Yeah, baby.

Buddy-roo pressed her pinky finger against her lip, “Preparation H!”

She and Short-pants doubled over laughing. They didn’t really understand the joke; you can’t find this product in France, neither of their tender bottoms have ever required treatment for hemorrhoids. But they giggled out loud because they know that it’s supposed to be funny; no doubt when they watched Goldmember with their father, this joke must have cracked him up.

What to do? Laugh at loud or react in a way that would hopefully discourage them from repeating this and any other lines they’ve learned from watching the film. I turned sharply toward De-facto and gave him the look. “What?” he said, “It’s a funny movie.” I guess there are worse films for them to see, but Goldmember is not first among the DVDs I would have selected for family viewing pleasure.

But what is a suitable video? A Disney film in which the mother deer (or bear) dies in the first scene? A film in which an elephant, who’s mother is also killed in the first scene, returns to the jungle to civilize the wild animals so that they live like humans? Barbie and her princesses, or Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or any of those films where the female character waits helplessly for a strong, handsome man to save her from peril and make things right? (Shrek attempts to dispel this stereotype, but it has to go up against an entire library of princesses waiting to be rescued.)

A greater concern – to me – is the violence that is has become an habitual part of Hollywood films. At least the relatively small amount of violence in the Austin Powers‘ films is so campy that it couldn’t possibly be a shock to a generation of movie-viewers accustomed to life-like murders, realistic Hollywood shoot-outs and car chases with miles of carnage left behind. Except that we don’t watch those gun-toting crash-bang films with our kids; Short-pants and Buddy-roo are plunked in front of the feminist-irritating Disney favorites, or more often, they watch the real classics. Last Saturday, De-facto and I got to sleep in while the girls watched Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau in Hello Dolly. Or the favorite electronic babysitter option: The Electric Company.

As much as we try to protect our children from violence, our world is violent and they manage see its violent images. If we happen to watch the television news while they’re in the room, it’s in front of them. If they look through the news magazines that end up in the bathroom, there are photographs of war and brutality. We try to filter the media that they take in, but we can’t control it every inch of it.

Anyway, Austin Powers is a comedy.

Except there’s a lot of sexual innuendo. It’s all silly slapstick and sophomoric humor. Is it still too much mojo for them? If I have to choose between letting my girls watch a film that was violent or sexual, I’ll choose the latter. Sexual content I can explain. I can put it in context. I can address their questions. But violence? How do you ever make that acceptable?

Which begs the question how do I want my daughters to learn about sex? Do I want it to be a clinical discussion? Should there be dramatic overtones of true love and finding the one? Will it come from Lady Gaga? Is Austin Powers such a horrible introduction to the world of sex? Sure, the woman are objectified (especially the Japanese twins), but then, so are the men. Everyone is having a good laugh. There are no sexual victims. All the main characters in the film think that sex is good and pleasurable. If anything, it’s the Holy Grail.

For now, I think it’s it all going over their heads anyway. It appears that the 20 back-to-back euphemisms for male genitalia haven’t registered with them (yet).

Yesterday, Buddy-roo did not want to leave the park after school. Then she complained all the way home. Her life is too hard. She misses her old school. Why does she have so much homework? Why does she have to go to school at all? Why can’t she stay at home? Why don’t I home-school her? Unhappy with each of my responses, she stormed ahead of us; I found her pouting in front of the front door to our building. She cried all the way up the four flights of stairs. Once in the apartment, things did not improve. I could see the evening spiraling down, something much harder to manage when I’m flying solo, which is the case this week because De-facto is out of town on business. In fact, he’s in Holland, where they speak freaky deaky Dutch (not far from Belgium, the home of Goldmember himself).

“Any and all kids who eat their dinner and do their homework without complaining, whining or dilly-dallying get to watch a movie before bedtime,” I pronounced. And then, don’t ask me why, I added, “the movie of your choice.”

Goldmember?” both of them, in unison.

I backed myself into this one. There was nowhere to go. “No whining? No fussing? None of this, wait let me do something else first?”

Heads nodded solemnly. Then, in tandem, their elbows folded in order to place their pinkies on their bottom lips. How could I say no?

The mood changed instantly. Dinner was executed without a hitch. It took over an hour for Buddy-roo to do homework, but she stayed at the table and slogged through it. It wasn’t easy-peazy, lemon-squeazy, though she smugly used this phrase, borrowed from the film, after writing out a few of her lesser-challenging spelling words.

Homework completed. Jams on and teeth brushed. We three curled up on the couch with Austin and his cast of characters. I can’t say I wasn’t cringing, I kept the remote in hand to mute the sound and distract the girls with a question about the plot when I couldn’t stand the puns any longer. Then at nine o’clock, about halfway through the film, we pressed pause (as agreed) and they ran upstairs without prompting (as agreed) and slipped into bed without any fuss.

And all I can say is Yeah, baby.

6 Responses to “Yeah, baby.”

  • magpie Says:

    Yes. Sometimes you just have to give in to the silly, the great desire.

  • amy Says:

    Wow, great piece! Perfect timing of thought for me: just opened an email forward from my ten year old daughter with huge cute-font exclamatory this is not fair! remarks intersperced with more and more awful pictures of baby seals being slaughtered for fun as sport in Canada and Norway Horrid! I can’t believe she had that sent to her and that my sweet animal-loving, vegetarian-of-2-years daughter looked through them AND forwarded to everyone in her contacts list! Luckily that included her 2 teachers.. maybe they will have the right thing to say??

  • Tom Perry Says:

    Welcome to the mad, mad world of pre-adolescence! Remember that? By the way, It’s a Mad,Mad World is a great movie for kids (and adults, too!)

    Keep those posts coming! You are a beacon of sanity in MY mad, mad world! Bisous, Tom

  • Delphine Says:

    Yep. When I (yes, I) first introduced a Barbie movie at home, I was ashamed. And then, I realized my girl’s we able to recognize an extract from Nutcracker or Swan Lake when they could hear one…
    When we first introduced Harry Potter, we just realized it was much too early (I didn’t remember even the first one has some freaky violence in it). But my step children (would you say that?), they watched hits movie at the same age approximately, and weren’t afraid. As you say, it is also a question of what you’re confronted to on a day to day basis.
    One of my mother trick is to laugh at silly parts (the ones where the handsome prince saves the beautiful princess… she laughs and say “c’est complètement culcul-la-praline” and it makes the girls laugh also).
    As far as sex is concerned, well, it is amazing what they learn from each others. A year ago my girls told my mother that making love is to kiss each other pussies… 🙁 first, I was ashamed, but, then, well, it’s kind of part of it. Even if we don’t talk about that right now (they thing kissing on lips in movies is disgusting), I believe that if they watch at my lover and me, they can feel that we touch, look at each other, kiss, with love and desire : that’s the image of love and sex I want them to have!

  • j Says:

    A “bribe” in the hand is worth two in the bush….

  • Kunyi Says:

    I have been in the middle of fart jokes, loud belching, competitive alphabet burping (when you try to burp your way through the alphabet) for a while now with my two boys. Oddly, I find it as funny as they do; only at the dinner table must they cease and desist. Bodily functions are often hilarious and human. And that includes sex. Violence, on the other hand, is not hilarious and I hope someday it will not be a human desire. So it’s fine if our boys watch movies with sex, romance, fart jokes, etc.. as much as they want. We have not let them watch violent movies, even when the rating is “ok”. I’m not sure what it is when we think it’s ok for kids to learn that blasting someone’s head off is “fun” and “entertaining” but seeing someone’s naked body is inappropriate. What’s up with that? I wasn’t allowed to watch Hogan’s Heroes as a kid because it made fun of the war, which tells you something about where i’m coming from. It made me feel weird and different, but it also gave me a different perspective to think about “what is this (show, ad, movie) really communicating?”

    We also subscribe to Mad Magazine which the whole family reads, including my 76 year old mother, and we find it hilarious, subversive, and great social commentary.

    All I can say is yeah, yeah, yeah baby!

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