Probably no one. Kids are sponges.
I’m babysitting the two daughters (ages 6 and 10) of a single mom. We had a nice afternoon at the park, followed by a popsicle snack and viewing of that animated owl movie. But later in the evening, the girls wanted to watch another movie. They wouldn’t tell me what it was; “It’s a surprise! Wait till we put it in!” It turned out to be Dodgeball, which, they proudly pointed out to me, is rated PG-13. I doubtfully asked if they were allowed to watch it, and they assured me that they watch it with their mom “all the time”. Their mother seems like one of those young, “cool” moms, and judging from her use of the phrase “What the fuck?” within 5 minutes of meeting me (‘cause I never watched Weeds…), I wasn’t TOO surprised. I couldn’t remember anything too “inappropriate” from Dodgeball, so I said to hell with it, and let them play it. Kids seem to love watching movie previews, and these two were no exception. We saw ads for some really terrible-looking movies. One was about a couple of Average Joes (that’s a Dodgeball joke/reference, for those of you who’ve seen it) who go to prom or something with porn stars. At some point in the preview, two of the (female) porn stars leaned in like they were going to kiss each other. Then, the six-year-old I’m babysitting goes “Ew, lesbians!!” Now was my turn to ask “What the fuck?” (in my head, of course). I had to say something quick. So, I said, “That’s not ew!” or something like that. And she says, “But they were about to kiss each other!” And, while I reallyyy wanted to say how awesome girls-kissing-girls is, instead I said, “What’s so ‘ew’ about that?” And she ignored me. To make things even better/more awkward, I’m pretty sure the 10-year-old is a wee little lesbian. Neither of them asked me what a porn star is.
Then we got to the actual movie. I know that it’s supposed to be funny, and Ben Stiller’s character was supposed to be satirical, but his fatphobic remarks were too much. But it got worse. One of the first scenes is a scrawny guy being paired with a fat girl during cheerleading tryouts and she falls on him, crotch to face. The guy is retelling the story, and everyone, including him, is sooo grossed out. But I feel like there’d be high-fiving and fist bumps if a thin, “hot” cheerleader had fallen and landed with her crotch on his face. There’s also a “lesbian” remark in the movie.
And then I started thinking about censorship. I’m totally anti-censorship, but I know that as a parent I’m going to have to draw the line somewhere. It’s not a matter of content, it’s what my kids will be learning from what they see, and taking out into the world. I don’t want sexist, fatphobic, homophobic comments in movies turning my children into little assholes. I don’t want them to think that those are the kinds of things that are funny. I don’t want them to think things are funny only if they’re at the expense of another person or group. It has nothing to do with sex or a couple of profanities.
(I wrote that last night while I was waiting for the girls’ mom to get home)
I realized that there are different types of homophobia, sort of, and this is classified as the ignorant (I mean, it’s all ignorant), gays-are-gross kind. The kind that’s not even backed by religion. It’s just pointless, learned hatred. I’m sure for this little 6 yr old it’s not exactly hatred… not yet. But one day it might turn into that, and who’s to blame? (No, really…who?) I’ll take this as an opportunity to quote my dad, by saying “I blame society!”
Posted May 23 on my tumblr. Looking back, it’s a little presumptuous and judgey, but I guess that sometimes happens when one gets angry. I definitely didn’t mean for it to sound like I was entirely blaming the mother. Kids pick up a lot from school and their peers, and the “evidence” I use against the mother was weak.