Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Violence And The 9 Year Old Son

Last weekend, I purchased the first season of Heroes. I thought it would be a great show for my son and I to watch in our downtime. He and I are fans of super heroes in general and I have always wanted to watch this show but never had the time. I much prefer getting the DVDs after the season and then watching all the episodes at my leisure anyways.

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.


Sheamus the... said...

Ha...glad he made it out alive. I can't wait to I get to go through these type of things with my kid.

Charlie said...


I really am at a loss. Seriously, I'm not sure I have ever disagreed with you more than I do on this. Yea, I agree Heros is bad for kids today, but you know what, so it 300. There have been countless studies as to the effects of violence in media on children. There is a reason there is a rating system. There is a reason kids can't get into R movies by themselves. So, do you let your kid play Grand Theft Auto? Where does it stop? I think it is great you spend time telling him the difference between "movie violence" and "real violence" but does he really undertand? I hope so! Again, we can agree to disagree, but man, I can't back you on this one!


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Anonymous said...


If I had a kid - and the world heaves a great sigh of relief that I do not - he would not be watching "300" at that age.

The reason for it is two-fold. First, I would have already watched it ahead of time to ascertain its content, at which time I would have deemed it to be both too violent and too conscience-free about the killings. Yes, the violence is phony - in fact, the whole movie is phony - but it also shows no real honor or import to the deaths and violence on display. It is more music video than actual film.

Secondly, because I wouldn't want my kid being fed something so fucking dumb.

However, here's my theory about why your son was much more disturbed at "Heroes" violence than "300" violence - the violence he saw happened to a pretty young girl in "Heroes." Not only is he instinctively interested in her, um, well-being ... he also relates to her pain as a young person.

In the end, I am glad I do not have the dilemmas facing you in terms of your children's entertainment. Not only does almost all of it suck, but you as a parent are fighting both the inluence of the internet and all of their friends at school for control over your child's mind.

Scary times, my friend. Scary times.


Ted Pigeon said...


Studies also indicate that many Asian cultures, particularly Japan, are equally and sometimes more saturated in violence as America, and yet they are a far less violent people than America, with drastically lower rates of reported violence.

The issue of violence is far more complex than mere media exposure. Human beings have been violent throughout history, and there are likely a wealth of contributing factors -- interpersonal, cultural -- that contribute to an individual's likelihood of committing violence. But such a 1:1 formula is reductive and way too simplified. Yet it remains a heavily advocated notion because it enables people to feel comfortable pinning their concerns to a couple broad concepts while ignoring the far more significant issues of communication and media interaction.

Psychology is slow to realize this, among other things. I'm not saying that we shouldn't take media seriously; of course we should. I reject the "it's just entertainment" defense on the same grounds that it sidesteps the notion that mechanical reproduction of electronic media greatly influence our lives. How they do so is far more complex.

PIPER said...

Elijah and Ray,

You are not wrong to criticize. I put myself out there with this post and despite your words I don't believe I did the wrong thing. I have a very good relationship with my son - and I know when and where I can push things and believe you me I have sheltered him from a great many things.

I had seen this before and knew what to expect, but I did go into it a bit cautious.

Elijah, there IS an ending and it falls way before letting him play Grand Theft Auto. I have played that and have stopped playing it due to its content. If I didn't have children, maybe it wouldn't be so bad, but having children I just can't with a good conscience play that game. To me it is very different from letting him watch 300. You are in control of a video game and you make choices. A movie is different. I know it's symantics (sp) but there's a difference to me.

But worry not, it's not like I have opened the flood gates and Faces Of Death will be next.

Bob Turnbull said...

To continue the point about where the ending lies...The ending is whatever the parent thinks it should be for their specific child. Every child is different in the way they react to certain stimulus and the best judge is the child's own parent. Even then, as Piper saw, you can still be surprised. So you
learn something new.

Certainly not to discount any scientific studies, but parents can help mitigate some of the effects by talking with their children, being available for discussion and even simply just watching shows with them.

The reason Piper is such an awesome Dad is that he's the best Dad for his son. Just like I'm the best Dad for my son (my goofy Star Wars and Transformers loving son). Because we know them best.

>Scary times, my friend. Scary times.

I don't think the times are any scarier than when we were kids. The Internet is just yet another avenue for kids to explore. Parental guidance helps them navigate it.

Of course, I'm still terrified for my little guy sometimes...

PIPER said...

Good points Bob.

To be clear, my comment about me being a good father and super smart was more sarcastic than anything. I can't say what I did would be deemed smart because it was not without risk. But to add on to what both Bob and Ted have said, it's important that as parents we regulate these things. My parents took me to Animal House in the Theater when I was seven years old. I was also watching The Howling and Midnight Express when I was around 9 or so. Some of those movies were with the knowledge of my parents and some were not. And see... I'm okay. I would never subject my 9 year old to the Midnight Express anything resembling that.

Ray says that the violence was senseless and I would agree and while that may be a bad thing, it may also not be that bad. 300 while good eye candy is really void of anything that would make you feel any kind of way about anything other than just jazzed by the visuals.

Anonymous said...

Please don't misunderstand me, Piper ... I don't think you did anything "wrong" here. Raising a child is an extremely subjective thing, and each situation calls for a constant stream of judgement calls.

I don't envy the task in this world.

* (asterisk) said...

Kudos to you, Piper, for not simply being a slave to what the MPAA says is okay for your kid. Responsible parenting is about making informed choices. It is perhaps unfortunate that you were unaware of some of the more gruesome content of Heroes when you sat down, but your kid knew where to draw the line, and you now have a yardstick for the future. I had a similar experience with my niece and The Wizard of Oz a few years ago.

Remember, ratings vary all across the world. The film Se7en is cert R in the US, and 18 in the UK. I have seen a video box of it in Italy on which it is rated T (per tutti, "for everyone"). That said, IMDb shows it as VM14 (forbidden for minors under 14), so I'm not sure why there is this discrepancy. It may be that home viewing is rated more leniently, as it is, I believe, in the US. The opposite is true in the UK, though.

PIPER said...


I take offense to your comments. Every child is different and every parent is different. What works for someone may not work for another.


Piper... yikes. are you a member of the MPAA? Extreme violence is totally fine for your son, but god forbid he see breasts --which hurt no one and give a lot of people a lot of pleasure


i don't get it.

PIPER said...


What you don't know is that when my son was the age of 5 or 6, he stumbled on to the Porn channel and ordered himself up a double feature of bumping uglies thinking that Cheaper By The Dozen was going to show up. So he's old hat to the nudity. But yeah, I'm guilty of being hypocritical with that stuff and you're right, it's strange.

If this makes any sense, here is my justification. Right now my son can grasp violence on certain levels, but the whole porn incident screwed him up pretty good, so until he gets older and can comprehend it a bit more, I shy away from it. And I would argue that it's not just nudity in 300, it's some pretty rough sex including a rape so hypocritical or not, I'm going to steer clear of that right now.

Neil Sarver said...

I considered making the same comment regarding nudity, obviously being unaware of any previous incidents, but then I remembered the context within the movie itself and refrained.

Frankly, I have to post just to share your offense, despite admittedly having not right to.

There have been indeed been countless studies on this. Once upon a time I read results from many of them with no little interest.

I've seen no evidence it splits much different than 1/3 conclude violence is harmful, 1/3 conclude it's not and 1/3 are inconclusive. Why? Because they're all completely bogus, made to satisfy morons who crave and expect easy answers to issues such as this, who think child rearing exists in a vacuum rather than children being individuals with individual needs and parents who are also individuals and deal with them individual ways.

There is indeed a good reason "kids can't get into R movies by themselves", it turns out there's also a good reason why kids can get into R movies with a parent or adult guardian.

I'm not saying there aren't irresponsible parents out there who let there kids watch anything, but Piper was clearly doing the exact opposite of that. The answer of simply eliminating all movies of certain ratings or above is taking out the most important role a parent has in the process, discretion, and dismissing that responsibility to only allow the MPAA or blog readers to do that for you is just as poor and irresponsible of parenting as allowing them to watch whatever occurs to them.

Anonymous said...


You must not be able to read. I clearly stated that I personally would not let my own kid watch crap like "300," and then in my follow up I clearly state that parenting is a subjective thing.

I in no way judged anything you did, so you have no reason to "take offense." If you don't want any feedback on this subject, then don't make a post about it.


PIPER said...


I saw your comment on my phone and wondered why you were so pissy on your latest comment. Then I looked back at mine and read "I take offense to your comment" instead of "I take no offense to you comment." Funny what a difference one word makes.

Please refer to my correct response which is I take no offense to your comment, not that there was any offense to be taken. I understand all your statements and you are correct that it is a judgement call by every parent depending on their children. Sorry for the mix up.