Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You CAN Take A 12 Year Old To See Brokeback Mountain

I have been wanting to see Brokeback Mountain for several months. I figured I would have to wait for cable or DVD. New Hampshire usually only gets the mass release movies. So, I was THRILLED when the film was listed on a neighboring town's multiplex listing last weekend. I had planned to go on my own. Ben was only marginally interested.

Going on my own meant leaving Kiel home to his own devices. No biggie. He's managed on his own for the evening before.

Then, I got to thinking about it. K has been involved with a kind of "sex education" course through our church. The course covers all aspects of sex, sexuality, sexual health, and a broad spectrum of relationships (friendships as well as sexual relationships). No topic is taboo, no stone is left unturned. In December the course covered same sex relationships and sexual relations.

So, I described the plot of Brokeback Mountain on Friday morning and gave K the day to consider if he wanted to go with me to see it. I figured the the movie might help him understand some of what his class had talked about regarding homosexuality, and put the topic in context somewhat. Part of me supposed that he might find the focus of the movie, the difficulties and intricacies of a relationship, to be a bit boring. Not surprisingly though, K's affinity for watching almost any movie won out. When he got home from school and made his check-in call to me he told me he wanted to go.

I related my evening plans to many of my coworkers. Almost everyone joked with me about it. They warned me of the stares and horrified expressions I would probably inspire. Many applauded my braveness in taking my twelve year old to any sexually themed movie. Only one, noted homophobe, was shocked at my decision. I think I told him because I knew it would whig him out.

The theater was about three quarters full by the time the movie started. K was the youngest member of the audience by a good five years. Not surprisingly, a large portion of the audience consisted of gay male couples or groups. There were a few groups of women. The rest were primarily couples around my age, with a few scattered pairings and groupings of young adults.

The film was very much what I had expected from the reviews I had read. It deserves all the award nominations that it has and will garner. The only uncomfortable moment for me during the film is the first sex scene between the two main characters. The act itself was very sudden and on the edge of violent, in my opinion. However, it was brief. After that point, the relationship between the two men was portrayed as very loving, albeit problematic due to one of the character's inability to commit to the relationship out of fear of the repercussions.

After we left the theater, I asked K what he thought of the movie. He said that it was "ok". It was a positive sounding "ok" though. Since the movie ended somewhat sadly, I wasn't too surprised with that reaction. In the car, I told K about how people who are different have often been persecuted. The relationship in the movie begins in the early 1960s in the rural west. Homosexuality was not tolerated in that world. I also explained to K that, while things are much better for homosexuals, about once a year a violent crime against a homosexual somewhere in this country makes national news. I told him that there are still people in this country who hate other people just because they are different from themselves, whether the difference is their sexuality, the color of their skin, or their religion. I told him that I am glad that there are so many different kinds of people in the world, otherwise everybody would be the same and the world would be a pretty boring place.

On Sunday, I made sure to mention our movie excursions to his course instructor when I dropped him at the door. I asked him after what he had told his group about the movie, and he said that he told them that it was "pretty good". So, I suspect that he spent some time thinking about it afterwards, during the interim between Friday night and Sunday morning.

Some might say that I am a "bad parent" for taking my twelve year old to see an R rated movie about a homosexual relationship. I think that exposing my child to something that helps him understand the world better makes me a good parent. Was it an easy choice? No. Would I recommend it for other twelve year olds? Probably not. I am fortunate to have a thoughtful and mature twelve year old. (I am sure that there are some sixteen year olds I would not recommend view the film.) Would I do it again? You bet.


briwei said...

I have trouble condemning your action here. You know your child. You explained what he was oing to see and let him decide if he was comfortable. Compare that with people who took their 12 and youngers to see The Passion. From what I understand, the sexual scenes were suggestive, not graphic. And, as you say, he was already learning about this stuff. Context is good.

Besides, there are some 37 year olds who I wouldn't take to see it. :)

Jenna said...

Eh. A child's maturity level is best gauged by his parents (assuming his parents have two brain cells to rub together), and if you felt he was old enough to handle the themes of the movie, I don't see why anyone else should be upset.

I have a little trouble understanding why society's general attitude seems to be that it's okay for kids to be exposed to violent movies or video games, but not to sexual themes. The latter seems a hell of a lot more healthy psychologically. (I mean, I assume my kids are going to have sex at some point during their lives; I rather hope they aren't going to be involved in a high-speed chase and shootout.)

As for homophobes, I heard a standup comedian comment once that he wasn't sure what they were afraid of: Perhaps that they'd open the door one day to find the King of the Gays standing there, saying, "We took a vote, and we want you!"

I don't see any problem exposing a mature 12-year-old to a movie like this. Of course, you'll probably want to balance the scales by letting him watch something involving heterosexuals...I recommend "Body Heat."

(Kidding! Kidding!)