Like many people who do their TV and movie watching intentionally, I got pulled into a series call Stranger Things via Netflix. Given that I grew up in the depicted era of the early 1980s—riding bikes with banana seats and playing Dungeons & Dragons—it had a ready appeal, but it took me a while to get into it. I would have abandoned watching more than the first episode but we really did not have another series on our viewing radar and many kept insisting it was worth the follow through. So, we watched the entire season.
In my viewing opinion, I thought it was good, not great. But what I find most interesting is my total lack of concern with the way the entertainment industry uses its children. I am not the only one to overlook this issue because it seems no one is concerned—at all. It simply does not register to the dulled public mind, who raves about Stranger Things and other viewing binges. But think about what must happen: child actors are instructed to do things by adult directors and handlers that the minor may later regret in adult life or may not understand fully in the present occupation. And this should be totally illegal.
Call me a prude but I don’t think it is OK to coerce a minor in the movie business to depict having sex—even if the other participants are minors. Why is that OK? It’s not a leap of policy to later suggest that the other person may be eighteen or nineteen and then (somehow) it’s not OK with anyone anymore; in fact, it’s illegal. But how the hell would we know? At this point we simply let the temperature rise a degree or two and, once acclimated, ready to accept the next tier of abuse without batting an eye. On the other end of the spectrum, at what age is it not OK to depict two minors having sex? Can they be twelve, six or sixteen? Is there a line? Is it the age of consent? Didn’t David Bowie have sex with a minor—but it was OK since she consented and supposedly knew what she was doing. If there is this sort of latitude for making the lines blurry, the frontier will advance into newer and newer territory. At no point do progressives become conservatives.
Call me puritan but I don’t think it is ok to coerce a minor to use foul language for the benefit of commerce. Yeah, I know kids have mouths like sailors—I was one of them and as young as first grade; even got sent home with a note to the parents to sign. The difference is, an adult or teacher did not make me do it for pay or part of a performance. Any regret I have with having such a prodigious potty mouth is my moral problem alone. But how would I feel if older kids, let alone adults, made me do it for the benefit of money, fame, or simply belonging?
How about the depiction of murderous violence done by children to others for the cause of entertainment? In Stranger Things, the central twelve-year-old girl disembowels and snaps necks with her mind. The much-vaunted movie Kick-Ass depicts a nine-year-old superheroine who total blood baths a gang of bad guys. But that’s OK. The young actress will grow up one day, may have a nine-year-old daughter of her own, and will have to explain her acting career to her offspring: “No honey, you can’t watch that movie yet—you’re not old enough” to what? Watch another nine-year-old murder the hell out of people, minors having sex, and a teenage boy jerk-off into a paper towel? But it’s quite OK for children depict what they shouldn’t watch as entertainment. As an aside, I watched the Kick-Ass movie on an international flight where presumably any kid of any age could have watched it regardless of what parents thought appropriate.
G.K. Chesterton characterized our return to paganism to a return to the abuse of and cruelty to children. When I read this in Everlasting Man, this was a bolt from nowhere but as I pondered it I found no basis of refutation. We forget that the special status we impart to children was a Christian directive from Christ himself which, admittedly, took long to fully evolve even in the Christian West—but it did, based on that germ of an idea divinely revealed. And how were the civilized Greek, Roman and other ancient cultures treating children? If it’s worth it to you, go found out, (you won’t like it) just spare me the usual ad hominem the Church institutionalizes child abuse and I have no leg to stand on. The Church no more institutionalizes the abuse of children then does the public-school system; indeed the Church because of the great (deserved) criticism and scrutiny is safer for kids than the public-school system and certainly more so than Hollywood.
The ultimate return to paganism and its ritual cruelty to children is abortion-on-demand. On our current moral course, it won’t even matter which side of the womb a child is on, the license has already been issued. And as usual, the soul-killing industry of Hollywood leads the way.
And we will gladly watch it.