You’re Taking Your Kid to That Horror Movie? Really?

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As a movie critic, I’m encouraged to be judgmental. But when it comes to other people’s personal lives or the choices I see somebody make day-to-day, well, I tend to pull out my imaginary fishing rod and just reel that opinionated, faultfinding side of my psyche back in.

Really, I do.

Hey, I’ve made more than my own share of mistakes in life. And as long as some guy doesn’t look like he’s about to start swinging a dead chicken in a crowd or step blithely out into heavy traffic, what business is it of mine to tell him what to do? Who am I to say that your toupee looks like something that ought to have its own face?

But when it comes to how parents sometimes deal with the media mud puddle that their kids have to dog paddle through, well, I can’t always reel, uh, real well.

Case in point: A few nights back I attended an early screening of the latest Insidious film to review it for Plugged In. Most of these movie screenings also welcome a bevy of VIPs and movie aficionados, and among the free-ticketed crowd were some parents who brought their kids along. (Mind you, these were average-looking moms and dads who didn’t appear abnormal or mentally impaired in any way.)

One particular woman and her little son—who looked to be about 5 or 6—sat just behind me. As we waited for the projector to spew forth its creepy creepshow, even this young kid started to wonder aloud if the pic was going to be too scary for his tastes. To which his mum replied, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” As the horror movie unspooled, I heard the tyke moaning, groaning and uncontrollably arrghing his way through the jump scare fest before him.

Nightmare anyone?

Now, I understand someone’s love of movies. And I get that babysitters don’t grow on proverbial trees. But come on!

If you’re someone like this mom, or maybe this mom herself, I humbly implore you to consider more than the fact that it’s been a tough week and you really need a night out.

Granted, we adults grow certain shock-absorbing filters during a life of seeing obnoxious garbage that we probably shouldn’t have exposed ourselves to. I myself have seen and reviewed so many of these horror pics that I can almost predict the number of seconds and turned dark-shadowed corners before each screeching cinematic ghoulie pops up. But the suffering children in our midst have no such buffers.

During the same screening, a different tyke—a girl of about 7 or 8 this time—was walking down the darkened theater aisle next to me, apparently heading by herself to the restroom (another parental decision that doesn’t earn any medals in my book). And just as she drew up next to my row, she froze and stared gape-mouthed at the bothersome blech on screen. At that moment, her youthful fear froze her in place and even overwhelmed her need to empty her bladder (or perhaps it was no longer necessary at that juncture).

My point is, do we really think it’s a good thing to toss our kids into that bottomless pool? Is that the best way to learn how to swim in our media flooded world? Do you really want your kids sleeping with a nightlight when they’re 34? If we’ve all agreed that seatbelts are a good thing and child-protective seats should be in effect ‘til the age of, what, 14 now, doesn’t it make sense that we give our kids some kind of protection against the train-wreck of stuff that’s poured into their little minds?

I remember reading an article somewhere that said something to the effect of: “If parenting weren’t about looking at the long run, we’d stuff the kids with Ho Hos at every meal.” Why? Because, well, Ho Hos are easy. But looking out for your kids isn’t always that easy. It takes a little extra thought about what’s best for them, a little extra work. You don’t always get to do what you want and just drag them along ‘cause it’s convenient. You just don’t!

On the other hand, your hamster-like toupee or that really ugly sweater you’re wearing … hey, your kids’ll get over that.