Grand Theft Innocence
Pubescent One has a new game system, which he bought with his birthday money. Unfortunately, he has only one game, with which they have all grown weary. Lacking a relieable source of income, he is unable to buy new ones, which cost anywhere from $40 to $60.
I do not buy him games. I refuse to spend that kind of money on a game that, once mastered, is basically worthless. I also find it absurd to pay such a princely sum for a small plastic disk. So he has little choice but wait for gift giving holidays or financial windfalls, both of which are lamentably rare.
I also don't spend money on video game rentals, because it too is expensive and because I prefer not to support or enable the video game habit. If I had my way, he wouldn't have a game system at all.
So this was a rare treat for both boys.
Pubescent One chose Grand Theft Auto; Diminutive One, Need For Speed. I didn't think much of either choice until we got to the counter. The clerk looked at Pubescent One, asessing. His expression became apologetic, and then his gaze turned to me.
"Ummmm, Ma'am, I should probably warn you that the content of this game is extreme."
I had no idea. And shame on me for not thinking to check the game rating. But this is kind of a new-ish thing. Until recently, he was content with sports games, Pokemon, and that one with the flute...Ocarina something. Checking warning labels just hasn't been necessary.
But Middle School, dudes...it changes things.
"Really? How extreme?"
"Very. Extreme. Basically, everything that would be considered immoral and indecent is featured in this game."
I turned to Pubescent One and this time it was my face that bore the apologetic expression.
"Sounds like a big fat "no" to me Dude."
He was incensed.
"MOM! ALL my friends play it! It's not that bad!"
"Really? So this man is lying to me?"
He had the good sense to look sheepish.
"No. I mean, it's bad, but it's not that bad. Besides, I know right from wrong. It's not like a game is going to turn me into a criminal. PLEASE Mom?"
I debated for a moment.
"Tell you what...we'll go ahead and get it. But before you play it, either Dad or I have to preview it. If we decide it's inappropriate, it goes back, understood?"
He jumped at that, willing to do whatever it took to get that game into his hands.
"Deal" he said triumphantly.
At home, several things commanded my attention and I told him he would have to wait for his father to preview it. He grudgingly waited for Husband to come home. When he did, he was beseiged at the door by both boys, begging him to prove that my silly objections were unfounded.
To their utter dismay, he wouldn't and couldn't do so.
"Baby, I don't need to preview that game. I've read about it and I've talked to other parents about it. It's BAD."
"Like, how bad?"
"Well...you can pick up a hooker, make her give you a blow job, and then shoot her in the face."
I was horrified.
"Yep. And that's in addition to the buying and taking drugs, car jacking (hence the name), rape, murder, and extreme objectification of women."
"Why would they even make a game like that?"
Husband said wryly, "That's entertainment."
How thoroughly dismaying and disheartening.
First, that our society deems such violent, misongynist behavior entertaining, and second, that impressionable young men are being exposed to these ideals. Yes, I know it's just a game...but play is how our children learn. It's how they form the basis for their future identities. It's how they choose what to be and do.
If this game is glorifying such truly horrible and destructive life choices, how are they to understand that those choices come at a price? If this game is perpetuating the belief that women are objects; that they are expendable, disposable, worthless, how will they ever learn to value their mothers, wives and daughters? How will they ever learn to relate to them as equals?
They won't. They just won't.
I was well and truly disgusted.
Pubescent One knew that he was beat, but he tried to plead his case anyway. He promised that he wouldn't go to the clubs where the hookers are, he wouldn't go to the places where the drug dealers hang out...he would just carjack and shoot people.
He would just steal cars and lives. Just.
Husband and tried to explain our reasons for making him return the game.
"Look, Dude, it's not that Dad and I want to deny you the things you want. But we have a responsibility. I can't feel good about myself as a parent, if I allow you to be exposed to things that I feel are harmful. And this game is. Very harmful. I know you know right from wrong, but sometimes, that doesn't matter. It's hard to make the right choices under the best of circumstance, and stuff like this just makes everything more confusing."
"But you don't even see boobs or anything."
Though compelled to protest, his objection lacked conviction.
"Son, it's not nudity that Mom and I object to. There's nothing wrong with looking at the human body. And boobs are not a big deal. What is a big deal, is the objectification of women and they way they are treated in this game."
Pubescent One was silent.
"Do you know what "objectification means", son?" he asked.
Pubescent One shook his head.
I gave Husband the "I'll take this one" look.
"It means, using women for pleasure without considering their needs, their feelings or their safety. It means complete and utter disregard for their rights. It means treating them like animals or worse. It means not recognizing their value as human beings.
I paused for a moment for dramatic effect, and then I asked,
"How would you feel if someone treated me that way?"
"Pretty awful." he admitted.
"Do you think it would be fun to shoot someone in real life?"
"What? No! Not at all."
To my relief, he looked suitably horrified.
"So you understand, then...why we have to say no to this game?"
He sighed heavily and hung his head. "YES."
As he walked away, he muttered to himself, "Everybody else's parents let them play it."
And that, is exactly what worries me. I can shelter my children from harmful influences and warped ideals, but I can't parent the rest of the world. I can't keep the seeds of evil and hatred from germinating in somebody else's backyard.
With media and it's many mediums becoming ever more pervasive and ever less conscientious, I sometimes feel that I need to erect a barrier of morality around my children. But I can't. I can't shut them away from the world, as much as I would like to sometimes.
All I can do is give them the tools to recognize that which threatens to undermine our basic goodness as human beings and hopefully, reject it.
Do I feel that I scored a victory today? Sadly, I really don't. The battle may be won, but the war wages on. And only time will tell if my strategy has been effective.
Will you take up the cause with me? This kind of "entertainment" does nothing to help our children lead healthy, produtive, enriching lives. And really I want to feel good about the people that are sharing the world with my boys.
Don't shrug your shoulders or turn you head or tell yourself it doesn't matter if your children watch something, play something, sing something...sexual or violent or hateful.
Innocence matters. Goodness matters.
Don't let it be stolen from them.
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