Picking Things Out for the Children


Before I get into the substance of this post, I want to thank Ta-Nehisi for letting me hang out here this week.  It's a privilege.  I hope some of you might consider stopping by my place if you like what you've read here this week, and for those of you who are Atlantic-ophiles in general, I'll be doing some more writing in Ta-Nehisi's general vicinity starting pretty soon, so I hope I'll get to see you around one way or the other.

I suppose what I want to do is really to ask a question: for those of you with children of your own, or nieces and nephews, or grandkids, or kids you care about a lot in general, how do you make decisions about when you're going to expose them to certain kinds of art?  Do you have rules about what you're willing to expose them to and when?

I have a really amazing 13-year-old in my life, who texted me this week to say he had been to see Avatar, his first action movie (and I'm pretty sure his first PG-13 movie), and lo, it was awesome.  In good big sister mode, I explained to him who Sigourney Weaver is, and why she must be adored, feared, and respected in equal measure.  But it also got me thinking.  If he can handle Na'Vi canoodling, is he old enough for Chris Pine in his skivvies and the fistfights (and torture) in Star Trek?  When do I start hooking him up with the bratty pop-punk like blink-182 that articulated a lot of what I felt in early high school?  When should I stop jumping every time we're listening to parts of Cee-Lo Green...Is the Soul Machine together, and we hit the outro, with it's "Lo, what don't you do?" "Fuck around." exchange?  As someone who writes, and cares, about pop culture, I feel responsible for giving him good stuff.  My goal isn't really to protect him, but rather to give him stuff that will be engaging and that will raise good questions for him, rather than pushing him into territory that is disturbing, or upsetting.  

Middle school seems like this weird transitional zone for pop culture.  I remember how excited I was to be allowed to see Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, which is pretty damn chaste, but was still a big deal because it was my first implied-sex scene.  Growing up is weird enough when you're doing it, much less when you're trying to help someone else figure it out.
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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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