attention.

A not subtle difference...