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It’s Child Abuse to Subject Children to Horror Films
Platt Liebau] 1/16/06
disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, to learn that The
Hostel has been #1 at America’s box office. The
Quentin Tarantino film – featuring torture and sex to
a degree that causes even grown men to cover their eyes – is
the apotheosis of plot-free gore and pointless, explicit sadism.
it’s the filmmaker’s right to create this stuff,
and Americans’ manifest right to spend $10 to watch fictional
fellow creatures being abused past the point of comprehension.
But that doesn’t make their choice to do so a good one.
Carol Platt Liebau - Senior
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior
member of tOR and CRO editorial
boards. She is an attorney, political analyst
and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and
has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC,
CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and
a variety of radio programs throughout the United
States. A graduate of Princeton University and
Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served
as the first female managing editor of the Harvard
Law Review. Her web log can be found at CarolLiebau.blogspot.com [go
to Liebau index]
worth wondering both whether exposure to this kind of garbage
desensitizes its viewers to deviant violence – and whether
that desensitization will have an impact on their behavior
in the real world (how lovely for the rest of us!). Certainly,
the movie’s popularity forces the question: Have we become
so jaded that it takes extreme stimuli like The Hostel (and
by all accounts, the movie is nothing if not extreme) to provide
a frisson of excitement?
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes once analogized the mind
to an attic, with its owner having the responsibility to decide
what material should be stored there. What, in our culture,
is missing that so many would decide that the images purveyed
by The Hostel are appropriate mental furnishings?
But if there’s
anything more disheartening about the movie than its popularity
(which guarantees that more of the same will be coming soon
to a theater near you), it’s the reports that parents
are bringing their young children to the film. What in the
world can they be thinking?
In a more
innocent time, the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West or
Snow White’s apple-bearing evil queen or “Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang”’s supremely creepy Child Catcher
provided plenty of fodder for childhood fears. How, exactly,
are little children – not yet fully equipped with the
skills that allow them to separate fantasy from fact – supposed
to process a grisly movie filled with graphic depictions of
sexual torture? Do parents not understand the harm (emotional
in the short term, possibly psychological in the long) that
such images can inflict? Or are they just too selfish to care – either
unable to withstand an older child’s importuning to see
the film, or unable to wait three months to watch it at home
on DVD after the little ones are asleep?
our cultural understanding of what constitutes “child
abuse” has expanded. At first, it was defined as physical
mistreatment, but then was extended to include verbal abuse.
Perhaps it’s time to expand it yet further. We would
fault parents for failing to protect their children from anything
that would physically hurt them, especially if such harm could
be readily prevented. Shouldn’t the same standard be
applied for mental or psychological harm?
No one wants
the government interfering any more than strictly necessary
in the parent-child relationship. So let’s hope that
parents who are exposing their young children to the most deviant,
degrading and frightening portraits of human nature will realize
that the mental harm they’re enabling can leave scars
every bit as painful – and possibly even longer lasting – as
those attributable to physical abuse.
an argument to be made that The Hostel is unwholesome
entertainment for anyone, of any age. But at least the adults
flocking to the theaters have made an informed choice to see
it for themselves, and, hopefully, have the strength of mind
and emotional maturity to process the most disturbing images.
Children, by contrast, haven’t – and don’t.
of childhood were frightening enough even in the days long
before The Hostel. Give the little ones a break – take
them to a Disney movie instead. Believe me, they’ll thank
you later. -one-
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and tOR / CRO editorial
director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served
as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law
Review. Her web log can be found at CarolLiebau.blogspot.com
2006 Carol Platt Liebau