I’m sorry to say that this was how I was raised. My mother wasn’t a Jehovah’s witness, but her attitude towards anything that didn’t have a strict christian lean was exactly like this video. My mother feared that my sister and I would be morally corrupted by the media. She imposed a strict ban on anything she or some christian leader or another felt was “ungodly”. All the TV, movies, books, and music we watched from infancy through early high school was censored.
My sister and I rebelled, of course. At the age of eight, my sister was a closet Buffy the Vampire Slayer viewer. I would secretly tape episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh when I was in grade school and then sneak downstairs at midnight to view them. It took me years of begging to convince my mother to let me watch and play Pokemon, the thing which turned out to be the catalyst for most of the close friendships I still have today. I was making back alley deals with friends for VHS cassettes of Inuyasha recorded off of Adult Swim and the Harry Potter series well into high school. I can’t even begin to tell you how many Saturday morning cartoons I missed out on. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the ban on most “secular” music newer than 1985 was lifted. I’m still amazed she let us listen to Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. When I was visiting friends, I ate up whatever banned TV show or movie they could show me.
I was starved of my generation’s pop culture. As a child, I often felt like an outsider when my peers talk about watching Cartoon Network or playing video games. When I was young I was exponentially more socially awkward than I am now, so finding common ground to strike up a friendship, or even just a conversation, was difficult. Do you watch the Power Puff Girls? No? Conversation over. I’m only just discovering films and comics and animation that I find incredibly inspiring and that I wish I’d been exposed to much earlier in my development as an artist.
On a more spiritual level, I have learned more about myself and how to deal with the universe around me from the entertainment I’ve consumed than I ever did in Sunday school. Sure, I know more about the Bible and protestant christian theology and philosophy than many of my peers, but it didn’t make me a better person beyond ingraining the idea that not killing people was a commendable quality. I felt constantly pressured by guilt for my sins, for not being enough like Jesus, for not connecting to this belief system being pressed onto me. I couldn’t understand why the youth pastors were making such a big deal about going to “less fortunate” countries for a week to build a shack for the locals and then trying our hardest to convert them. It seemed to be considered a lost cause if no one was “saved” on one of these trips. How was it a failure if someone had a roof over their head? How was it our responsibility, or even our right, to press ourselves and our god down these people’s throats? Why should I feel guilty for thinking you might not have completely pure intentions? That you might be going to Chile or Mexico because it makes you feel good and powerful and right, rather than out of any real concern for the people you are “saving”? The kids that went on these trips came back raving about how much closer to God they had become and how many people they’d saved as though they were Superman. Strangely, these kids who allegedly had so much love and compassion for humanity through Jesus Christ never noticed the shy and lonely kids like me sitting in dark corners too afraid to approach anyone. Going to church and going through the motions of being a good little lamb of God made me so angry, ashamed, and alone. For the longest time I questioned nothing for fear I’d go to Hell for challenging the powers that be.
It wasn’t until late high school when I refused to go to church anymore and demanded that I be allowed to make my own decisions about the media I consumed that things started to turn around. I was finally aware of the dysfunction of not only myself, but my family. All these things my mother had tried to sweep under the rug, things like her controlling and manipulative tendencies, became clear because I was no longer afraid of going to hell for disrespecting my mother. Now that I no longer have to focus my energies on hiding the things I enjoy, I discovered my hitherto latent love of media criticism. Thinking critically about what I watch, read, and listen to leads to thinking critically about myself. Understanding why I connect to a certain character or why a certain plot device resonates with me lets me know what kind of person I am and what sort of strengths, flaws, or aspirations I might have. I’m exposed to different view points and moral situations I was never prepared by the church to face in anything more than a mindless-drone-following-holy-orders capacity. Being unafraid to break rules let’s me dissect ideas, see how they work, and then reconstruct and reconfigure them if I have to.
I know my mother meant well. But I still feel jipped and insulted. All these resources, ideas, beloved memories, and conversation starters were held outside of my reach for years. Worst of all, I was not trusted to think for myself. I was halfway to becoming a marionette for the glory Jesus Christ, if you will excuse the overused metaphor. I’m not saying that you should sit a kid down in front of the TV and just let them puzzle it out for themselves. I think kids do need parental guidance. It’s a brand new world for them and they need someone to help them learn the ropes. They need a gentle handle on the shoulder that sort of nudges them in the right direction but only if they really need it. What they don’t need is to be strapped into a proverbial car seat and forced to develop exact copies of their parents’ moral codes over the metaphorical road trip to adulthood. I understand how terrifying the idea of their precious baby turning into an inmate on death row must be for parents, but kids can’t grow up healthy in lock-down. Parents need to have some more faith, trust, and pixie dust that their kids can learn to make good choices. Unless of course, since pixie dust is magic, it is actually a clever ploy by Satan himself to lure unsuspecting young children away from the righteous path and into the roiling lava pits of Hell.
I haven’t gotten to see the video, because apparently at least this copy is removed by the user, but yeah.
just read through this whole thing. sorry it’s so long, but it’s exactly accurate about my childhood. my favorite Pokemon (even that wasn’t allowed in my house) was Ratata and I spent hours in summer dusk running around pretending to be one…and feeling like I’d committed some mortal sin when I slunk back inside afterwards.