Monday, October 26, 2009

The Passive Aggressive Busybody

Sunday was hard.

It wasn't the part where I talked to my congregation about the blunt as a bludgeon reality of our mortally financial situation. Yeah, Keynote charts and graphs bite as the foundation for a sermon. But if they were good enough for the prophet Isaiah, they're good enough for me.

It wasn't the part where I tried to struggle through a day at church after an evening when my lungs seemed to be simultaneously 1) filled with disgruntled biting spiders and 2) trying to fling themselves out of my body. It also wasn't the part of the day where I tried to shake the lingering effects of dextromethorphan out of my system. Cough suppressants work just great if you've got no preachin' to do the next day, but they're a pain in the tushie when you do. "Like, dude, let me tell you about Was I saying something? Hey, man, like, have you ever looked at that stained glass window? Duude. The Colors...."

What was hard was not being a busybody. Me and the missus had some quality time scheduled in yesterday, and that took the form of the Classic Iconic Date. Dinner and a movie. Or, in this instance, a movie and then dinner. The movie in question: Zombieland. I'd had some reluctance to go see it, but the reviews were solid, and I enjoy the genre. There's just something about zombies that works with social commentary and/or hipster irony. It's like peanut butter and chocolate, or chaste dreamy vampire fiction and teenage girls. Some things just work well together.

Still and all, we anticipated a hip and savage splatterfest, a perfect storm mixture of gore and one liners, of tension and humor. We settled in to our seats in the MegaPlex. But then...the hard part.

A guy comes in. With him, he brings an 11 year old girl and a seven year old boy. I look across at Rache, who is equally aghast. What? This is going to be a brutal ride. Fun, yeah. But not for kids. Not even vaguely. We mutter. Folks around us mutter.

Then, his baseball-cap wearing friend enters. With another seven year old boy. And his two year old. Or perhaps the kid was three. Whichever way, the wee one was post toddler, but not by much. This movie is a hard R. It involves massive but contextually appropriate amounts of profanity. It will include shimmering tension, followed by screams of mortal terror. That terror will be followed by graphic death, and the undead noshing loudly and bloodily on the entrails of the recently living. And here there's a tiny kid, barely a baby, sitting four rows up.

Around us, more muttering.

My gut wanted me to do some rebuking. To walk over and ask what in the Sam Hill they were thinking. Were I Russian or Israeli, cultures where getting into other people's business is a national pastime, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. Heck, half of the theater would have gotten into it. Ultimately, law enforcement would have been involved.

But as it was, we collectively sat on our hands. If parents want to make horrendous decisions, then that's their prerogative. Heck, the kids had probably already seen worse. And anyway, this is America. If people want to do stupid things, we have no obligation to say or do anything. They are free to fail.

It wasn't our place.

Where are the boundaries of our moral obligation to neighbors and strangers? Can we gently note when decisions they're making fly in the face of sanity, or should we just remain silent?


  1. You only have a right to intervene where someone will be obviously, directly hurt. Kids watching a movie that's way over their heads- well, it ain't gonna directly hurt them, other than a few nightmares, and to be fair, by that age I'd seen much worse than Zombieland...

    And that was years ago. Children are far more intelligent and exposed to the real world than mots people think; don't feel bad for making the assumption so many others have before you. I knew what sex was before I was out of elementary school and could name various positions- not in a "parrot the older students way", but as in, actually knew what they entailed.

  2. I agree with Jacob and would add that its the owner of the house who sets the rules. Uncomfortable guests must either appeal to the owner or show that rare trait known as tolerance.

    As the parent of a two and four year old though, I value my sleep and don't want to expose them to anything that will disturb their slumber (or mine).

    So how did the children react to the movie?

  3. I saw many a horrific flick at a young age. Truly it did not seem to frighten me much. Perhaps I was already desensitized? Scary. Shouldn't have been allowed in but my older (by 10 yrs) brother who was my primary babysitter for much of my youth saw nothing wrong with it.

    Would my life have been different had I not seen those things at such a young age? Who knows, depends on what school of psychology you subscribe to, but with all the chaos going on in my home for much of my childhood, I doubt it had much impact. Some, perhaps but not alot. It is all ultimately up to the parent to decide what a child can and cannot see. Often times one mans insanity is another mans innocuous past time.

    I have no intention of exposing my kids to any of that. My 4 yr old son does like "Spooky" stuff but of the mild, preschooler variety. I hope to keep it that way as long as possible as I worry about a certain level of desensitizing that seems to be prevalent today.