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Musing #29: THE GRADUATE and The Evil of Censorship (Teach Your Children Well, Part III)

*** SPOILER ALERT!!! This post blows part of the gist of a film most kids don’t see. ***

Welcome to the continuation of Musing #28: THE LITTLE MERMAID Is a Feminist Nightmare (Teach Your Children Well, Part II).

First and foremost, some SSS&C housekeeping…

I fear that I inadvertently disrespect my amazing mother in this space by so frequently referencing my cultural drill sergeant father.

Make no mistake.

I have nothing but the utmost respect (and awe) for my mother. She is a former teacher of deaf children, in which capacity she taught a school-age Marlee Matlin.

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Best Actress, 1987

She carried, bore and raised six children, all of whom are college graduates.

Mommy took care of everything practical whilst loony Daddy put us through cultural boot camp. “Fadda’s Shtick” was only feasible because Mom held down the proverbial fort. I am eternally grateful to her for manning reality and facilitating all that quality time with Dad.

Plus, she’s from Canada! And that’s just always cool.

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To be clear, I deliberately refrain from writing about my mother. She is, in her own words, “a very private person.” She doesn’t want her business broadcast. That’s not only legit, it’s something for which I hold her in the highest regard, particularly in this gauche era of egregious over-sharing.

One more thing about my mom: She’ll rip you a new one if you cross her, my dad or one of her “chickens.”

Do not fuck with my mom, health insurance companies and university bursars!

Got it?

Good. Now my house is in order. On with the show!

As a kid, my favorite after-school refuge from the endless din of little siblings was the master bedroom. I’d shut the door, curl up in my parents’ comfy king-sized bed and watch TV until dinner. I was in fourth grade, channel surfing from beneath the covers, when I happened upon the familiar opening bars of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

I have always loved that song. I chose it to be the first song I ever sang in voice lessons, which I had begun earlier that same year. So, naturally, I was curious to hear it emanating from the TV and kept watching. What I saw was a cute young man in a suit on an airport people mover.

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Right.

I’d never heard of the movie, and I had no real intention of watching it beyond the end of that gorgeous song. I was having a blast singing along when the bedroom door burst open at this moment (I swear):

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“Hear my words, that I mi-ight teach you.”

It was Dad, just arrived home from work, on his way to hang up his sports coat and put down his book. But he never got passed the bedroom door. His eyes darted immediately to the TV, his face lit up and he exclaimed:

“Are you watching THE GRADUATE?!”

Me:  I guess so. I was just channel surfing and found Simon & Garfunkel!

Without missing a beat or putting down his stuff, Dad began to back out of the doorway, saying:

“I’m going to shut this door. You keep watching. This is a great movie.”

So, I kept watching. And while I knew every note and lyric of the song “Mrs. Robinson,” I had no idea it had anything to do with a movie.…until I did.

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This is a film about casual sex and adultery; among many other, far more important things.

When the movie was over, I ran downstairs to dinner.

Me:  That was such a good movie!!!

Daddy beamed with progressive Baby Boomer pride.

Dad:  “Wasn’t it great?!”

We two then proceeded to gush over the masterpiece throughout the meal. Again, I was in fourth grade.

No doubt, the story I’ve just told is shocking to some of my readers. Indeed, most parents of young children probably find it appalling.

And if you are aghast at that story, you are my target audience.

My progressive Baby Boomer parents do not believe in censorship. Dad is far more passionate about it than is Mom, but she concurs. Culturally speaking, we were exposed to everything and sheltered from nothing. Sex, violence, profanity be damned. And we all grew up to be productive, well-adjusted, upwardly-mobile adults. (I’m decidedly the loser of the LeVine litter.)

While the concept was never put to me thus, I’ve distilled Dad’s arguments against shielding children from adult culture down to the following four points:

1) If they’re scared, they’ll close their eyes.

2) If they see something unfamiliar and it goes over their heads, fine.

3) If they see something unfamiliar and they learn about it, great!

4) If they see something unfamiliar and are confused by it, explain it to them.

I already knew my birds and bees by the time I saw THE GRADUATE [1967]. I understood, appreciated and, indeed, loved what I saw. Ain’t nobody got time for hate-mailin’ Internet trolls, but I challenge any reader to give me a decent argument as to why my watching THE GRADUATE in fourth grade was inappropriate. I mean it. I’d like to start a discussion here.

I’m not telling you how to raise your kids, parents. Just sharing how mine raised us.   

AGAIN, SIX COLLEGE GRADUATES!!!

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Alma Maters of (chronologically, from left to right) Mom, Dad, Brother-in-Law, Me & Five Sibs

Alas, this has, yet again, gotten long. And I have, yet again, run out of Friday. So I shall, yet again, adjourn this series. Tune in the last Friday of February for my comments on the Hays Production Code, the MPAA, Tipper Gore and the 86th annual Academy Awards, which will air two days later.

Musing #30: Oscar, LeVine-Style (Teach Your Children Well, Part IV) will culminate and conclude my film-based series of posts. Going forward from there, I’ll be getting back to tales of Scylla and Charybdis steerage. (Not that I’ll ever stop writing about movies.)

See you in a month, dear readers.

Until then, “Damn my lack of Oscar, full speed ahead!”

Stacy
@IvyLawEditor

2 comments

  1. Such a good piece!!!! My parents were not into censorship at all either, must be a baby boomer thing. I have thought about this many times, was it right of them or wrong? Now that I have a young VERY INQUISITIVE son, who asks many great questions, I realize they were right. At 3, my son wanted to see the inside of a cat so I went on YouTube and found an animal dissection. He loved it and ended up happily watching a human dissection. I asked myself “am I nuts to show him something so gruesome?”
    Then he went on to tell me in detail what an esophagus does and I decided if he’s interested in it, he should learn about it. It’s amazing how smart kids are.
    I love hearing how successful parents have done it, so thanks for sharing!

    • I don’t mean to portray my parents as saints or anything. They are far from it. But they really nailed the whole parenting thing. And they never went wrong operating on the principle that “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, SO DON’T WITHHOLD IT”!!!

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