One of my favorite movies is Rain Man. It is brilliant—the writing, the acting, the directing, the message. I wish I could watch it with my kids without my index finger nervously poised on the Fast Forward button. The strong language and mild sexual content of the movie just aren't appropriate for the younger members of my family. Same with Jerry McGuire, a fantastic flick with a "family first" message—but too many F-bombs for me to put it in the family viewing drawer.
That's why I like these new "anti-smut" DVD players. I like the idea of a filtering device that allows parents to edit content they may deem inappropriate for certain family members.
I understand the argument that indiscriminately slashing out words, phrases and even entire scenes (such as the famous "I'll have what she's having" scene from When Harry Met Sally) tampers with the overall artistic expression intended by the creators of the movie. As the person selecting the filter options (nudity, language, etc.), I appreciate the artistic value of the movie or I wouldn't want my kids to see it in the first place. As for the younger beneficiaries of the editing, they are, as my 12-year-old put it, "Just happy to be able to watch more movies!"
When I asked my 16-year-old son (a musician staunchly supportive of artistic freedom of expression) what he thought of this whole DVD editing issue, he replied, "Wow, I think that's a great idea!" After pulling myself off the floor, I urged him to expound. He reasoned, "No matter how profound the message, an offensive part can overshadow the artistic value for a particular age group or according to a person's individual moral boundaries."
Now we all have our moral high horses, even if it's bagging on the other folks who are on their moral high horses. The issue here is not whether my hot button is activated by the graphic sex scene or the bloody fight sequence or the part where the kid says "butt." The point is, there are some wonderful movies full of meaningful life lessons that simply aren't age appropriate for certain audiences, mainly because of language or certain abbreviated scenes. For example, with some editing, As Good As It Gets can be a launching point for a discussion on tolerance and prejudice.
Mind you, we're not the "Go read Little House on the Prairie before you milk the cow" family (not that there's anything wrong with that). We are all shocked that La Toya got voted off American Idol. Many of our inside jokes revolve around lines from movies—a perpetual favorite being What About Bob's "I'm taking a vacation … a vacation from my problems!" My husband and I are not on a mission to keep our kids culturally ignorant and irrelevant.
We're usually fine with our kids watching PG movies, but PG-13 movies are unpredictable. It's not uncommon for us to be sitting at home enjoying a "family-friendly" matinee when suddenly out of nowhere comes a string of profanity or a lurid love scene.
Often it's just one or two scenes that render a movie inappropriate for certain family members. Or profanity sprinkled throughout an otherwise kid-friendly film. I am excited at the prospect of sharing some incredible movie memories with my family while not having to worry about all those bleeping curse words flying around.
Lisa Espinoza Johnson, mother of four, is a columnist for Christian Parenting Today and the author of Days of Whine and Noses—Pep Talks for Tuckered Out Moms.
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