Watching old movies is an interesting way to take note of just how mad the world used to be. How could people swear in movies from the 1980’s the way they did? So out of context! Or, more importantly, how could writers and producers script women like the heroic tramp Jamie Lee Curtis played in Trading Places? If we watch any film produced more than 10-20 years ago, we could easily find it dreadfully boring by today’s standards. What’s that called? Oh yeah, quaint. Appreciated only by old people.
Teenage boys don’t like quaint. Teenage boys get bored easily. They gravitate toward mad video games to keep themselves entertained. Parents of teenage boys, like myself, try things like canceling cable to minimize exposure to programming that we deem blatantly mad and predatorially subtle to a child. We did this years ago instead of getting rid of the television altogether because we like movies, but Netflix and Red Box market their most violent, morality numbing offerings front and center. And once a teenage boy has a job, there is little stopping him from buying a Netflix subscription.
Parents try to shield their children from aspects of the world gone mad. On the one extreme we get accused of enabling them to be dependent because we do too much for them. On the other we encourage too much independent expression and our children are labeled “precocious.” But finding the middle way with the media – which is teaching many teenage boys far more than books these days – is damn hard.
Here are a few murderous examples:
Watching contemporary blockbuster movies might easily lead one to believe that they are produced with the goal of raising a generation of bloodthirsty idiots. Hunger Games is one such movie in which children hunt and kill each other as a sport for the rich [white] folk. The marketing began years ago when it was given free, without parental consent, to all middle school students.
Movies like Shooter lead a young boy to imagine the American Dream as becoming a killing machine. Shooter stars Mark Wahlberg as a penultimate “Government Issue” G.I. Joe so programmed for patriotism that it almost becomes his demise until he wakes up to the deception and turns to stab the heart of political corruption.
Even a playful series like Psych (my son’s favorite), featuring two witty best friend “psychic” detectives, has matter-of-fact murder in every episode.
With all the snow in the Northeast, my son has already had his fill of snow days. He was so bored yesterday he entertained himself with the squeak of his bedroom door opening and closing.
I can say “read a book” all day long; it’s just not his thing. But I can also help him set goals. Being the goal setting life coach that I am, I built my son a timeline with 5 main overarching goals to aid in his well-balanced adulthood, along with various sub-goal steps to help achieve the bigger goals. One of these is learning to cook and occasionally make a meal for the family. He took my husband and I by surprise last night by making a wonderful dinner of sauteed chicken, mashed potatoes and salad. He set the table and even lit a candle.
This powerful shift opened space in the dinner conversation for a deep review of climate change concerns – like the proposed Keystone and Tennessee Gas Pipelines and the extractive economic mindset driving these political nightmares. I even gave a comprehensive explanation about my volunteer work with Mothers Out Front which led both my son and my husband to want to get involved in the simple, yet remarkably effective Monday Actions we put out every week.
It’s not easy to think “big picture” about the world – it’s madness and it’s beauty. It’s so much easier to eat a bag of chips in front of the mind-numbing television. But the slow steady steps of progress birth small miracles that, once in motion, stay in motion. This dinner was beautiful. And it was a perfect antidote to boredom.
Two final things to share – a joke my son likes to tell, and a personal reflection. First the joke:
If Pro is the opposite of Con, What is the opposite of Progress? … Congress!
Now the reflection:
I haven’t written a blog in months; in part because I found myself recently suffering from a bad case of apathy – as in “no one will read the blog or care about it so why bother?” This was a weakness of spirit or hope which has since been restored not only through the team I volunteer with, but also through the surprises I see in my son taking his own steps to cure his sense of boredom in a world worth saving (without fighting).
With deep gratitude for the creative spirit that flows through each of us, I am
Sincerely yours, Karen