Parents and Kids! Experience Instead of Censorship

* A response to the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae *

I let my seven-year-old son watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also let him watch all the previous  Marvel films that came before it. Needless to say, the parents of many of his friends think I am crazy for introducing him to  such mature content at such a young age. He would do well to wait and be exposed to them when he is older; he is just a little guy, after all.

So when I read the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae, I was momentarily paralyzed with the fear that I was a poor influence on my child. I was, *shudder*, a bad parent! Lucky for me, Rae helped me get over that feeling pretty quickly.

The article begins with a flashback to when  Rae allowed her seven and five year old sons watch Indiana Jones. She had genuine concerns that the maturity level and adult content would upset them. And she was partly right. Her eldest son expressed fear for a characters safety. She found herself wondering if he was able to comprehend the justification of plot choices and resolution of the story.

I had a similar situation occur when my son was five.

Five was, my husband and I agreed, the right age to watch the original Star Wars films. After all, we watched them as five year olds and we turned out all right. But lo and behold, when Darth Vader sliced off Luke’s hand, my son panicked. He was upset. He didn’t understand the brutality of the situation, the purpose of the scene.

One of the strongest points in Rae’s article is that parents should be active participants in their children’s learning. Instead of deterring children from (all) mature content, they should explore that content with their children, offering explanations and encouragement when necessary. My son was fine once he realized that Luke would get a bionic hand out of the confrontation. He was even more excited when he learned that other Star Wars films, and even the Marvel ones, have a hand-chopping scene. Not because we turned him into a sadist, but because we introduced him to science fiction tropes. Through our discussion he comprehends how that scene drives the plot of the series and how directors and writers of other franchises (Marvel, in particular) tip their hats to its importance. I would argue the experience honed his visual literacy skills as he actively seeks out the similar scenes in other films.

Rae rightly suggests that we live in a time where everything has the potential to be censured: superheroes for fighting, Harry Potter for magic, Darwin for evolution. But can we shield our children from everything? More importantly, is it right to?

Libraries and Schools across North America receive challenges for materials frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be an established line between what is a valid concern and an invalid one. Rae reminds us that discrepancies exist when questions of appropriateness are concerned.CCAseal-469x600 What is inappropriate for one person may not be for another. Should we allow materials to be censured so that no one may enjoy them? Should I keep my son from watching an Avengers film because the mothers of his friends deem it unacceptable? No, that’s just not a good enough reason for me.

In my opinion, everything has the potential to be a teachable moment. Our society has shifted from one that creates and instills values in our youth (as Rae mentions, family, church, community were once the harbingers of values) to one that muddles those values. The burden of teaching everything to our children has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of our schoolteachers. They impart lessons in life as much as they demonstrate mathematical equations; and through all of this, while carrying the weight of this new responsibility, parents are challenging the teacher’s choices of content and resources.

As Rae implies, the task of exploring media (books, film, television and the ever increasing popularity of the Internet) should be a partnership between child and parent so that when questions of content appropriateness arise, parents can discuss issues and themes as they relate to their personal values. As she notes, parents need to help children dissect and explore the concepts they don’t understand or like. A teacher alone cannot interpret the values of each individual family, each individual student. But a supportive family environment, along with a teacher’s guidance, can be a life changing lesson for a child.

In the end, kids are going to be exposed to the world around them. Whether it is through a complicated novel, a difficult current issues debate, a questionable film, the brutality within the frames of the nightly news, the lewd entertainment available to anyone with cable television, or the far reaches of the Internet, kids are going to be exposed. Wouldn’t it be great if they had a parent, an adult, to help them navigate this uncharted, perplexing territory?

My son watches superhero movies. He is seven. When he doesn’t understand, my husband and I guide him to insight. He will not be censured because others choose to avoid rather than enlighten. And he is pretty enlightened, for a little guy.

We are a family of superhero enthusiasts. We just superhero responsibly.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

Whedon and the Honest Woman

Warning: Avengers Age of Ultron Spoilers Ahead!

Joss Whedon’s been getting some flack about his lack of feminism in his latest flick, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I find this unsettling.

I mean, among Whedonites around the world, Joss is akin to a Sci-Fi/Fantasy god, not to mention the male poster child for feminism. He is, after all, both an avid supporter of women’s rights and equality, and the creator of one of the strongest female characters of all time, Buffy Summers, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The part that is unsettling, however, is that I don’t think he missed the mark in this film. For me, he kinda nailed it.

I am a thirty two year old  woman and I spend an obscene amount of time reading superhero comics. I am also a mother. A stay-at-home mom. A stay-at-home mom with three university degrees and a career I have chosen to put on hold so I can have extra time to cuddle with my children and ensure they develop a love for superheroes early on. Very early, I might add. So I am dismayed about Whedon’s feminist condemnation, because for me he got it right.

images (1)Next to Ms. Marvel, The Scarlet Witch is my favourite female superhero. She harbours an immense power that overwhelms and sometimes overcomes her. She is flawed, tragic and frightened of herself, her desires, and the uncertainty of her place in the super world in which she dwells. As a woman I am drawn to her because I can relate to these struggles. I often see myself in her stories because she can’t quite accept the hand she was dealt, she yearns to be a better version of herself. So do I. In fact, I can say that if I had her power set I would have broken the world as she did in House of M if my children, real or illusion, were ripped from me. I am no better or worse than she is. She is the quintessential anxiety ridden character. There is honesty in her development, and Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of her is good. Really good. She is a constant bundle of nerves striving to understand her place among mortals and gods. She needs her brother for balance (not for worth) because she fears herself and the path down which she leads others. She is obviously dealing with an inner-torture that many women with anxiety can and do relate to, and towards the end of the film we see her making a good start at overcoming these personal obstacles without unrealistically surmounting them.

Linda Cardellini’s character as Susan, Hawkeye’s wife, was a little glimpse into my own reality. She exudes a kind of  strength that even a super hero cannot fully convey. She is a mother, a wife, and an outcast. In the cyberverse she has been branded as nothing more than a housewife, but I don’t see her that way. I see a strong woman who gave up everything to live a remote existence on a farm away from everything in order to protect her family. She might be “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” but it takes a damn strong woman to raise three kids alone. The very fact Whedon chose to make her look tired and a little unkept shows that she is a real woman. A real mother.  She is the hero of her family. Stay-at-home mom’s have as much self and social worth as the woman who battles droids on a freeway. Which brings me to my next point.

If I hear one more complaint about Black Widow’s back story I might scream. The fact that she laments that she cannot have children does not reduce her value as a strong female character. Instead, I would argue that it enhances her strength. After all, feminism is about equal rights and the right to choose how to project said femininity; this is a right she is not afforded. Black Widow had all of her rights stripped away from her by a sadistic, brainwashing, body mutilating government agency. She is not necessarily in mourning because she can’t have children insomuch as she mourns the loss of her ability to choose whether or not to have those children. She is  the fictitious superhero embodiment of women who have their rights torn from them when forced into a life of compliance (luckily for her, she gets out of that pesky situation).

Black Widow’s character development represents a feminine frankness that is sorely lacking in female superheroes, particularly for the audience to which I belong. I wish there were more instances where I could connect with Jessica Jones’ tug of war, crime fighting vs. life with kid, which is very much like my own, work or life with kid conundrum. I wish Sue Storm had more opportunity to fret about the choices she makes for the good of her children. I am glad Black Widow would have at least liked the opportunity to have them at all. And as for the budding romance with Banner, though I do not see it as necessary, I do believe it represents a desire to connect with someone, and who better to understand her pain than Banner? luke-cage-jessica-jones

I appreciate Whedon’s portrayal of the women in his movies. No doubt he would have had more, but I suspect that two superheroes, a SHEILD first in command, a world renowned scientist, and some advanced computer programmers were as much female power as the big wigs behind production could withstand. For now, at least. Joss did a good job with what he had to work with.

In the meantime, if a superhero wants to have an honest flaw like raising a family, anxiety and insecurity, or uncertainty of personal worth, that’s ok with me. It doesn’t  make me feel so bad about being an old, anxious, stay-at-home comic reader, mother of two. Actually, it makes me feel pretty damned good about it!

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

 

A Thought on Four Generations

After analyzing the whole blogging business, and it’s purpose (which I may be completely off base about), I thought I would try to write about something I feel I have a bit of experience in and something that I know I will continue to ultimately fail and succeed at doing: Mothering.

I am sure (at least I hope) that there are some mothers who understand the above. From my perspective as daughter, my mother failed and succeeded and at a number of different mother-daughter-raising-children-every-child-is-different-there-is-no-manual-breastfeeding-is-hard-bottlefeeding-is-wrong-bottle-feeding-is-great-stay-at-home-parents-are-perfect-working-parents-are-better-stay-at-home-parents-are-wrong-working-parents-are-wrong-homeschooling-is-better-public-schooling-is-better-you-can’t-spoil-your-kid-with-love-rule-with-an-iron-fist-children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard-give-your-child-a-voice-all-teenagers-are-bad-all-teenagers-are-people-too…yadda, yadda, yadda. …rites of passage(s). As a mother myself, I realize that, regardless of the “mistakes” she made, my mother did the best with exactly what she had, which, by-the-way did not include parenting blogs or how-to-anything at your fingertips 24/7, or even a mother herself. She did pretty darn good job considering she lost her mother at the age of 18. Truth-be-told, I don’t know what I would do without her. That being said, we are different parents (as all are).

There are a lot of things I didn’t do when our children were babies that she did, and a lot of things that I know I will do differently as my children enter the age of adolescence. She and I butted heads, of course, (see above), over a great many things. She did this, and it worked, so why couldn’t I? She thought (and still believes) that Zincofax is terrible. She said it stung my children’s bums. I kid you not…my mother was COMPLETELY against ZINCOFAX. It was a serious point of contention. I really wish I was joking. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel. By the time our 3rd child was born, she became ok with me in the mothe role, She began to realize that what my husband and I decide goes, regardless of our rationale behind it. These are our children, and our choices, and they need to be respected.

unnamedAll of the head-butting aside, I realize now that perhaps our children are a way for my mother to be the parent she wishes she had been during those times of trial and error with me. I believe she recognizes what she would have done differently, if do-overs were an option. Unfortunately in the world of parent-hood, we don’t get to re-evaluate, edit, and re-submit our final results. We get one shot. She knows this now, and so do I, and will try, as a mother myself to always keep it in mind.

I hope I get be in her shoes someday…to someday hold my grandchild and remember my mistakes, and want to help my children not make the same mistakes I made with them, (and I have oh-so-many more to make, yay!…where would psychologists be without mothers?). I want to be able to tell my grandchild when they are fighting with their parents, how much their parents love them, even if they truly believe they are acting unfairly to them. I know my mother will do this for me.

My mother’s perspective and vantage point is completely different from mine. I have no idea from where she is coming when she tries to advise or criticize or counsel or coach. All I can do is try to understand it and respect it. Because, at the end of the day, I admire my mother. Craziness (current…my fault..) and “mistakes” (past, present and future) aside, I am proud of my mother. And I am grateful for her. I am still angered by her, and sometimes hurt by her, (I am sure this is not one-sided, and so I’m sorry mum), which simply means that she, like me, is merely human. And,  I love her, unconditionally.

By Danerra Speares