What would Andy do?
Here’s yet another account of idiot parenting that would be even more remarkable if there weren’t the nagging feeling while reading it that this kind of thing happens a lot more often than many of us are even aware. Today’s edition of the Burbank Leader features a movie review written by voice-over artist and character actor Matt Bellner for Saw III, certainly not a movie anyone is likely to mistake for Flushed Away or Open Season. Yet Matt felt compelled mid-review to interrupt his enthusiastic comments with this grim observation:
”This is one of the hardest R-rated movies I've ever seen. The biggest shock of my movie-going life, however, was seeing the family next to me sitting comfortably with their 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Watching those poor kids sit through this type of entertainment was much more appalling than witnessing the violence in this film. Don't be an idiot. Keep your kids at home.”
One might reasonably think that such a plea wouldn’t be necessary, that any sane, rational grown-up, parent or not, would realize an auditorium screening Saw III was no place for a seven-year-old child, and especially not a child four years younger even than that. I’ve seen moms and dads with three or four underage children padding their way into Saving Private Ryan and Kill Bill Vol. 1, both a considerable stone’s throw from the Blue’s Clues universe, and both rated “R” for a good goddamn reason. Yet these selfish, potato-headed parents, treating their kids as pull toys to be dragged along to whatever occasion, either won’t (or can’t) pony up for a baby-sitter, or won’t wait for the movie to be released on DVD—they’ve gotta see it now, and if it means branding hard-core images of torture and humiliation into the brains of kids who are already exposed to far more than previous generations ever were at their age, and are “growing up” too damn fast as a result, then whatever, dude. If I saw a mother or a father pounding away at a child in a grocery store, I would either intervene or call for store security, in the name of the child’s safety. Is it such a reach to think of taking a three-year-old to see Saw III as a form of child abuse that might warrant similar intervention? (Some theaters, like the Mann chain, claim that no child under the age of five will be allowed admittance to anything harsher than a flat "PG," but I seriously doubt that policy is strictly enforced, and I can’t say other chains have similar restrictions.)
I’m not trying to condemn Matt Bellner for not saying something to these parents—on the contrary, I commend him for using his opportunity to review Saw III to even mention how horrified he was. But as a parent of two daughters, ages four and six, I’m finding it harder and harder, especially if I’m within a seat or two, to refrain from at least asking the mom or dad in that situation, “What the fuck are you thinking bringing those kids in here?”
Or should I just shut up, eat my popcorn and enjoy the gore that I paid to see, just like the Addams Family sitting next to me is trying to do? What would Andy Griffith do? What would you do?