Saturday, April 12, 2014

Critiquing and enjoying stuff - PART 2

I talked last week about how I like to think analytically about things that I watch. I mentioned how I think it's important to be aware of potential problems, even in things we like.

Thinking about it more, I realized that there was another side to the issue. Besides the risk of being oblivious to problems in fiction, there's the risk of completely rejecting everything you find a problem in.

I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home, homeschooled until 5th grade. My dad's a pastor. My mom hates Halloween.

My siblings and I weren't allowed to watch Power Rangers or Pokemon growing up. It took me years to see the second half of Anastasia because the first time we watched it, Mom made us turn it off when some green demon bat things attacked a train.

It's not like what we watched was really, super restricted. We didn't grow up in a bubble watching nothing but Dragon Tales and Zoom (although those were staples in our day-to-day TV-viewing, especially back when PBS was our only access to kids shows). We even used to watch some of Mom's movies with her, which were probably more questionable for children. Mom, if you're reading this, I hold no grudges over anything that we were or were not allowed to watch.

That said, I did grow up aware of certain questions about what is and is not suitable to watch, read, or otherwise take in, especially for children.

As a kid, I read above my age level. I read some things that in all honesty, my parents would not have approved of. And the world did not end, I did not become a serial killer...although perhaps even worse, I became a writer.

Now that I'm in college, nearly two decades old, I've branched out even more. Over break, me and my sister exchanged TV recommendations--Hannibal (mine) and Breaking Bad (hers)--while Mom and Dad listened uncertainly from the front seat of the car, probably wondering when their kids started watching shows about cannibals and meth dealers.

One of the greatest expressions of love I have ever experienced is that Dad DVRed Hannibal for me, even though he might not approve of me watching it.

All this to say that there are redeemable, enjoyable aspects to a lot of books, movies, etc. that may not be considered appropriate for all audiences. If you reject everything that gets the slightest bit dark, or the slightest bit morally ambiguous, you can't grow, or challenge yourself. You lose the opportunity to explore boundaries, puzzle through what-if scenarios, and test how you really think about the world.

You also run the risk of cutting yourself off from issues that people deal with in real life every day.

And if you want to do that, fine. That's your issue. It's your choice what you want to take in. Just so long as you don't try to make that choice for other people.

I am a sheltered pastor's kid who has lived a freaking good, safe, easy life up to this point, and I'm writing this blog post with the most casual, rambling train of thought imaginable. That's part of why I don't want to cut myself off from the tough stuff: so I don't forget about issues that I don't have to deal with every day, but other people do.

Mark O' Brien blogged about book-banning and similar issues recently, more awesomely and powerfully than I ever could, so go read that.

Watch what you want. Read what you want. But before you completely write something off completely, think about why it may be worth watching. At least think about why you feel strongly enough to close the book or turn off the TV.

Don't isolate yourself from the world's problems, and for god's sake don't try to isolate other people. Chances are, they'll encounter those problems someday anyway.

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