Let’s face it, toys are so much cooler now than when we were kids! It may be popular among parents to bemoan the fact that “toys these days don’t require any imagination”, but if you’re honest you’ll have to admit that given the choice between the generic set of Lincoln Logs from your childhood and a modern day Lego set that assembles to form a 23 inch-long Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer, there’s just no competition.
OK, I never actually bought that set for my boys ($375!? Yikes!), but stick with me here.
Picture for a moment a thirty-something guy, sitting on the living room floor surrounded by the 1300 pieces and two instruction books required for such a set. If that guy is single and building the set for himself, you’re probably going to assume he still lives with his mother and works in the fast food industry. But if you add a kid to the picture, that same guy gets a pass for doing the exact same thing! In fact, you probably assume he’s a great dad because he’s not only spending time with his child, he’s protecting him from that choking hazard the box warned about!
This parental immunity has all sorts of great applications. Look! There’s a grown man riding down the road on a kid’s motorized scooter. Hmmm, that’s a little weird. But wait! It turns out he’s just a dad out playing with his kids! Ok, then!
It works the same way with movies.
Because I have kids, I can admit publically that I have not only watched, but even shed tears, during any number of Disney movies over the years. I am immune to this raising questions about my manhood however, because my “Man Card” has a distinctive checkmark in the “Dad” block.
Of course, being the father of all boys meant that my immunity had its limits. As they got older I had to start being more careful about letting movies get to me. The more susceptible I got to sappiness, the more my boys started calling me on it. Blaming my watery eyes on allergies only went so far.
I’m fairly certain that fathers with daughters don’t have to go through this phase.
Thankfully my boys’ taste in movies eventually gravitated toward more manly stuff that presented fewer threats of exposing my weakness. We watched and re-watched movies like “Remember the Titans” and “Braveheart” until the boys could quote whole scenes from memory. There are some great lessons to be learned about manhood in movies like those. “Rudy” provided us with an inspiring story of someone who overcame impossible odds, and it made a lifelong Notre Dame fan out of Philip. Even the “Lord of the Rings” movies had great examples of heroism and bravery.
Inspiring quotes from many movies became a common part of our family conversation. “He chose…poorly” (from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and “Life’s not fair, is it?” (from The Lion King) were especially useful when discipline was called for. Injuries provided the opportunity to use favorites like “Hey Sanka, ya dead?” (Cool Runnings) and “It’s just a flesh wound!” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) to help lighten the mood. When personal hygiene or the condition of their rooms demanded attention, we could make our point by declaring, “Phew! And I thought they smelled bad on the OUTside!” (Han Solo from The Empire Strikes Back)
Movies can be a rich source of inspiration and examples, but many movies also contain unfortunate language or scenes that we didn’t think were appropriate for our boys at the time. It was frustrating to us that so many movies with positive messages came bundled with such negative elements. We made heavy use of web sites like Focus on the Family’s Plugged In to provide us with a heads-up about what we might encounter in various films. The movie rating system sure didn’t help much. We found PG-13 movies that were awful and R-rated movies that were great. Our rule had always been that the boys weren’t allowed to see R-Rated movies until they had gone through their Rite of Passage, but sometimes the R-rated movies were just too good to pass up so we looked for ways to make them work.
Sometimes we could find the movies we wanted to watch on the major networks, where they had been filtered of their offending elements. We discovered, however, that it was perilous to assume that a movie was filtered just because it was on TV. Some cable stations run movies in their original form, without the filtering that is required of the broadcast networks, and it’s not always clear beforehand.
To combat this, and to allow us the freedom to watch movies on DVD without fear of cringe-worthy moments, we got what we affectionately called our “cuss box”. The actual name for it is “TV Guardian” and it’s still available in various forms. Some TVs even come with it built-in now.
TV Guardian works by examining the closed captioning for a movie or program and looking for certain key words. When it detects one of those blacklisted words, it silences the TV and puts up a caption with its own version of the entire phrase. The system works quite well but, while it greatly reduced our uncomfortable moments, it wasn’t perfect. It became obvious before long that any reference to sex was going to be replaced by “hugs”. That made for some pretty hilarious sounding substitutions. The “B-word” used as a demeaning reference for women was replaced by “nags”, and any reference to God was just deleted, presumably on the assumption that it was going to be used in conjunction with another word. In time, we all knew exactly what was being “filtered-out”, but it still gave us a way to comfortably watch some really great movies with the whole family.
Movies with awesome characters and inspiring lines like these:
“In the year of our Lord, 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn.
They fought like warrior poets.
They fought like Scotsmen.
And they won their freedom.”
That’s William Wallace from “Braveheart.” Doesn’t it just make you want to don a kilt and do something brave?
“Every man dies. But not every man really lives.”
Now if someone would just invent a box that filters out the sappy parts of movies, we’d be in business.
originally published 1/26/12| next post Birth Order