The Chipmunks have a new movie out and, like many chipmunk additions before, it’s often inappropriate. The last movie inspired my kids to sing “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me.” Ah, yes! The Pussycat Dolls – because singing anything in a squeaky voice makes it okay for kids.
The Chipmunks aren’t the only ones who have crossed the line. Many, many venues are feeding kids adult material in glossy kid tones. KidzBop ads feature one adult song after another and then have karaoke sing-a-long tracks to be sure your kids know the words.
It’s not just music either! For years, movies have been making unsavory stories into kid-fare, too. (I’m talkin’ to you, Disney!) The story of Pocahontas isn’t for kids – she didn’t paint with all the colors of the wind. She was likely the lover of a much older, married man. And many state that her knowledge gave the English the information they needed to wipe out the native people. So get your daughter a costume and pretend that Pocahontas helped eradicate racism!
There was an Anastasia movie as well. The only thing in its favor is that this movie was poorly executed and very few kids saw it. While there is new recent evidence suggesting that the real Anastasia died with the rest of the Romanovs, the stories about her escape were harrowing at best. The cleanest versions had her sheltered by kindly country folk in a Nazi-Germany-like culture. Others had her trading with soldiers – sex for shelter. Some say she yanked her own teeth to destroy a dental record match and most had her ending up in a mental hospital. But apparently if we give her a talking bat for a friend (or some crap like that) it’s all good for kids.
The Chipmunks may have been among the pioneers in this realm. (I don’t know, did Mickey Mouse have some molestation charges that he bought off? Is everything just peachy after he dies, because no one will remember the damning evidence and the need to pay to make the charges go away? A nice glossy movie and we are all soothed.)
I listened to the Chipmunks as a kid. My sister and I sang along to all the songs and to this day I have friends who can pipe up in squeaky voices to “You got to know when to hold’em (when to hold’em!)” (Yes, I hear some of you laughing).
I don’t think any of us would be surprised that the original version of “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” didn’t actually include that squeaky “chipmunks!” at the end of that line. Nor did it have that verse about liking roasted acorns and not doing homework. “On the road again” was another song that had clearly been taken over by the little nut-crunchers. And I wasn’t shocked to learn that the Gambler hadn’t actually bummed a “twinkie and offered me a bite”.
A little buff and shine isn’t that big a deal. I had a sheltered life, but not that sheltered, and neither do my kids. I am firmly in the camp that believes if we protect our children from everything, we protect them from nothing. By the same token I’m stomping on that KidzBop CD when I find my daughter with the mic in hand singing the Milkshake song.
It’s the bad stories gussied up as good that get me. If we make Disney Princesses out of real people with unsavory pasts, where do we stop? Are we headed for “Monica Lewinsky, the musical”? Do we send our daughters out for Halloween in blue collared dresses with stains? Do we send our boys out as Hitler: misunderstood underdog?
We can’t just change a few words and make it okay. The other day I was in a store and through the speaker system I heard “The Coward of the County”, another old Chipmunk classic. In my head, I sang along. (If you know this song already, you may be asking yourself “who the hell fed that to kids!?!?!”) As I wandered the store, I heard squeaky voices in my head, right along with Kenny Rogers, up until the part where the “Gatlin boys were bullies and they beat up Tommy’s best friend.”
No. I stood, gape-mouthed, in the center of the store blocking traffic as my mind absorbed the real words. The Gatlin boys didn’t beat up Tommy’s friend, they gang raped the love of his life.
Aside from having my brain blown by what horror I had been fed in a candy shell, I thought, “Who plays this song in public?” Then I realized that was a stupid question. Of course people play it in public. A whole lot of people were involved in making that Chipmunks album and playing a version for kids. Hell, my own parents bought it for me. (And they didn’t allow me to see PG-13 movies until I was 15!) Did people think we’d never find out? That we’d never hear the original and be appalled?
I’m having to resign myself to the fact that I am mostly alone in this battle. No one else seems to care. The movie makers aren’t concerned what kids might find out later, or what the real story is. And why should they be? Too many parents seem to think that if it’s shiny it’s okay.
So I – like many of you – am left playing gatekeeper by myself. Excuse me, apparently I’m going to have to go research the next Disney movie before we can go this weekend. I want to be sure the Princess’s Daddy wasn’t funding that castle with mafia dealings, and that the nasty “little scuffle” marking our heroine as “misunderstood” wasn’t over drug money.
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