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11.18.17: a rebel alliance of quality content
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quality control
parental guidance is required
by mike julianelle
1.12.11
pop culture

One of my friends sent me an amazing Christmas gift – an Omar bib. It’s ostensibly for my baby, but since my ignorant son has no awareness of the “The Wire," let alone any idea who Omar is, the gift was clearly more for me. Besides, a piece of art like this is not meant to mop up drool.

But I did hazard a few pictures of my son wearing it.

The soon-to-be-framed bib got me thinking. One of the aspects of being a dad that I’m most excited about is the opportunity to share my favorite things with my son and thus mold him into a little mini-me. (Because if there’s anything we need, it’s another me!) It shouldn’t be too hard: children are sponges. There’s no one little kids trust more, or learn more from, than their parents. For better or worse. Why do you think there continue to be so many racists out there?

Some opinions are easier to transfer than others – my son’s already got a bunch of Red Sox gear and I just bought him his first Miami Dolphins t-shirt; sports-wise he’ll be covered for a while. But being a sports fan isn’t about judging quality or having good taste, it’s about being loyal. And if you’re choosing your favorite teams based on how good they are, you’re an asshole and should be shot in the face.

Besides, I ultimately don’t just want my son to blindly like the things I like, I want him to realize that the things I like are the best things! And in that regard, it’s the Arts and Entertainment stuff that’s tricky. Especially since he'll be surrounded by juvenile little children with pedestrian taste for most of his childhood. He must resist whatever Pokemon/Mighty Morphin type craze is in the air, he must ignore the terrible music his peers listen to. He must have good taste!

How do I make that happen?

Obviously part of acquiring good taste is experiencing lots of different things. You can't separate the wheat from the chaff, the "Buffy" from the "Charmed," the Star Wars from The Phantom Menace, without first being exposed to both the wheat and the chaff. And since he won't be able to help being inundated with the prevailing crap of the day, I have a responsibility to make sure he gets exposed to the other end of the spectrum. And then I have a responsibility to force him to like that end.

My parents did a pretty good job with me. I think that's partially because they weren’t shy about letting me see R-rated movies and violent TV just because they had swears and shooting and nudity in them. They wouldn’t let me see just anything, but for the most part overall quality overrode their objections to so-called racy or violent content. And seeing quality entertainment ostensibly meant for older people, in the safety of my own home, went a long way towards helping me form my own gauge of what’s good and what’s bad. It still took a while; I was in junior high before I was able to differentiate actually good from only-good-because-I’m-a-child-and-love-going-to-the-movies (let’s not pretend The Lost Boys is a work of art), but it eventually took.

Cultivating taste in my son is important. But as a new parent, I also have to be aware of the potential consequences of exposing my son to particularly violent or otherwise “inappropriate” material. But the fact is, he’s going to see that stuff anyways. Whereas I had a hard time accessing things without an assist from my parents - or at least an older brother, my son will have a lot more opportunity to discover things on his own, things that could greatly skew his outlook.

It’s my responsibility to raise him well enough so that he won’t be easily influenced by Grand Theft Auto and Cannibal Corpse songs and all the other crap his degenerate friends turn him onto. But as long as I convince him that murder is bad, exposing him to Se7en at an early age isn’t going to cause him to kill anyone.

Unfortunately, for most kids, it’s not the big stuff they’re most likely to copy, it’s the small. Teaching him that it’s wrong to make love while wearing a knife on his penis is pretty easy; teaching him that smoking isn’t cool is a lot tougher. Because smoking IS cool. And that means I have to sit there and watch it all with him, teaching him what's right and wrong, what's real and what's not and, occasionally, lying about what's fun and what isn't.

It's a bit early right now. I know I can’t put on “The Wire” just yet (not til he's at least five), I also don’t want to waste his early formative years by not giving him a solid baseline of quality from which to being his education and cultivate his taste. I need to start planting seeds of appreciation for all the good stuff immediately.

Thankfully I can do that with the best kid-oriented stuff out there, at least for a little while. While Sgt. Pepper’s and Die Hard and “The Wire” will have to wait, I can break him in with Help! and Pixar (except Toy Story 3, which might as well be NC-17 it's so intense) and “Deadwood,” before moving on to the graduate level materials in order to really train him right. Maybe I can even show him some of those Baby Einstein things that sound educational and harmless because they have the word Einstein in their name and he was a smart man who had nothing to do with any nuclear holocausts or anything.

It's like training a Scientologist: start slowly, beginning with the basics, and wait for a few more checks to roll in before you progress to the real goods, saving the Gospel according to Xenu and the shocking truth about Tom Cruise (he's straight!) for last.

And one he’s been weaned on the basics, that’s when I’ll step in and blow his mind.

All the while I’ll need to sit beside him and provide a kind of director’s commentary, using the TV, movies, books and music I expose him to as teaching tools and not merely entertainment. With “The Wire” that won’t be a problem, they teach college courses about it.

The real trick is going to be finding a way to make "Mr. Show" educational.

+++

Buy your own Omar bib here whether you have a baby or not. You deserve it.

Abbey Christine's Etsy shop features all sorts of pop culture-related baby items. Check it out!


ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE

Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle

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