So we began watching the pilot episode which was never aired for some reason or another. Everything is clicking along fine until we get to the cheerleader Hayden Panettiere. She jumps off a 40 foot ledge and does a belly flop on the dirt. Her shoulder is dislocated, but not to fear because she quickly pops it back into place. Her friend is recording all this because Hayden is disturbed by what has happened to her. My son is a little wigged by this but not much. Later in the show as Hayden talks to her friend who is recording her, he points to a hole in sweater. She lifts up her sweater to reveal that she has two ribs sticking through her skin. Without hesitation, Hayden sticks the ribs back in her skin and goes about talking to her friend. My son then begins to repeat "oh no" over and over again. I'm a little surprised by his reaction, but I go on to explain to him the difference between movie violence and real violence which seems to be of no use. He doesn't describe the violence as gross or disgusting, he just describes it as scary. We continue on with the show and when we get to the scene where Hayden drops her ring in the sink while the disposal is on, I already know what's going to happen and I tell my son to cover his eyes. Even though he doesn't see the scene, he is even more disturbed and asks that we shut the show off. I do as he asks and then I have an epiphany. I ask him if he instead wants to watch 300? You don't know this about me, but I'm an awesome father and a smart one too. Of course my son agrees because there has been much talk about this movie among his friends.
So I play 300 and with the exception of the nude scenes, I let him watch the entire movie. Now allow me to back up and explain my thought process here: I would argue that the violence in 300 really isn't that extreme - at least no more extreme than any of the violence in the Lord Of The Rings films which were PG-13 and which my son has seen countless times. And while there is more blood in 300 than Lord Of The Rings, the blood is no more real than the blood that squirts out of Scratchy the cat in an episode of The Simpsons. So then I compared it to the ending of the animated Lord Of The Rings, another movie that my son has seen countless times. At the end of that, Bakshi pays homage to The Wild Bunch finale with an absolute Orc bloodbath. I thought if my son is okay with that, he should be okay with all this. And you know what, he was. He loved 300 and was not disturbed with the violence at all because it was sensationalized to the point of unbelievability.
No doubt that 300 would have a hard time playing on TBS anytime soon without heavy edits, but you can pop the TV on at any time and watch a cheerleader reinserting her ribs, or watch William Peterson investigate a gruesome crime scene on whatever version of CSI is running these days. I have often enjoyed the restraints TV has put on some directors, forcing them to keep their narration a little more grounded and the violence a bit more in check. A perfect example of this is Twin Peaks the TV Series versus Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But I've never thought this would work the other way around.
The good news is that my 9 year old son escaped this whole occurrence unscathed. Or so I hope. He could be internalizing the violence and secretly hating me for exposing him to it at such a young age. He could right now be burying that hatred and rage deep inside him waiting for it to release in his early college years with a vengence. And if that's the case, you know the son of a bitch to blame.