Thursday, May 3, 2012

Creating Worlds

Horror movies at age 6?

I was talking to some students the other day who have found themselves in trouble in one way or another. We were casually talking about movies and they all commented how much they like horror movies. I asked when they started watching them and all 4 of these kids said around kindergarten age. They said: "What's wrong with them? Why shouldn't we watch them as kids?"

Aside from my snide thought: "Well, look at you now!" I didn't really have an answer. Why shouldn't young children watch scary movies? Or should they?

As I reflected on this later I started thinking about worldviews. Does a child see the world as generally safe, a place where people love each other and take care of each other? Or does a child see the world as a place that is filled with terrifying events just waiting to happen, with people who gain joy out of torturing and murdering fellow humans? Must every stranger be approached as a potential madman? Is human life to be valued or destroyed?

The real world, of course, is both: a terrifying place filled with people and events that might kill us (natural disasters, viruses, reality tv) and it is a beautiful place (although not North Dakota, whose prettiest state park, Little Missouri State Park, is apparently about to become an oil field) filled with people who love us.

But is a 6 year old really ready to feel the weight of the world? Isn't there a time that all of us ought to be allowed to bask in a world that loves us? That isn't fraught with danger and anxiety, which as Kierkegaard reminds us is simply the dizziness of freedom? Perhaps limiting the freedom (gasp!) of our young ones will allow them to have a few years free of anxiety.

The issue really is what sort of world we are constructing for our kids. Of course we don't want to teach them that everyone is wonderful and everything will turn out ok--I already put down that fallacy in another post. (I think sheltering our kids is also unwise...Once again finding the middle, guess I'm an Aristotelian) But they will discover that on their own, eventually. What sort of world do we want our kids to live in? I hope that I can provide a stable foundation for my kids so that when they inevitably discover the destructive power of sin, they are not simply swept away into a world of despair.

Now, for fans of scary movies, I'm not really trying to pick on them in particular. There are lots of ways we create worlds for our kids; the stories we tell them are a powerful way we form our kids. I have to wonder how differently a kid sees the world when growing up seeing images of pain and darkness versus a kid who grows up seeing images of wonder and joy. 

Advertising companies certainly think they can get inside our kids' heads at a young age. Do we agree? Someone once said something like: work on your interpretation of the world because your interpretation is your world. (Sounds really postmodern, but, it can't be too far off.) I hope my kids' interpretation of the world allows for love, hope and joy to be normative. God, may it be so.