I made a mistake recently. I allowed into my home what I thought would be a harmless, albeit silly movie that my son wanted to watch. As opposed to harmless, it was exceedingly crass and inappropriate for a growing teen; glorifying drug use, lewd sexuality and crude objectification of women. My heart breaks thinking about the young man on the brink of deciding the important and lifelong beliefs that he will take into the world; those very same perspectives that will inform him about what to expect and wish for from his life. How does it help him to see women being demeaned and reduced to the worst of the hyper-sexualized, barbie-esque stereotypes? And how does it help him to imagine his life and what makes it worthwhile, when he sees characters in the story getting wasted and holding it up as the epitome of what makes a man free and king of his castle?
The images our children take in shape their minds. They create their beliefs. They pepper their wants, desires and perceived needs. And if for a moment you doubt this, why then would the advertising world spend billions of dollars on things that did not influence them? The images instruct them on how to be a man, or a woman. What to want. What it looks like to be good or bad, successful or desirable.
We have always had storytellers for the young, those charged with the sacred duty of offering them guidance, inspiration and entertainment through carefully crafted stories. Today, we have spellcasters, image-makers motivated not by our children’s betterment, but by their own profit. Rife with the agenda of an ever-increasing bottom line, they care not for how our children are shaped or what kind of men and women they become, as long as they mint lifelong consumers for their products and entertainment outlets.
Couldn’t we do better? Couldn’t we individually and collectively find and offer stories to our young people that guided and instructed them in what it means to be a fully expressed human being living in cooperation with others and the planet? Couldn’t we learn to say no to the images that distort and distract? Couldn’t we learn to be “that parent”, the one who makes the difficult choice even when others around us are saying yes? Couldn’t we?
(For support on this topic, check out The Center for Media and Child Health at http://cmch.tv/)