Screening With the Barenaked Ladies
April 28, 2008
If you don’t instill values into your kids, it’s not true that they will grow up free and beautiful and unencumbered, selecting their own values from the rich cornucopia of ideas....and thus escaping your stupid prejudices. No, all it means is that someone else will instill values into them. Moreover that someone else is not likely to have your kids interests at heart, at least, not to the extent you do. Heaven help you if that someone else is the entertainment media. That medium even pushes the percentages of Sturgeon's law, which informs that "90% of everything is crap."
You have to shield the kids somehow. You can‘t quite do what the entertainment industry tells you to do….watch this or that show with your child and then discuss its values or lack thereof. This is just their ploy to double the audience. Maybe it was true in your household that adults had equal leisure time with the kids. It sure wasn’t true in ours. And what limited parent-child time I had…..I sure wasn’t going to blow it all playing “bad cop.”
TV tickets might work. They did fairly well for us. You allot the kids so many TV tickets per week. Using them as they see fit, they would be able to watch 2 hours or so per week of commercial TV. (Public TV was unlimited. And we didn’t have cable….why torture them with unlimited channels they can’t watch?) I remember my son, at 6 or 7, telling someone how much he enjoyed TV….you learn so much. He actually thought that was its purpose. True, we found out years later that the kids had cheated around the edges a little….they’d found a way to counterfeit the tickets or whatever, but even so, it’s a policy I’d repeat in a heartbeat were I to come along with a second crop of kids, which Mrs. Sheepandgoats does not plan to give me.
Or you might just flat-out do away with the television. That sounds a little drastic, but here and there you run across families that have done just that. True, it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it’s really not that great of a baby…it poops an awful lot and you can well survive without it. As a single person, I actually went through long periods without a television and to this day there are long running popular TV series deemed indispensable of which I’ve never seen a single episode. Ironically, I found not having a TV was a good way to acquire one. People would come visit and notice the gaping hole in your living room. They’d feel uncomfortable, even a bit sorry for you, as if they’d found you naked, or with empty cupboards. The next thing you knew, they’d buy a new TV themselves and give you the old one! I can’t tell you how many TVs I got in that way. I think I only bought one. The method still works. A pal just bought one of those new half acre TVs and gave me his old 25 inch one, a decided upgrade over our storebought 19 incher.
The JW organization tries to help with tips for screening, not so much TV shows, but music. We all know that kids have unquenchable thirst for music, and the music industry fully conforms to Sturgeon’s law, and then some. So the Watchtower chimes in with tips as to how to look at a CD jacket, or what to make of a group’s name…..is it suggestive or even obscene? This way you can screen out the music that is inappropriate.
Such advise works after a fashion, but it tends to filter out almost everything. The Righteous Brothers might sneak through, but most other groups will be tossed out on their ear. The kids are not going to want to exist on just Kingdom songs. Mine sure didn’t, anyway. Even worse, the system can admit stuff that really is offensive…..some uncouth slob, for example, who goes just by his birth name and has a CD jacket featuring trees or bunnies (rabbits)….you know, things God made. Nothing obvious to tip you off! Still, I followed the system for a time. I mean, it’s very imperfect, just like the movie rating system, but it probably is better than nothing, or at least it’s a starting point.
A group called the Barenaked Ladies rolled into town. They were giving a concert somewhere and my kids wanted to go. I consulted my system and it flashed red alert. Barenaked Ladies? What kind of a name is that? Surely these guys were up to no good. I mean, it’s not very modest a name. You can’t have bare naked ladies running all over the place. If bare naked ladies showed up at the Kingdom Hall, you’d tell them to cover up. I thundered my verdict throughout the house: “No kid of mine is going to any Barenaked Ladies concert!”
Alas, it pretty well spelled the death of my system. It turns out that The Barenaked Ladies is just a good-times band….a fun, mostly innocuous, wittier and weightier version of the Beach Boys or the Monkeys. Circuit overseers hum their music, for crying out loud…..songs like “If I Had a Million Dollars.” And who cannot spot the joke behind "I Love You Intermittantly," a song whose arrangements and vocals suggests eternal love, or undying love, but whose words say the exact opposite? It’s hard not to like these guys. And you can always just call them BNL, as newspapers often do, though doubtless for brevity’s sake, not modesty.
After that debacle, I changed tactics. I went with my boy to a couple of concerts at the Water Street Music Hall. He was thrilled to have the judgmental old man along. That’s how I came to hear Weezer, who I liked well enough allowing for generational differences……wait a minute….what are they “wheezing” from?…..it better not be marijuana smoke……but there was no sign of it. All they were was loud. At the lineup to get in, everyone held their hand out to get stamped, so I did too. “You don’t need a stamp” the bouncer waved me by, a little disrespectfully, I thought. (The stamp was to verify you were drinking age) “Aren’t there any grownups here?” I retorted. Yeah, the boy was real happy to have me along. But, as stated, the group really wasn’t that bad and I wasn’t displeased I’d come.
I went to another concert later to see some other group whose name I have forgotten. These guys were a little less wholesome. I mean, they didn’t smash guitars or burn bras or anything, but their presence wasn’t quite as agreeable as the other group had been. After that, we both weaned off of concerts for awhile
Years later, when the kids were grown and gone, did I throw in the towel by going myself to the Bob Dylan concert?