Monday, February 24, 2014

Time to Get Rid of the G Rating

At $268,492,764, Monsters University was the highest grossing G movie of 2013. Not that it had much competition. It was the only G rated film to hit theaters the entire year.
Adults assume G movies are childish, childish means inferior, and adult means ticket buyer, so Hollywood goes out of their way to avoid the dreaded G rating.
According to long standing Hollywood rumors, when Star Wars: A New Hope came back from the ratings board, it fell juuuuust between G and PG. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru's skeletons were added to bump up the ratings. They're only on screen for a few seconds, but it worked.
Something similar happened with the movie Emma. In one scene, the characters talk about a dog, specifically a female dog, and refer to it as a bitch. In the Regency era, when the movie is set, that's what a bitch was. Go to any dictionary and that's still the first definition you'll find. But it was enough to boost Emma into PG territory.

Now let's look at Annie. The play: Cutesy story about a curly haired girl who charms everyone she meets and gets adopted by the Depression's only billionaire. The movie: Cutesy story about a curly haired girl who charms everyone she meets and gets adopted by the Depression's only billionaire. But in this time, two crooks call Annie "You goddamned kid!" to deliberately avoid a G.
G originally meant General Audiences. Now it stands for Grandmas and Goo-Goo babies. I don't know a single parent who keeps their children away from PG movies. While PG certainly includes some bloody, action packed films-especially if you go back to the pre-PG 13 era-you can usually count on them. Despicable Me 2 is PG. They worst they did was shoot off a few fart guns. Frozen is PG. They impaled a snowman who doesn't even have bones. Or a skull.
In 1939, Gone with the Wind became the first movie to swear aloud on screen. Rhett Butler tells Scarlett, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." The film takes place during the Civil War, so there's quiet a lot of death, including one scene where Scarlett shoots a Yankee soldier in the face.

When he gets blood everywhere, Scarlett's friend Melanie takes off her dress to mop it up. She's wearing petticoats underneath, naturally, and doesn't show much more than (gasp!) her ankles.
Let's see, what else happens? People drink alcohol in several scenes, we watch Melanie give birth (or at least her silhouette), and oh, yeah, that's right.
Scarlett, who is married to Rhett (after her last two husbands died), kisses Ashley, who is married to Melanie. Scarlett must be the Grim Reaper's pet project because, in addition to losing two husbands, two parents, and eventually Melanie, they managed to kill off her young daughter in a freak horseback accident. 
Don't worry, it's alright. He shoots the pony later.
It's rated G.That letter no longer means what it once did, so why do we keep it around? Filmmakers go out of their way to avoid it. Audiences automatically assume G equals low quality entertainment. Of the top ten highest grossing G movies, only two of them (Monsters University and Toy Story 3) were made in this decade. 

And while we're at it, why keep the other ratings around? I wasn't allowed to watch PG 13 movies until my thirteenth birthday, but I know very few other families who take that number seriously. I'm seventeen, I could go see an R rated movie if I felt like it, but I never have. Filmmakers don't bother putting teen actors, teen characters, or teen themes in them when we can't buy a ticket. Then there's my moral standards. There are PG 13 movies that aren't suitable for anyone, teenager, adult, or child. The MPAA's standards have changed so much that you can no longer draw a line. We need a system  that focuses more on content and less on age.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What's Wrong with Being Old?

In seventh grade I had to do a report on Utah's Washington County. It looks like this:

The rest of Utah looks like this:

Naturally, people go there to retire. It's our mini-Florida. In my report I wrote, "Lots of old people live in Washington County because of the warm climate." I printed out all three pages and showed it to my mom. She told me to change "old" to "elderly" and print it all over again. It wasn't polite. I did, but I couldn't see the point. Don't old and elderly mean the same thing?
Recently, I've been pondering the difference between "teenager" and other terms, like youth and young person. I prefer youth, partly because teenager is a relatively new term and most languages don't have an exact translation. But I've talked about this before. Also, teenager is easier to sneer since it has those nuh, guh, and err sounds that are so much fun to draw out.
I don't get offended when people call me a teenager and, as you can see, I use the word in my blog's name. So why should old be offensive?
Age is like having boxes of stuff. When you only have a small amount, you hoard them, and each year is precious. Heaven help the man who calls a six and a half year old merely six. But when you have forty, they just pile up and consume space. You start to feel ashamed. You wonder why you ever bothered counting in the first place. You're no longer proud of what you got, and strangely enough, you're jealous of people who have fewer boxes than you.
It's ridiculous. Why is getting your sixteenth box something to brag about, but your sixty first is something to hide? Birthdays don't mean anything unless you let them. Congratulations, the planets are in the same alignment as they were when you were born. Old is old, young is young, and there's no reason to be ashamed of what your age.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shirley Temple: April 23, 1928-February 10, 2014

Shirley Temple was five when she hit the screens. She could sing, tap dance, and memorize scripts-all before she could read. But that wasn't impressive enough. Her entourage decided she'd be cuter if she could sing, dance, and act-all at the age of four. So they aged her down. It wasn't until her 'twelfth' birthday that they told her she was actually thirteen.
Temple is known for her innocent image. The cheery little face that helped America through the 30's. Roosevelt once said, "When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles." 

Why do you think they named the drink after her? It's sweet, and when the soda pop industry was in its infancy, one of the only popular drinks that didn't contain alcohol.
But if you look at her movies-especially the earlier ones-little Shirley is disturbingly sexualized.
I won't even get started on the war paint.
Here's Temple as Madam Cradlebait, getting taken prisoner by cannibals while on a mission to civilize Africa. I don't know what to make of the safety pin. Is that supposed to be some kind of wilderness adventure diaper? Her name bothers me. Sounds too much like jailbait. 
You can watch the eight minute movie, called Kid In Africa, here. The director set up a tripwire so the kids would fall down when "shot". There were no stunt doubles, so Diaperzan's actually riding an elephant. 
In the short movie War Babies, Temple gets her diaper on again, this time paired with with silky off the shoulder blouse. She dances seductively for leering child soldiers and gets her first on screen kiss. She also tugs on a boy's diaper after he lures her over to the bar with the promise of  a lollipop. The film ends with one of her lovers showing the other a rose she gave him as proof of their romance-only for the other boy to pull out her diaper pin.
So here we have a four year old girl who's actually five playing an adult role while dressed as a baby. It doesn't stop with her, either. A boy who looks to be kindergarten age crawls around the floor in search of milk while a boy just like him clomps around in man sized boots. In a weird paradox, they're aged down while being aged up.
Both films were part of a series called Baby Burlesks. In her autobiography, Temple called them "a cynical exploitation of our childish innocence." No wonder.
The sexualization continues today. In the rare instances when a teenager is actually played by a teenager, or a preteen by a preteen, they're dressed up so they don't look remotely their age. Disney and Nickelodeon target their shows at the 8-12 demographic though their actors are mostly in their late teens. There's only so much they can do about that, of course. Actors age and there's no way to stop it. And when they've aged enough that they can't be called minors anymore, when child protection laws no longer apply, all the stops are pulled out.
Demi Lovato (left) and Selena Gomez (right) got their start in third grade in the same episode of Barney.
Here they are today. And now, because you're waiting for it, Miley. This picture's from one the earliest episodes when she played a middle schooler.

What wrong with being a teenager? Why are these girls pressured to drop their good girl image once they hit the age of majority? It's not just the girls, either, look how Justin Bieber has caved into the pressures of Hollywood. He used to be just another youtube kid with a guitar. Now he collects ink and women. 
Shirley Temple at sixteen. I think she looks just fine. 
Her acting career had pretty much fizzled out by 1944. It started in 1938 when Judy Garland was chosen to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz instead of her. Temple was ten and she was sixteen. Garland had her breasts taped down to maintain her youthful image. But Temple's still a celebrity, and she's using her fame to help raise money for war bonds in Ottowa, where the picture was taken.
At seventeen she married a boy named John Agar. Her autobiography said she felt pressured into it. She wanted to be the first girl in her class to wear a wedding ring. They moved into her two story playhouse, replacing her carousel with living room furniture. Then they divorced four years later. Divorce, in 1949. That takes guts. She went on to get remarried and become an ambassador to Ghana and Czechslovakia. In the 70's she was diagnosed with breast cancer and did lots of activist work. On Monday this week she died. 
On her website, Temple's advice to the youth of today is, "Be brave and clear. Follow your heart and don't be overly influenced by outside factors. Be true to yourself."  I can't think of any better advice for young people trying to make it in a world where it's not acceptable to be a child. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can We Get Over this Already?

You cannot judge an entire age group because of one boy's action. You cannot judge a boy's actions for his age group. An age should not define a person and a person should not define an age.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Liza Temnikova

Elizabeta Temnikova opening ceremony
Putin gave a speech. Cosmonauts raised the flag. Hundreds of light technicians, dancers, choreographers, costumers, puppeters, prop designers, engineers, and sundry technology people worked to make Sochi's opening ceremony a success. But they're not the ones who will be remembered.
She couldn't look more graceful and pure-no doubt the product of talent scouts, makeup artists, hairdressers, and coaches. She makes flying look easy. It's easy to forget that she's an athlete too, an acrobat, and according to the announcers she broke her arm during training. Yet here she is, fearlessly dangling a hundred feet above the stadium floor. If a wire snaps, if she falters, if she loses her focus, a million eyes are watching in hundreds of languages. But she doesn't.
How cool is it that Russia wants an eleven year old girl to represent their country? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Senior Bowl

Last year I told you about my school's Spirit bowl,, a competition that pits different grades against each other in challenges like dance offs and an obstacle course. The seniors, oddly enough, just happened to win every year since the school was open. It's the strangest thing, the teachers and student body officers agree. Especially because it isn't rigged.
In that case, we need to send the senior class to Vegas every year. A thirteen year winning streak? If it's not rigged, not coincidental, then we just need to face the fact that seniors are magically gifted.
They were particularly gifted this year. The announcer read off the winners-"Fourth place goes to the sophomores, third place to the faculty, and we'll just tell you the victors because that determines second-" then a boy ran up to him with a paper. They whispered for a few seconds, nodded in agreement, and the announcer returned to his mic. "There's been a last minute adjustment. Seniors win!"
We were colored coded-sophomores were supposed to wear white, juniors gray, seniors purple, and faculty in black. So I showed up in brown and green. This event is supposed to be the grand finale of our Spirit Week, but instead bringing us together, like our Christmas fundraiser does, it pulls us apart. I understand that it's just a game and the most logical way to organize teams is by grade.
But as I watched the crowd in the gym, everyone segregated by grade and dressed in a different color, it reminded me of my post on school ageism the other day. Here were the sophomores, confused and quiet, because this whole thing was new to them. Here are the juniors, sore over last year's defeat and yearning to be great, hurling chants at the seniors. And here are the seniors, beaten down for two years in a row, but confident in their own power.
This is how all ageism works-beaten down first, then angry, until at last, you're sure of your own superiority. No one cheers for the underdog. It doesn't matter that the underdog used to be you. Just like I said last year, I don't want my class to win my senior year. I'd rather see sophomores take the gold. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Childing and the Oldaged

I've always thought it strange that parent is a verb while child is not. You can transform it into an adjective. You can act childish, look childish, and want childish things. Meanwhile, adults can attend parenting classes, read parenting books, and practice their parenting skills on their children.
Today I found this article on vocabulary. Parent was rarely used as a verb before the 1980's, and when it was used, it referred to conceiving a child, not raising one. I wish I could find what prompted this change. When did the role of a parent become so powerful that it needed its own verb? To parent is to teach someone how to eat, how to dress, how to think, how to live. Absolutely anything a mother or father does can fit inside that tiny word.
But child? To child doesn't mean to love, to honor, to obey, to serve. A child doesn't mean anything.
Now let's look at teenager. This term didn't even exist until the 1940's, though the adjective teen-aged dates back to 1922. Note the hyphen. Words like co-pilot and e-mail lost their hyphens as we became more familiar with them.
I hate hyphens. Especially on touch screens because you have to switch keyboards. Last November, I made the conscious decision to stop using them in relation to age. "A seventeen-year-old girl was shot today." Are they really necessary? We can tell just by reading this sentence that old and seventeen are both attached to the year. We don't need a hyphen to bridge them.
In the case of teen-aged, teen is just an adjective. Like middle-aged. Old-aged. Not that those get hyphenated very often. They aren't run together either. "The middleaged man picked up a parenting book from Barnes and Noble." "The toddleraged girls loved their oldaged teachers." Just seeing these words on a screen looks weird, and autocorrect agrees.
If you're an adult, it doesn't matter if you're oldaged or middleaged. Calling a child youngaged is redundant. But if you're between twelve and nineteen your number sets you apart.
That's how it works in English, at least. When I took Spanish in eighth grade, I was shocked to learn there's no word for teenager. You can be a chica-young girl-but that's not tied to a number. Spanish just doesn't count like that. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. Once, doce, trece, catorce, quince, dieciseis, diecesiete, dieciocho, diecinuevo. There's no pattern.
Up until the 1940's, we were simply young men and young women. In same ways it's nice to have a label. It's easier to find clothes, books, music, and movies specially made for us. To craft our own identities. But it's also another way to isolate us from other age groups. Our identity is a band of numbers.

Trust Us, We Remember

HOT 104.5's photo.

Guess what? Your childhood isn't as archaic as you think it is. Lego is still in business. In fact, they're doing better than ever. They make their own movies now instead of building toys based of existing ones. Finding Nemo? You can get it from Netflix. People still play Red Rover at recess. Classrooms without ceiling projectors still use the mirror and light kind.
Everything you liked is still around.