As a parent I pay attention to what my kids are watching. As they get older, this gets harder. They want to see The Avengers and Batman. So I watch the movies before we take the kids. But though this helps, it doesn’t catch everything. We were forced to watch a “One Direction” video prior to seeing the latest Men in Black. Though us parents had watched the movie beforehand, we didn’t think about the music video. My son told us that his friend told him the video was a ‘sausagefest’. We had to agree. Then we had to explain what a sausagefest was.
Honestly, being put in this awkward spot where we have to explain things we weren’t ready to explain isn’t anything new. At age four, my daughter asked why Dora hadn’t learned anything in two years. Why couldn’t the poor girl read a map with only three things on it? We had to explain the nature of programming and that Dora wasn’t mentally deficient. (This also applied to Steve on Blue’s Clues. When he left the show it was to ‘go to college’. Both my kids were concerned that he wasn’t smart enough to attend a university and they worried about his future.)
When we told my daughter that even most adult TV was this way – regardless of circumstance or consequence, most TV characters never grow or learn anything (see: Two and a Half Men) – she was sadly disheartened. Her TV melancholy became worse when we told her she couldn’t watch True Blood with us and, no, Bill wasn’t anything like Edward. (Yes, some of the girls at her elementary school were talking about Edward.)
I do realize that a lot of it just goes over their heads. They can see it, hear it, read it and it won’t mean anything because they don’t have the context to put it in. Though that doesn’t mean it’s okay to watch or listen to something (as evidenced by my son’s rapid repetition of the term ‘sausagefest’) it does mean maybe they won’t be scarred for life.
I have some evidence for this: I read “Flowers in the Attic” when I was seven (I know, this was a bad decision). And I missed a LOT of what was in there. I could have repeated it – I understood all the words and the story – but I really missed the scandal of what went on between the brother and sister, because I had no context for it. Later, at an older age, I went “Oh!” as things clicked into place. But this isn’t always the case. While listening to ‘The Who’s “Momma Has a Squeezebox”, my forty-year-old friend turned to me and asked “Do you think this song is about sex?”
It was a good thing he was the one driving, because I would have hit the brakes hard enough to activate the airbags. I eventually quit gaping like a fish and said “Do you think it’s NOT about sex?”
He explained that he had heard the song as a kid and just assumed there was an accordion involved. It had never occurred to him otherwise.
I try to keep this thought as comfort when I’m defining ‘sausagefest’ or when I’m explaining to my daughter that no, Dora doesn’t have a developmental problem.