… of Parenting and Parallels

An Open Letter to my Parents

Dear Mum and Dad,

I’m not sure if you read this blog or even know of its existence. If you do, um… Hi! Hopefully you’ve not read anything too shocking or suprising about me. In any case, this is a theoretical letter, so it doesn’t really matter if you read it or not.

Remember when I was in primary school, and I really, really, really wanted to watch Ghostbusters, but you thought it wouldn’t be suitable for me? It had recently been on TV, and my friend Brendan had taped it. We didn’t have a VCR at the time, so you called Brendan’s Mum and asked her if you thought it’d be Ok for me to watch. I sat in the next room, nervously listening in to the phone call, hoping for and praying for a positive answer. And it came. Brendan’s Mum thought that, while there were a couple of scenes that might be a bit scary, it was all very tame and I’d be fine. I went to Brendan’s house later that week after school and watched Ghostbusters for what would be the first of many, many times. And it went on to become on of my favourite films ever.

Then, remember when I wanted to watch Gremlins, so you called Chris’s Mum because she’d seen it, and she said that, although there were some scary scenes, I’d probably be Ok? And we all watched Gremlins and I was fine afterwards.

I learnt something from all of these phone calls. I learnt that, if I wanted to watch a movie that you didn’t think would be suitable for me, and I had opportunity to watch it, I should probably just go ahead and watch it without asking. For instance, one morning I was at a friend’s house, and my friend’s Dad suggested we watch Robocop (I won’t say which friend’s Dad, on account of you might still run into him at the local shops). Robocop was rated R [1], which meant I’d never be able to watch it at home. And I thought to myself “I really want to watch Robocop and there’s no way Mum and Dad will let me watch Robocop at home so I might as well take this chance and watch Robocop now!” And I did. And it was awesome. And to this day, I’ve never once wanted to shoot a policeman till his arms and legs fell off. It’s just never crossed my mind.

Having said all of that you guys did a pretty awesome job at being parents, and for the record in your position I’d probably have acted similarly. For instance, there’s no way I’d let my (theoretical) 10 year old son or daughter watch Robocop. I’ve seen it, and it’s pretty violent in parts, and I don’t think kids should be exposed to that. At the same time though, I also know that if my (theoretical) son or daughter really, really, really wanted to watch Robocop, they’d probably find a way, and there’s not much I could do to stop them. I can’t keep track of them 24 hours a day, and ultimately, all I could hope for is that by raising them well, they’d make the right decisions in life, and that they understand that movies are just movies, and shooting a policeman until his arms and legs fall off is wrong.

Many years later while we were in the UK visiting family, Mum, you relayed a story about how you really wanted to see a film (I really wish I could remember which one) that Nana didn’t approve of, but you went anyway, and she was very mad and didn’t talk to you over dinner. I wanted to tell you then about all the films I’d watched without your permission, but I couldn’t bring myself to it. I imagine the list would be pretty long anyway. I do remember feeling relieved though, and knowing that we had that in common made me feel like I’d, somehow, done the right thing.

So yeah, sorry Mum and Dad. I think the lesson here for everyone is, when you tell someone they can’t do something, it’s highly likely that that’s going to want to make them do it even more. So rather than banning them from doing it completely, you should maybe take time to explain why you think them doing it is a bad idea, and let them decide whether they want to do it or not. I guess it’s just one of those things about raising children, huh? I think I turned out Ok though. At least, I hope I did.

Love to you both,

Mark

[1]  Which I learnt from the story Dad once told about a teacher he once worked with, who brought a stack of R rated films – one of them being Robocop – to a school camp for the students to watch, because he was under the impression R stood for ‘Repeat’.

—–

An Open Letter to the Australian Classification Board

Dear Australian Classification Board,

I’m not even sure if you read this blog, or know of its existence. If you do, um… Hi! Hopefully you’ve not read anything too shocking or illegal about me. In any case, this is a theoretical letter, so it doesn’t really matter if you read it or not.

Remember when I was finishing up at University, and I really, really, really wanted to watch Larry Clark’s film Ken Park, but you thought it wouldn’t be suitable for Australia? It’d recently been released in the US and Europe, and Margaret from The Movie Show was able to obtain a copy to screen in Sydney. You shut the screening down pretty quickly though. I think Margaret even spent some time in jail for it. I sat, over in Perth, hoping and praying that the decision would be overturned and Ken Park would be released to cinemas, but it wasn’t. Fortunately for me, a friend of a friend with a high-speed internet connection was able to obtain a copy of the film from a country where Ken Park was released, and later that week I sat down to watch it on my computer for the first of what was probably a couple of times. I wouldn’t call it my favourite film ever, but it’s definately one of Larry Clark’s best.

Then, remember the time when I wanted to watch Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs, so you watched it first and decided it wasn’t really suitable for me, but then you watched it again and said it’d probably be ok? And now I can just rent 9 Songs from most video stores in Australia? So I went to the video store and rented 9 Songs, and I was fine afterwards.

I learnt something from all of these decisions. I learnt that, if I wanted to watch a movie that you didn’t think would be suitable, and I had opportunity to watch it, I should probably just go ahead and watch it. For instance, one Saturday night recently I had the opportunity to watch A Serbian Film. I’d read interesting things about the film and people’s reactions to its content, and wanted to see and judge it for myself. Then I  read you’d refused the film classification in Australian, meaning it would never be commercially avaialble to view in this country [1]. And I thought to myself “Now I really want to watch A Serbian Film, and there’s no way the government will let me purchase a ticket to see A Serbian Film in a cinema, or rent or buy it on a locally released DVD, so I might as well take this opportunity and watch A Serbian Film now!” And I did. And it was pretty bleak, and I can see how you’d have reservations allowing people to see it. At the same time though, I’m an adult, I feel I was warned sufficiently about its content, and I knew what I was getting myself in for. And to this day, I’ve never once wanted to be involved in the creation or production of snuff films, or do any of the disgusting acts that are shown in the movie. It’s just never crossed my mind.

Having said all of that, I do understand where you’re coming from in some respects, and for the record, in your position I’d also have reservations. For instance, there’s no way I’d let my (theoretical) 10 year old son or daughter watch A Serbian Film, or Ken Park or even 9 Songs. I’ve seen them all, they’re all very confronting films, and I don’t think kids should be exposed to that kind of content. If my (theoretical) child ever showed an interest in watching these films or films of the same ilk, I’d explain to them why I thought it was a bad idea, and how when they’re older, they’d be welcome to chose what they watched, and expose themselves to what they’d feel was appropriate. At the same time though, I also know that if my (theoretical) son or daughter really, really, really wanted to watch A Serbian Film, or Ken Park or even 9 Songs, they’d probably find a way, and there’s not much I could do to stop them. I can’t keep track of them 24 hours a day, and ultimately, all I could hope for is that by raising them well, they’d make the right decisions in life, and that they understand that movies are just movies, and hanging out with Serbians who make snuff films under the guise of art, is wrong.

So yeah, sorry Australian Government Classification Board. I think the lesson here for everyone is, when you tell someone they can’t do something, it’s highly likely that that’s going to want to make them do it even more, and by trying to stop this sort of content being view by adults, ultimately you’re just going to draw more attention to it. So rather than banning them from doing it completely, you should maybe take time to explain why you think them doing it is a bad idea, and let them decide whether they want to do it or not. I guess it’s just one of those things about running a country, huh? I think I turned out Ok though. At least, I hope I did.

Love to you all,

Mark

[1] A Serbian Film will have a limited release in the US in an edited form, with an unedited version being made available digitally. Similarly, an edited version has been approved for viewing in the UK who, let’s face it, have a history that’s much worse than ours when it comes to banning films. Yet, A Serbian Film is still refused classification (banned) here. Via Dark Horizons.

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Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

10 thoughts on “… of Parenting and Parallels”

    1. Thanks Phil. I’m not sure if I’m done on this topic, but I fear people will get a bit sick of hearing about it. Reading about the content that’s been refused classification over the past 11 years or so, it’s something that I’ve become quite passionate about. I really don’t like the idea of someone else deciding what I should and shouldn’t be allowed to see. As long as no-one is being harmed in the creation of the content, and no laws are being broken in the process, then surely it should be my choice.

  1. Nicely written. It makes me angry to think that others like to think on our behalf. Just the simple fact that people on the censorship board see the film makes the whole process hypocritical. Who the fuck are they? I think all this is tolerated because our society is based on Christianity and for the most part, the church has been thinking for us. Son we come to expect it when we hand power over to Governments. French philosopher Jacques Lacan (yeah, I know – yawnfest) talked about separating the baby from the breast. Looks like Mummy still really needs to learn how to let her children go. … Down with governments!?

    1. Absolutely not!

      I agree completely – the fact is, what I can watch or not watched, or even play (I’ve purposefully avoided the whole gaming debate here) is based on someone else’s moral values, which I find highly offensive.

      Thanks for your comment Edwin!

  2. Lovely post. But.

    9 Songs was never banned in Australia; it copped an X-rating on its first trip through the ACB restricting its sale to ACT/NT before the review board gave it an R. Planet Video has it in their stock-list and i think i’ve even seen it on the shelf there.

    First classification (X for sexually explicit material): http://classification.gov.au/www/cob/find.nsf/d853f429dd038ae1ca25759b0003557c/2751a9a9da2f0046ca2576710079d92d?OpenDocument
    Review classification (R for actual sex and high level sex scenes): http://classification.gov.au/www/cob/find.nsf/d853f429dd038ae1ca25759b0003557c/1ace301dce112994ca2576710079fa01?OpenDocument
    Buy it at Planet: http://www.planetvideo.com.au/library/dvd/view/9333723000387/

    1. I had a similar experience. Watched it at a friend’s house, but have to thank a very lax local video store and their ‘who cares about ID’ policy, rather than parents.

      In fact, I’m pretty sure the same video store was responsible for lending my friends and I most of Tarantino’s oeuvre.

      Which is such a film student word.

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