“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”-Rhett Butler (“Gone With The Wind”-1939)
That was the closing line spoken by Rhett Butler, as he bid farewell to a trouble plagued marriage to Scarlett O’Hara. “Gone With The Wind,” is the first official movie in which profanity was uttered on the big screen. A collective gasp would best describe the 1939 audience’s reaction. After his historic infamous utterance, Rhett faded from view as he walked through a dense fog, and never looked back. Likewise, neither has the entertainment industry, after breaking that particular early cinema taboo.
Thirty years later, in 1969, Sam Peckinpah directed “The Wild Bunch.” An epic American Western. The movie was controversial because of its graphic violence and portrayal of crude men who would use any means to survive. The multi-angle, quick-cut editing and slow motion images revolutionized filming technique.* The images of bullets entering a person’s body was unlike any portrayed in early westerns. That visual experience was memorable, yet quite overwhelming.
Each year our local newspaper sponsors a Halloween art and scary story contest. School children are invited to submit art work or stories depicting the theme of the autumn celebration. One might wonder why I would refer to the above examples as a lead in to a children’s contest. As you read further it will become clear.
As I read the written submissions of grade school students, most of which were middle school age, I became a bit surprised at the subject matter contained in the stories. Much of which might have been witnessed in a screen adapted Stephen King novel. More than a fair amount of the substance in the majority of the stories submitted were unmistakably of a violent nature. Disturbingly, more so than I was familiar with at that age. Yet unsurprisingly so, considering the nature of entertainment that has been made available in today’s society. The cinema selections described above pale in comparison to that which is released as modern entertainment.
The TV programming and movies that I viewed as a child – whether comedy, drama, action, horror or sci-fi were not preceded by the following announcement: Parental Discretion Is Advised. None of the following; “Leave it To Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” “Gun Smoke,” “Bonanza,” “Peter Gunn,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Combat,” etc., nor any movie of like genre at that time required an introduction of that sort. However, today, seldom are the aforementioned genre released without some warning. From what I have read in those scary stories, these warnings, it seems, have not often been heeded. Children are like sponges, and these young writers have drawn inspiration from the influences of their society.
No matter how diligent today’s parents are in an effort to protect their children from the worst the world has to offer, those children still will be exposed to over-the-top versions of Gone With The Wind and The Wild Bunch, through TV, movies and the internet. And I would be remise if I did not include the no-holds-barred high-tech video games. In the end, entertainment is a business. If there is a market for their product, the industry will continue to release the type of entertainment that draws the interest and the money that accompanies it.
When, I, as a teenager, attended driver’s education classes; a prerequisite to graduation was the mandatory viewing of a film titled: “Death On The Highway.” Its purpose was to impress upon the – soon to be – new drivers, the grave responsibility they were about to undertake. I was quite uneasy while watching that film, which included scenes of horrific highway accidents that resulted in death, and showed images of the mangled bodies of victims that often compelled many students to avert their eyes. Yet, I wonder if today the same would have a similar effect. I think not, because we have been so exposed to the unnatural, that we have become desensitized. And that often is true of our children, as well. They, unfortunately, have developed a tolerance for the unsavory, and for too many, an immunity.
Sadly, for our children, Pandora’s box has been opened by those who believe that the prerequisite for freedom is that there be no boundaries. We need only to look around us to see the folly in that belief. We are free to do as we choose. However, in exercising that freedom, are we doing what we should or other? And it is in the other that the learned powers that be have created a society with many ills. Ills of which we are continually trying to keep pace, without much hope of getting ahead. If these ills can not be righted, then they will be accommodated. We have shown that we are incapable of returning, or unwilling to return, all that has been loosed from Pandora’s box. Since we have bypassed the prudent ounce of prevention, through a lack of common sense, we are left with a fruitless search for an unlikely pound of cure.
The recourse for parents in this culture of permissiveness, bordering on barbarism, is to be contrary to it. Nurture your children with love and understanding, while maintaining a strength to say no. Emphasize virtuous values, objective truth and a warning to turn away from anything that would compromise their integrity or dignity. For no matter what worldly enticements they find before them, the ethical foundation that parents instill in their children, will provide an awareness of that which is dangerous, and a road map home for the wayward.
Those, powers that be, who are responsible for opening Pandora’s Box, through an advocacy of pride over humility, will find that their fault is far greater than the fault of those who, by choice, find themselves trapped by their misguided curiosity.
“And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.” – (Luke 17:1-2)