Buy Movie Tickets or Psychopathic Action Figures

Jan 24

You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Hollywood these days.¬† Recession times, such as they are, have hurt them as much as any other business out there.¬† Did you see the Golden Globes?¬† Clearly, they’re on a budget – why else would they have hired a Brit to host?¬† Cheap overseas labour is something every business needs to consider when tough times hit.

The moviemakers have not exerted much effort into improving the quality of their product – that would just be wasteful spending.¬† But rather they’ve brilliantly concentrated on marketing to an expanded audience for each movie produced.¬† Understandably, this is to make up for cheap consumers who’d prefer to buy a week’s worth of groceries than spend a night at the movies.¬† The cinema’s failed poster campaign featuring George Clooney in a three-piece suit (the bubble above his head saying “Aren’t I worth $15 to you?”) gave me pause, but ultimately was not persuasive enough to entice throngs of patrons, such as myself, to the theatres.¬† You are worth fifteen dollars, I said to George’s dapper image, but who was I kidding?¬† As a youngish 37-year old woman, I was still a decade too old to even fantasize about fantasizing about being his main squeeze – we’ve all seen his cocktail waitresses, er, girlfriends.¬† And if it’s fantasy that Hollywood is trying to sell – I’d rather see Twilight.¬†

In fact, it was during New Moon’s opening night, sitting among angst-ridden teenage girls that I realized I’d been manipulated by the latest of Hollywood’s marketing strategies – make a movie that appeals to a “broad”er audience, that is, offer a little something to everyone. ¬†The Twilight movies attract both teenagers and women who want to still look like teenagers.¬† Pure genius.¬†

These efforts have also worked fabulously with children.¬† Walk into any grade one class at Halloween and what do you see?¬† Girls dressed as princesses and boys dressed as superheroes.¬† That must have been the big wigs’ inspiration to jump on the superhero blockbuster wagon.¬† The Hulk, Batman, Superman, X-Men… I can almost hear the chorus of little boys begging Mom and Dad to take them to the movies.¬† But those Hollywood executives aren’t suckers.¬† Sure, movies like Kung Fu Panda do all right, but why not think bigger?¬† And George Clooney needs another pay raise.¬† The PR folks, between plastic surgery appointments, concocted a fail-proof plan to pack the theatres.¬† Draw in the kids with the superhero title, yet pack the flick with violence (plus a small sex scene without the nudity) to attract the older guys.¬† It’s a win-win.¬† The kids get to see Batman save the world and the grown ups get to see a thriller featuring a psychopathic killer.¬†

Of course, Tinseltown had enough foresight to consider hardened parents who aren’t so easily swayed by the incessant begging of their children.¬† They realized such parents are either too cheap to shell out the hundred dollars for a pleasant family night out or are too paranoid to allow their kids to be exposed by some wholesome “violence.”¬† That’s why they created movie merchandise to stock every toy store’s shelves.¬† The Gotham Knight pickings were especially tantalizing.¬† With every purchase of a Batman figure, kids received a free figurine pack of blood-covered corpses.¬† Christmas was very special that year.¬†

Apparently there’s some parent-led movement across North America trying to put a stop to this Hollywood practice.¬† Of course, Hollywood is fighting this madness.¬† America is, after all, the land of the free. ¬†Free – not as in free movie tickets, but as in free to make and sell movies as we please.¬† They quickly silenced the ever growing demands of BAM ¬†(Babysitters Against Movies) whose complaints of job loss were assuaged with free tickets to – you guessed it – New Moon.¬†

Hollywood is just trying to keep itself afloat in uncertain economic times.¬† Yet some people are unconvinced, saying they’re putting profits ahead of child safety and welfare.¬† To these naysayers, the big studios are offering a free showing of the popular movie The Hangover during which they will slash the price of popcorn by half.¬† Should that fail, they will be forced to consider giving George Clooney a pay cut.

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Children’s Exposure to Online Porn – A Parent’s Guide

Oct 06

Posters of the movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno hang from the theatre where you take the kids to watch Igor.  The family-friendly Knight Rider (airing at 8pm) shows teens swapping jokes about porn while shooting hoops.  The latest “It” girl is barely dressed on the cover of at the counter where you buy little Mikey a lollipop.  As our pornified culture seeps ever deeper into the daily activities of a typical family, parents can be forgiven for thinking that the only way to shield their children from its effects is to bar them from ever leaving the house.  As ridiculous as it sounds, even an overzealous strategy such as that would not necessarily prevent exposure to porn.  In fact, the most explicit porn is most likely to be viewed in the home, thanks to the internet.

While parents ask “What do I do if my child sees porn on the internet?” the more realistic question is “What do I do when my child sees porn?”  In fact, many parents may never find out when that actually occurs.  According to a study on youth aged 10 to 17 years (Mitchel et al. 2003), a quarter of them had been exposed to unwanted sexual images, with only about half of these exposures being reported to a parent or friend.  In a study on Australian youth aged 13 to 16 years (published in Youth & Society), only 8% of kids will tell their parents if they’ve seen something disturbing. 

No wonder filter software is a multi-billion dollar industry, soothing the worries of anxious parents hoping to erect a barrier between and  I personally have blocking software that requires a password to enter any website other than those I’ve approved.  So far, it’s worked.  But, my kids are young and easily stumped by short passwords and basic firewalls.  With age, kids grow increasingly web-savvy (surpassing the limited techie know-how of parents) and learn quickly how to overcome barriers to get where they want to go online.  In fact, despite the rush to buy the latest blocking software, studies – such as the Australian survey – have concluded that filters do little to prevent exposure. 



The proliferation of cell phones with internet access has only exacerbated the problems that parents face.  Results of a study of wireless search behaviour indicate “Adult” entertainment to be the top google search, making up almost 20% of all queries. 

It’s enough to make any parent throw their hands in the air and lament, “there’s nothing I can do.”  This is too serious an issue to just let it be, according to Pamela Paul, author of .  In her book, she describes what children learn through porn. 

“Watching pornography, kids learn that women always want sex and that sex is divorced from relationships.¬† They learn that men can have whomever they want and that women will respond the way men want them to.¬† They learn that anal sex is the norm and instant female orgasm is to be expected.”

Parents face a daunting task, no doubt.¬† But there is hope.¬† According to the Australian study, porn exposure was most likely among the most frequent internet users (that is, those who¬†surfed online¬†every day, or more.)¬† Therefore, a rational first step is to limit children‚Äôs internet access.¬† And while it‚Äôs virtually impossible to totally prevent a sexual image from popping onto the screen, parents can more readily address exposure, when it does happen,¬†by regularly reviewing the¬†surfing history.¬† Microsoft provides easy instructions on how to do this, and other simple methods to ensure children’s online safety.¬† Their website is

Having frank and open discussions about sex is also important in helping children put the sexual images into context.  That means including a chapter on pornography when you teach your child about the birds and the bees.  In Pornified, Paul interviews Al Cooper, past director of the San Jose Marital and SexualityCenter and an expert on Internet pornography.  His advice is to accept children will see pornography, and to talk to them about it.

“Not only can all children see pornography online, they will see it.  All kids today will see sexually explicit stuff and they will see it constantly… When a parent finds a pornographic picture on their six-year-old’s computer they need to have a talk with the kid.”



In other words, don‚Äôt cross your fingers and hope that your child will be the one in a million who doesn‚Äôt see porn.¬† And, on the other end of the spectrum, think twice about shrugging it off with the age-old argument that it‚Äôs “a normal part of being a boy.‚Äù¬† Both are forms of denial.¬† A mix of prevention tactics with open discussion about pornography will go a long way in helping children learn to recognize the fallacies and dangers of pornography, and to censor their own online exposure.¬† Because, truly, the best filter around, is the one within us all.¬†¬†





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