My older daughter is twelve years old and she’s one of the biggest Walking Dead fans you’ll ever meet.
Yes, you read that right. Doom watches The Walking Dead.
Her fascination with fear began about a year ago or so, after she had seen a part of some random horror movie during a sleepover at her friend’s house. My initial reaction was a visceral one; I was pissed because up until that point my husband and I had always been so careful to filter everything that our children watched on TV. Any film that had a rating beyond PG had to be screened by us first, no exceptions.
I was raised that way, myself – I wasn’t even allowed to watch MTV when I was a kid. I was eleven years old when Dirty Dancing came out, and I remember being completely livid because my younger cousin was allowed to watch it when I wasn’t. She knew all the songs and all the dances and everything. Life was so fucking unfair.
Stewing about the de-innocence of my little girl’s psyche, I thought about it a little more and began to consider just how many movies I watched while I was far from my parents’ sight when I was around her age. One of my best friends and I built a tradition that lasted for years: we’d rent cheesy horror flicks from Blockbuster – something I never did at home – every single time I stayed overnight at her house. Her pantry was also full of name brand snacks like Oreos and Twinkies, which were also something I never got at home.
I loved being at her house. It felt like heaven to this poor, sheltered girl.
So when my husband and I were faced with the sudden and inevitable dilemma of worrying about what kinds of things Doom might see when she was somewhere beyond our watchful eyes, our first thought was to ban sleepovers. Forever. In fact, she would just stay at home always. Better safe than sorry, that’s what I sometimes say. She’d thank us later when we finally unlocked her bedroom door on her 21st birthday and not one minute before.
When Doom’s fascination with the horror genre didn’t dissipate – nay, it only intensified from there – we came up with a plan. Why not let her view some horror movies with our guidance? If a situation on screen became too scary for her while she was watching a movie with us, she’d be comfortable enough to admit it and say “I don’t want to watch this anymore,” and turn it off, which is something she probably wouldn’t do at a friend’s house, lest she be labeled a chicken and clucked at by her classmates at every opportunity henceforth. Additionally, if watching horror movies was something that she got to do at home on a regular basis, the activity would no longer be taboo, a novelty sought after during sleepovers spent away from her overbearing parental units. It’s only fun and exciting when you’re not allowed to do it, right?
And so we began the Journey Of A Thousand Horror Films, together. Well, I have to admit it’s been mostly a father-daughter event since our younger daughter, Destruction, has no desire to watch anything scarier than Glee and she can’t be left alone for longer than a few minutes, even with all the lights turned on. I hang with the littler one while the bigger one gets her fright on just about every weekend. They started out with benign horror flicks like Poltergeist and worked their way to The Ring, and a bunch of other movies whose names are not coming to mind. Cheesy, bloody horror films, mostly – with a few mildly disturbing flicks mixed in here and there. Doom has asked to stop watching a movie on occasion; if I remember correctly one was A Haunting in Connecticut and it was because a character started to creep down the stairs into a pitch dark basement, and Doom is well aware that one should never, ever do that.
Some time later, once she had gotten over her vexation with the hapless victim who ventured into the basement in the first place, she went back and watched the film in its entirety. But it was her call.
It’s always her call.
While we feel she’s old enough to know what she can and cannot handle, we have vetoed movies due to content, explaining to her when something is more emotionally or psychologically disturbing than it is jumpy-scary-fun. We still screen things first so we can make helpful suggestions like “Why don’t you watch something fun like Final Destination 22 instead of Proxy?”
And she’s cool with that.
Which is good – for her, at least. Proxy is one film I could have lived the rest of my life without seeing. Sometimes the job of Movie Screener sucks major ass.
*This post was syndicated on BLUNTmoms in December, 2014