My kids and I loved How To Train Your Dragon. It is a humorous and fun movie, and it has dragons. Natch. So when news of How To Train Your Dragon 2 surfaced, I made an immediate mental note to bring them to see it.
Then a friend on Facebook started a conversation about this.
For those of you who don’t want to click the link, it says that a character in the movie comes out of the closet onscreen, and that his sexuality is now being explored as a theme in the third movie, currently in production. The writer of the films asks “do we shed a little more light on Gobber’s love life?”
My Facebook friend was trumpeting this announcement, claiming it was a great victory for society: “It is about time cartoons start embracing real life.”
For me, this is now one more thing I will not be subjecting my children to.
With the current media and social climate, I anticipate that most people will react just the way my friend did on Facebook, calling me out for “immaturity” on the topic of homosexuality. He (and anyone else with that reaction) is misreading my objection entirely; with a family as large and close as mine, you are inevitably exposed to some diversity!
It is not the fact of the character’s sexual orientation that sets off my parenting alarms, it is the fact that sexual orientation is addressed at allin a film ostensibly for children.
Including adult humor in movies is not new. In my lifetime, though, the subtlety has gone out the window - In the Shrek series for example there isn’t even an attempt to hide it.
In fact, society at large has become increasingly hypersexualized in ways that, as a parent, I find appalling.
A prime example is sports. I am a huge sports fan and naturally enough I would like to share sports with my children. Right now my favorite hockey team, the New York Rangers, is playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. A championship fandom experience shared with my children would be amazing.
Unfortunately, every third commercial on the telecast is for the latest boner pill, described in terms that can lead to sexual harassment charges in a normal work environment.
The same thing goes for football. Could I watch the Giants Super Bowl run in the 2011-2012 season with Seamus? Of course not, Go Daddy was running commercials.
It is worse on the radio. Sometimes I forget that I was listening to sports talk without the kids, and start the car just in time to hear the Boston Medical Group guarantee that I will have firmer, longer lasting erections and better sex or my money back.
The end result is that I, the actual consumer of this media, enjoy sports less, and less often. In effect I am being forced to choose between what ought to be a harmless pursuit and living up to my ideals of what it means to be a great dad.
Some of my readers already know that I like to get my children involved with menu planning and grocery shopping. As we wander through the aisles of the grocery store, it’s fun to talk about how put together a dish, how to build a meal, where the foods come from, and whether or not it “counts” as a vegetable.
Then comes check out time.
Of course I cannot (and don’t want to) shield my children from everything in life. Controlling the message at home, though, helps establish behavioral boundaries that can influence children forever. Eight-year old children (Seamus’ age) aren’t – or shouldn’t be – preoccupied with sex.
Which brings me back to the original example. Suppose the character in question, Gobber, was depicted as living with another man. Suppose the director then came out and said the other man is Gobber’s life partner, or they are a married couple, or what have you. Honestly, I would have no problem with that whatsoever. I am very live and let live. Children wouldn’t assume sex was happening at that point any more than they assume sex is happening in their parents’ bedrooms after bedtime.
But that isn’t what’s happening here. The characters onscreen are addressing it directly, and now it is planned to be a plot point in the sequel. Just like the Go Daddy commercials, just like the Viagra commercials, just like the inappropriate cartoons, we have one more way that modern media is trying to keep kids from being, well, kids.
In the end, this isn’t really a discussion about How To Train Your Dragon 2, it’s a discussion about society’s rush to sandblast away our kids’ childhoods.
Children are not supposed to be miniature adults. They are supposed to have “childlike innocence.” They are supposed to have a sense of wonder. They are supposed to discover new things gradually, not have the whole world thrust into their brains the moment they are capable of understanding speech. If we insist on taking that away from them as early as possible, what does that say about us?