In almost every situation across the board, parents will try to shift the blame from themselves. Almost yearly, you hear a multitude of new indignant voices from whiny mums trying to defame some form of media, which seems to have become a routine because this started all the way back in the 1930s. People hated the cinema, thought it would bring in debauchery and sin. And the same was true for alcohol, which was what brought in the failed idea of prohibition. Then the comic book scare from the 50s to 60s, rock and roll in the 70s and after that, in the 80s and 90s videogames. People will always see it as their moral way to stand up for some injustice and find a way to get it banned for whatever reason or the other. They cry that damages our morality and spoils are kids, while, being absolutely fair, beating a child only became a crime in the past century. Everyone thinks they have a monopoly on what should be right, but the truth is, that it is the collective that should be listened to. Videogames, alcohol, comic books, music, movies. All these things have become a part of our society, for better or for worse, and banning them only leads to more problems. Lack of expression, lack of art, and most importantly, lack of a voice from where we can explore more complex ideas.
So I’m here to break down some of the many reasons why a lot of people, especially, in my humble opinions, parents, view a lot of kid’s media as violent and ban-worthy. And why they in particular, should just sod off.
We’ve Come a Long Way
I am a big advocate of free speech. I feel that if you have an idea you feel is important enough to be hears, you should say it, and that people who oppose it should be able to for whatever their reasons are. And at the end of the end of the day, the best ideas will win out by merit of having better ideas. This prevents an ideological echo chamber akin to Ingsoc from 1984. However, indignant parents, and I say parents because they are usually the loudest voice, tend to want a straight up ban to these type of things, and they usually go way too far. We have had various forms of entertainment for over 100 years now. One of the first films was in the late 1800s, and since then, we’ve come up with standards, regulations, guidelines and ethics. We respect free speech, but we also have to set limits for our industries. There was a time when Hollywood was so rampant in its depiction of sex that there was a Christian and Catholic boycott that changed the face of the movie industry for 20 years. It reflected the outrage of the people at the time, and we’ve seen that many times throughout history. Since then we now have boards that review games before they release and then assign a rating to them. And I think those ratings are fair and well. At the end of the day I’ll enjoy playing a game like GTA V because even though it is an open world sandbox filled with violence, the rules still exist. There are police, and consequences to your actions. It also has three interesting and well written characters, which helps a lot. Anyone who says otherwise is full of trash. You can’t compare this to a game like Postal 2 which was banned in a few countries, I think rightfully, because that was a game about utterly pointless violence. If there was anyone willing to play such a mindless game, then they could get it straight from the developer. Every retailer had a right to ban the sale of this game.
And that’s one of the problems at the end of the day. The people that attempt to ban music, games and all that have never even, not once attempted to understand them. They hate them for no reason, which makes them look stupid and sheltered to say the least. If the medium is bad, I think people will react anyways. Postal 2 got generally negative reviews across the board. Even though there were many attempts by parents to ban rock music, and later on hip-hop, they never strived to understand the meaning in the music. The concepts and the lives of artists, and how kids related to that. If a rapper raps about guns and drugs, it might be because that’s where he’s coming from. If a rockstar screams about torn heartstrings and an escape to hell, it might be because his love has been taken from him. In more ways than none, people relate to these things, a chance to rebel and express themselves and revel in the unabashedly loud and uncaring music. Music, and almost any other media for that matter, doesn’t judge. It doesn’t care how you look or act or dress, because it’s there to let you be yourself and help you get through it. And parents fear that. Because every parent tries as hard as they can to mould their children into what they want them to be.
Where Were the Parents?
Kids, especially kids with siblings, will fight. I remember I once had a fight with my older brother so vicious that I was left dizzy with a bloody nose. Kids are generally nasty to each other, deal with it. It’s a learning process to teach them manners and good habits, even at the most basic levels. Therefore, I think shifting the blame for bad behaviour, or any potential bad behaviour is lazy at best. What happened to parents spending family time with their kids and getting to know what they’re interested in? Even when it comes to teenagers, who are as angsty as they come, they still have a higher level of intelligence than kids. They don’t need to be mollycoddled and can understand much more complex situations. Would it kill you to simply sit with them and try to understand them, not simply control them? It may be hard, but you didn’t have a baby so you could live an easy, carefree life.
For example, my mum never wanted me to read Harry Potter. She’d have none of it because there was “witchcraft” in it. A big no-no for Christians. which sucked ’cause my dad had no problem with it and my sisters had read every book and watched every movie. It wouldn’t have hurt her to read it and understand that it was a fun book that showed the power of friendship, loyalty, trust, parental love and the triumph of good vs evil all without mindless violence or rotting your brain. It makes no sense to blame all your problems on one thing or medium when the news portrays so much negativity, when our world is fucked up, when problems arise at every turn and when one wrong move can fuck up a child’s life. Ultimately, it’s a parent that chooses how to raise their child, and a careful approach is needed. I would not let my 3 or 4 year touch Call of Duty, but when they’re 9 or 10 I would sit down with them and play it. Explain some simple moral concepts, talk about the history of war and educate them. I wouldn’t allow my 9-year-old to touch GTA, but once they’re a teenager, they can explore the game. All it takes is some semi-awkward social interaction and some behaviour monitoring. Fairly certain they won’t just steal the neighbour’s car and go on a crime spree.
Parents control a lot of what their kids are allowed to watch and experience. I understand the fear that parents have over losing their children to the cultural boogeyman. But all it takes is a bit of effort to allow your kids to have fun while monitoring them and guiding them through whatever. If you put too much of a yoke on kids, or completely leave them to their own devices, you have a recipe for disaster. A lot of people blamed Marilyn Manson for the Columbine Massacre, forgetting that the US was going through a particularly brutal time. Sending troops to the gulf with racial inequality and gun violence rampant and the news on a fear-mongering campaign. But it was Marilyn Manson a lot of kids were turning to in order to escape all that along with everything else teenager’s deal with. Constrict kids too much and they turn out worse for it, having no personality and living a sheltered life, or rebelling to the max simply to spite everyone and everything.
I’m no expert on parenting, but I’ve been raised by parents who were both understanding and firm. They didn’t allow me every freedom, but they allowed me a lot, all while instilling good morals, values and a knack for exploration. I may have made a bunch of mistakes growing up, but I learnt quickly from them, because perfection is extremely overrated. And I have great friends whose parents gave them similar treatment and allowed them to explore. Would it make a difference if we were raised different? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll leave you with this amazing quote by Marilyn Manson. “Is adult entertainment killing our children? or is killing our children entertaining our adults?”