I’m going to say this up front: the only person to blame for the horrific Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, Colorado is the shooter. This post is not about the shooting itself. It’s about the broader issue of taking young children to movies intended for an adult audience late at night. My heart breaks for every parent whose child was harmed physically or psychologically in the attack, because no one deserves to have to deal with that regardless of their parental choices.
That being said…
The tragic loss of a six-year-old girl and the injuries sustained by a 3 month old opened up a dialogue about the appropriateness of bringing such young children to such a late and gratuitously violent movie. (And to repeat, I am not blaming the parents for their children being shot by a sociopath.) My post here is an expansion of my comment on Children at a Midnight Showing?
People like me, who expressed concern that young children were present at the movie opening when news of the shooting broke, were shouted down. We were called callous and uncaring. We should be ashamed of ourselves for blaming the parents (even though many of us weren’t) in the midst of their grief. How dare we judge them? We must think we’re perfect parents, then. “I hope nothing like this ever happens to your child,” people even said, which sounded like a curse, if not a threat. Of course, I know I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t always make good decisions either…the context for my concerns was that the parents of these children who were victims of the shooting are going to be tortured for the rest of their lives for making a decision that ended up having far worse consequences than anyone could have ever imagined. They’re likely going to need counseling. But the fact that they are not to blame for the shooting does not make their decision to bring their children to the movie irrelevant, either.
While taking young kids to a midnight showing of an excessively violent movie does not necessarily make someone a Bad Parent, it is a bad, irresponsible parenting decision. We all make bad parenting decisions sometimes, but some of those decisions are more harmful than others. Think of the message you’re sending your young children by taking them with you to movies that contain frightening images and glorify violence. You’re desensitizing them to these things at an age where they are still forming connections in their brains as to good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate, real and not real. We haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, but having seen the previous installment, I can only imagine the nightmares TJ would have for weeks, if not months, if he were to have seen almost any part of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. And there were all of those frightening images in the first movie, Batman Begins, when the Scarecrow unleashed terror – literally – on the people of Gotham. I cannot imagine any legitimate justification for bringing a young child to see the third installment of this Batman trilogy… or other movies intended for an adult audience that contain gratituitous violence, sexuality, etc. We’ll get to babysitting issues in another paragraph or two.
And then there’s my stance as a moviegoer. You may be certain that your infant is going to sleep against your shoulder for the whole movie, but when she suddenly wakes up and starts screaming because of the loud explosions on the screen, you’ve suddenly become worse than the person who forgot to turn the ringer off on their phone or texts throughout the film. Even if you immediately get up to take your kid out, you’ve already disrupted the experience of everyone else who paid good money to watch the movie without distractions, possibly ruining the entire experience for a crowd who just missed a crucial line of dialogue. Or subjecting your fellow movie patrons to your 5-year-old’s not-so-quiet “whispers” asking you, “Mommy, what’s he doing?” “Daddy, is he the bad guy?” or the helpful, “No, don’t go in there! He’s got a gun!” And the shrieking when someone gets their face shot off. It is disrespectful to bring pint-sized distractions to grown-up movies, especially when the price of a movie ticket pushes $10 or more nowadays, and many people choose later movie showings specifically to avoid being in an audience with children. Chances are, there are a number of parents in the theater with you who did pay for a babysitter to watch their kids so they could enjoy some adult time…only to have to deal with your kids instead.
I’m a parent. There are many movies my husband and I have missed because we didn’t have anyone to watch our son. Your inability to find/afford a babysitter does not give you permission to disrupt the experience of other movie patrons. Either go to a matinee showing, when kids are more tolerated, if not welcomed during more mature movies, or wait until the sucker comes out on Netflix. Being a parent sucks sometimes. It’s something we all have to deal with. I know that it’s hard to make time to do Grown Up Things alone or with your spouse. But parenthood does not grant any of us the right to bring our children to any location at any time. Parenthood comes with a lot of sacrifices, and the responsibility to differentiate appropriateness in a variety of situations. Sure, we’re allowed to be selfish sometimes, but there’s a time and a place. And I’m sorry, but keeping young children out past 2:00 am because you want to be the first one to see a violent superhero film is not that time and place.
(In a perfect world, none of us would be judgmental of anyone else’s decisions – but let’s face it, some of you are judging me for being judgmental, aren’t you? This is, of course, just my opinion. I’m not forcing anyone to change the way they do things, but maybe my point of view could be taken into consideration when folks are contemplating similar decisions.)
Tags: babies, kids, movies, parenting, preschoolers