Thursday, October 27, 2005

Parental Ranting


I have a soft spot for Chuck Jones. As a kid, I was captivated by a very specific kind of cartoon (dark, edgy - and not a little violent) and, as I found out later in life, that cartoon was almost invariably drawn by the late, great Chuck Jones - who incidentally was voted into the Art Director's Hall of Fame and has become one of my heroes. I'll spare you the plots- most involved anthropomorphic animals eviscerating each other for a wedge of cheese - the interesting thing was that I was powerless to look away from these cartoons. I watch my kid watching Elmo and I see this same level of engagement. Engagement is not the word. Catatonia? I ask him a question and his head turns slightly toward my voice but his eyes remain fixed on the screeching red puppet bounding around his imaginary becrayoned lair. And I think "Jesus! It HAS him!" And I feel that "TV is evil" pang that makes me want to put my tumbler full of bourbon through the TV.

Like every parent, I am torn between giving my kid everything necessary to bask in the coolness that so eluded me as a child (I am permanently resentful of my mother's refusal to purchase me a pair of white Reebok running shoes in sixth grade) and shielding his innocent little soul from all the violence, greed and emptiness that has come to define American culture: video games, movies, advertising, etc. Ouch.

I remember my own catatonia - watching Tom and Jerry blowing each other to kingdom come four hundred times in a half hour. I remember not feeling particularly moved grab a knife and experimenting on the family dog. Which is good.

A stereotypical view of cool says you're not cool unless you've been steeped in sex, violence, commerce and drug use. Of course Columbine taught us that uncool kids are almost more likely to end up amped up on crack with a freshly purchased semiautomatic weapon pointed at a hooker. Not that this is Chuck Jones' fault. Or Elmo's. I'm just saying.

So as a parent who worries, I'm sort of doomed either way. Of course the act of worrying gives me a little bit better shot than the one who doesn't care what their kid does. Hence the "Parents: The anti-drug" campaign. But my kid has to go to school with the kid whose dad lets him drink "as long as he does it safely at home with adult supervision."

Wow. I'm ranting. I'm ranting parentally. I'm ranting with Tipper-Gore-like chasteness. Cripes. I must be over 30.

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