Saturday, November 27, 2004


one of the more curious spinoffs from eleven-two has been a serious tightening of the domestic ground-rules chez rhino. ever since the boys went to school I've been uneasy with the steady seepage into our home environment of a sort of casual carelessness about sex and violence that leaks from the pores of the music video/video game cultures. so saturated are the kids with this stuff that even to mutter censoriously about it is to invite derision. but there came a point, a week or two ago - I won't betray my kids trust by elaborating on that - which pumped up my tolerance gland to critical mass. in brief, I realised that their continuing childhoods - and, at twelve, they are children - needed rescuing and protecting from a culture whose only function is to mould them into mindless, amoral consumers with a deep and cynical disregard for the imagination, for social organisation, indeed for human life, when such inconvenient concerns interfere with their dedicated pursuit of personal gratification: to mould them, in other words, into Red Americans.
it's been there for a long time, of course, but now that I allow myself to stop avoiding it, and to recognise it, the ubiquity of it, I sense it as a kind of malevolent irrigation system - a ceaseless spray of shit that comes with a parental advisory - just so the corporate sprayers can't be accused of actionable indiscriminate malevolence. how is it that, in the course of a single evening, between going out skateboarding, doing homework and having supper, it has become quite normal for a child of twelve, on PS2, to hunt down and kill a hundred graphically credible enemies whose heads will explode in a vermilion cloud and who will collapse into an expanding pool of blood, listen to a thousand expiring screams and endless reiterations of mothafucking fucker to the endless tattoo of gunshots and explosions; or, on TV, watch fifty girls waggling their barely legal booty, fifty boys strutting their contemptuous stuff, and fifty sweaty couples grinding their crotches together in time to some jiggly dance music which is to dance and to music what a big mac and coke is to food and drink?
it has become normal through a conspiracy of misguided tolerance on behalf of us parents to the supposed inevitability of peer-pressured participation, in younger teens and children, to the culture foisted on their older siblings.
no more.
not in this house.
there's a wonderful simpsons episode which exposes the moral ambiguity of my position here, in which marge takes this feeling to its gloriously insane conclusion and, through concerted civil action, puts pressure on the makers of itchy and scratchy to delete the sine qua non of itchy and scratchy - the mindless cartoon violence. she becomes a local hero, but is forced to retract her position when asked to endorse a boycott of the museum for showing a statue adjudged pornography by her neighbours - the statue of david by michaelangelo - but which she happens to admire.
one man's meat will always, of course, be another woman's poison, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of video games are made for boys, and have no redeeming value whatsoever: their sine qua non is the enjoyment of inflicting great violence on as many opponents as possible before they get you. (as a training for a tour of Iraq, for example, they are exemplary. doubtless there are a few boys out there right now who think there's a restart button for when they get killed.) however you want to wrap it up - in the false history lessons of world war II combat, or in the urban samurai myths of gang warfare - the truth is in the splatter-effect: the satisfaction of aiming your weapon at an enemy and pressing the button that causes the bullets to make their heads explode, and doing it so often that it becomes boring, when you have to purchase the next game, which wraps the splatter in a different pretext and even better graphics.
we've never allowed them to own these kind of games - they've just gradually become part of the swapping thing that happens between all kids, and more and more have sneaked in under the radar, as it were. I'm personally horrified at how many of their friends parents seem not to care about the classifications at all - very rarely, the boys have weaseled a 15 out of me, but they know an 18 is an absolute no-no. I'm not stupid - we all know that they're still going to watch and play this stuff at their friends houses - I deplore that, but I can't do anything about it. the point is, they've been reminded of how much I disapprove of it. they - and their friends - know that here, in this house, it's not going to happen, not for quite a while yet.
it's called a principle.
who said it was going to be easy?

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