Saturday, October 19, 2013

just hold your head high and keep those fists down


As with lots of kids, Becky and Ro do enjoy their share of goggle-box entertainment, but I've taken care to always limit the amount of time they spend on it, and to monitor what they actually do watch as well. While I do allow the occasional inane programme -- ok, I have to admit Phineas and Ferb is funny -- I generally try to ensure the shows have at least some educational and moral value.

Every so often, I'll recall a show or movie I enjoyed as a child, and I'll ask my husband to see if he can find the DVD of it. The kids will sometimes moan and groan when they hear that tonight we won't be watching Barbie (get the 12 Dancing Princesses though -- it really is good), but invariably they get into -- and really enjoy -- the shows I pick.

Well, last night the hubs put on To Kill A Mockingbird, which I'd asked him to get. There was much doubtful hemming and hawing about how the kids were probably too young for it, how black-and-white movies would bore them, how racism is too deep an issue for them to grasp, etc etc. I simply said that I'd enjoyed it very much when I was their age, and that was enough.

Long story short, the kids got totally engrossed in it, Becky especially (she's eight); she even cried when Tom Robinson gave his testimony, and was later shot dead trying to escape. Without doubt the film and book bring up many deep issues to ponder -- racism, rape, the courage to stand up for one's principles, and the loss of innocence, to name a few -- and I was glad to answer Becky's questions and discuss them with her in greater detail. She asked, for instance, what "nigger" meant; when I'd explained, she likened it to the protagonist Jesminder being called "paki" in the movie Bend It Like Beckham. I was glad that she was upset by such offensive, disparaging bigotry, and the fact that it continues till this very day.

I did To Kill A Mockingbird in school when I was about 13, but it was the image of those carved figures left by Arthur Radley in the knot of the tree that has never left me since I saw the film when I was seven. Gregory Peck, still unbelievably handsome at 46, was phenomenal as Atticus Finch; the author Harper Lee -- whose own father was an attorney who had defended two black men accused of murder -- even gave him her father's watch and chain because he reminded her so much of him. And the music, written by the amazing Elmer Bernstein, is as haunting now as it was some 50 years ago.

Seeing the kids' rapt attention reminded me that some works are classic and ageless for a reason, and one should never underestimate a child's profundity. Equally, the degree to which they absorb the things they see and hear should make one very, very circumspect about their TV, and even internet and cellphone, activity. Violence, suggestive themes, lax morals and bad language are all too easily accessible in today's shows and video games, and they all have far-reaching social and behavioural implications. I think parents have a definite responsibility in this regard -- simply leaving Junior with the TV or Xbox as a babysitter is not the answer to realising his full potential or creating a better world for future generations. There are lots of helpful resources on this available, including this and this.

Have a lovely, tranquil weekend everyone!

19 comments:

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Oh I love this. And yes you're right, this shows that some works are classic and ageless for a good reason. Classic works never expire :)

sonia said...

I hadn't thought of showing this to my daughter but now I just might. I love this movie and wonder if she'll identify with Scout as I did...

AntiquityTravelers said...

absolutely wonderful post Janice! how right you are ... some stories are ageless and their stories still can tell invaluable things to our kids. We recently rented the entire series of Roots to show my girls. They really got into the story and asked lots of questions 'why' ... A movie I highly recommend for anyone with daughters is a movie called "Miss Representation" http://film.missrepresentation.org/

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I'm having trouble posting a comment and I'm not sure if you got the one I just sent (there was an error message). In case you didn't, I just wanted to tell you what a great post this is. The book and the movie are both fabulous, and Gregory Peck is spectacular in the film (and so handsome!). Children are not born hating; it is something they are taught. This story clearly exemplifies that.

My Garden Diaries said...

You have touched on a subject that I am very passionate about. I am always monitoring screen usage in our home. As a former teacher I was blown away by some of the programs my students watched....I do not understand how parents can not be on top of what is coming into their homes. This goes for children being plugged into their parents phones when we are out to dinner or standing in line at a pumpkin patch. I try to teach my beans how to dine out and I enjoy working with them to teach them manners as we talk and eat. If a child is plugged into a phone how do they ever experience life? Thank you for posting this....it is time for a change! All the best this weekend!

Pizziricco said...

Can't recall how old i actually was when i first saw this, i think 16. i hadn't read the book then & for a very long time one scene from it was etched in my memory - when the door was shifted to reveal Robert Duval behind. Hahaha i was startled & still didn't get it then {:-)

Libby said...

To Kill a Mockingbird! Such a classic. I remember seeing this first in junior high in drama class. Then we were assigned to perform our own monologue from the movie. I did the court scene with Mayella. It was intense, but my most favorite part of the class all year.

In reference to kids being exposed to issues such as those in these books/movies, personally I think it's all in how it's presented and if there's discussion to go with it from the parents. We can't be sheltered from everything and it's better to learn from a positive aspect. Good for you!

Audrey said...

OH!!! My favorite book, my favorite movie, my favorite character....I was so thrilled to see this post and to hear that your girls enjoyed the movie. I look forward to when my girls are old enough to read and watch it with me. As you might remember, I named my bird Atticus (because my husband said he'd never let me name a future son "Atticus"). And my girl bird is Scout! Oh but Gregory Peck is so divine. Alain and I watched Roman Holiday last week and I was struck again by just how handsome he was. Swoon! They just don't make them like that anymore! Hope you're well!!! XOXO

The Dainty Dolls House said...

Classics never get old or loose their values...wonderful post xx

Jane Chérie said...

Monitoring what kids are watching is really a challenge. At home it's easy but it's difficult when he spends the day with his cousins at their house. Their parents are lax compared to me so when I step in and say you can't watch what they are watching, it's like insulting the grown ups too because they don't do their job as parents.

Christine Altmiller said...

Timely post...my 15 year old is reading the book right now and wanting to discuss it a lot. I remember most of it but there are some details she is bringing up that I am hazy about and figured it was time for me to revisit the book. Maybe a movie night is in order too. Good post, great message. Thanks!

Rowena @ rolala loves said...

It's so easy to just plop your kids in front of the telly so you can get a break but it's wonderful you're actually mindful of what Becky and Ro are exposed to. It will probably make all the difference as they get older. I need to read the book/watch this film again.

Rowena @ rolala loves

Magic Love Crow said...

You and your hubby are good parents ;o) The older movies are classics and have so much meaning in them!!

CraveCute said...

A classic movie like this holds up well. I agree with what you say about parents and kids watching TV together... it helps bring up those "unspoken" issues and makes them easier to talk about.

Debbie Nolan said...

Jan - to Kill A Mockingbird is such a classic. I am glad your daughters enjoyed it and could relate it to modern shows they see as well. Isn't it sad that we still are fighting racism today. Ah someday when those things will never matter! I am looking forward to it. Take care and have a wonderful day.

Fundy Blue said...

Hi Jan! I've enjoyed catching up on your recent posts. I hope that things are easing up for you ~ one step at a time, I always say. The most surprising thing about my retirement is discovering that I, too, am home-y and enjoying home-y things very much. I've been retired for over 500 days now, and I still don't have any great desire to do a lot of socializing and volunteering. I'm happy (for now) baking pies and knitting scarves, writing and photographing. I loved your title: "Be yourself. Everyone Else is Taken!" That is actually profound! And I love that you get the profundity of children. They are amazing, deep little souls, and that is why I loved teaching so much. I hope that you are having an awesome week! *hugs*

Anne said...

I've read it eventhough I'm from the Netherlands and I like it :) X Anna

www.fashionanna.com

Jo said...

To Kill a Mockingbird wasn't my compulsory Lit book back then but I had the book and it was too deep for me. I didn't get down to reading the book in its entirety but I know the plot coz of this cheat called the Internet and Wikipedia. Only a few years later after I was outta school did I read the plot summary. With such deep themes, I was surprised you allowed your kids to watch the movie but I'm even more surprise at the positive result. I think more often than not, we shelter children from such adult themes but it's really enlightening to know that they actually understand. You make me wanna watch the movie now or probably head back to my family home to dig that book out.

Julia Fain said...

I love the classics! And a great reminder to introduce them to my children. And to be mindful of what they are watching.

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