Last Friday night, me and the huz went to see Looper at our local movie theatre. We went to the early show (7:20) and I got popcorn. The theatre was crowded, this being Friday night and the showing of a big movie in a small town. Behind us sat a gaggle of tittering middle-aged women who I think hit the bar before the show, as they had a hard time adhering to even the most basic of polite theatre-going conduct, such as, turn off your phone and do not giggle at love scenes if you are over the age of 14.
Normally, I’d get annoyed with such antics from the crowd, but I was so happy to be out with Chris, eating popcorn and about to watch a movie that wasn’t animated, that I gave the women little more than a cursory snarl. It was going to be a great night!
And then in walked a man, accompanied by a small child.
Hmm, I thought, this isn’t supposed to be a kids’ movie. And then I thought, Oh hey, I know that kid, he goes to the same school as my girls. He’s in grade one.
Grade one. At most, the kid is six years old. And he’s here to see Looper.
Maybe they made a mistake, I thought. I mean, the theatre was also showing Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania, two movies that are, y’know, kids’ movies. Maybe they walked into the wrong theatre.
They sat down, two rows directly in front of me. Maybe they’ll figure out that they’re in the wrong theatre once they look around and realize that there are no other people sitting in booster seats, I thought.
I pointed the kid out to Chris and wondered aloud why he would be in this theatre. Chris asked if I knew the adult. I did not. I had not seen him before and immediately I decided (whether this was the case or not) that this man was his dad, that he had the kid for the weekend, and that he wanted to see Looper and figured he’d take the kid with him.
The lights went down. Maybe they’ll figure out that they’re in the wrong theatre once the previews start, I hoped.
Except, this was the first preview.
I had to look away, totally scared and freaked out by what I was seeing, but the man and the little boy stayed put.
When I was six or seven years old, a babysitter let us watch Children of The Corn. I had nightmares because of that movie for years. In fact, I consider our move out here to the cornfield, immersion therapy. And I still can’t watch that movie.
If I were this child’s guardian, I would have run out of the theatre before the preview was over, child under my arm, football style. We would have hightailed it to the toy store where I would have wrapped my kid in fluffy stuffed animals and bright balls and all manner of appropriate childhood artefact to try and erase the previous 145 seconds from his little memory.
Am I projecting? Perhaps. But was this (and the next several previews) a clue that Looper, despite an AA 14, and therefore unrestricted, rating might not be appropriate for small children?
And then the movie began with a stark and unemotional assassination that set the tone for the following two hours.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt does Bruce Willis even better than Bruce Willis does Bruce Willis, and it did take me a while to get used to his Dick Tracy prosthesis. What I never got used to was the fact that there was a kid two rows ahead of me, watching things on screen that he simply shouldn’t have been watching.
There is sexualized nudity.
There is drug use.
There is profane language.
There is violence.
There is a desolate, post-apocalyptic environment.
There is murder. Lots of murder.
There are deaths of mothers, implied and realized.
And there is a cold-blooded, fully intentional murder of a five-year-old boy.
The tone of the movie was Inception meets Bladerunner. Would you sit down and watch either of those movies with your six year old? Undoubtedly, they would not understand the nuances, or maybe even the basic plotlines of either of those movies, as I’m sure this child did not understand Looper. But left without understanding or context, the movie was simply a series of disturbing images.
I was angry at this man for bringing this child into this theatre.
We all have a different level of comfort when it comes to exposing our children to pop culture and media. I sometimes think I’m lucky that my kids still like the innocent stuff, but mostly I think that they are kids, and there is plenty of time to be exposed to the not so innocent stuff.
And our children each have a different level of tolerance and interest when it comes to the more ‘grown up’ media that we expose them to. I’m not into showing my kids Star Wars, and my kids have never expressed interest in seeing it. But I know other 7 year olds that have, and when watching with a parent that was weaned on this stuff, it can be a nice rite of passage.
One night my 7 year old couldn’t sleep, and came to lay on the couch with me while I was watching Into the Wild. She watched a scene that featured a topless woman and I was ok with that, because the nudity was not sexualized at all, and my kids are being raised to be comfortable with and respectful of the human body.
As parents, we measure these things with our own yardsticks, plus a mix of understanding our child and our responsibilities to them.
Children are sometimes exposed to situations we would ideally not expose them to. Sometimes, it is inevitable. As parents, we have to guide them through these situations as best we can, and then hope that we have guided them clearly enough that the impact it has on our child is, in the end, a positive one. Or at least, not a harmful one. Sometimes we have no choice in the matter.
But a six year old being brought to a movie theatre at night to see Looper is a choice.
Legal, yes, but completely misguided. That the child was brought to see this movie was a mistake. That the man did not take the child and leave when it was apparent that this movie was not going to get any gentler, was an abuse of his power as guardian over his child.
And unlike in the movie, it is a mistake that he cannot travel back through time to undo.