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Fire Away! by Dee Jay Gude
I can never pick up the Washington Post without finding a story or column that makes me question the sanity of the American public. We The People do so many stupid, wacky things that it’s a wonder we manage to survive! We should be extinct, like the dinosaurs – at least they knew how to feed and shelter themselves without government intervention.

The columnist who incurred my wrath this time around was Lisa Provence of Charlottesville, who wrote an article in the February 19 edition of the Post. It was basically a fluff piece about WWF wrestling, and how she doesn’t understand her 7 year old son’s fascination with it. I also have a son who is a professional wrestling freak, and has been since he was very small, so the dominant photo of Rocky Maivia and Stone Cold Steve Austin caught my attention. Apparently, Ms. Provence took her young son and daughter to a show and wanted to share her experiences with the public.

First of all, she admits that she wasn’t familiar with the "sport". She had no idea what went on at these shows, the lingo, the wrestling personas, the story lines, nothing – even though she lets her 7 year old son watch these programs on TV. Her son made a sign to hold up in the audience that said, "Rock, that eyebrow’s coming off!", and she had no idea what that meant. She didn’t know the meaning behind "Austin 3:16". She was surprised that a T-shirt for sale at the event had the word "ass" printed on it. If she had asked me beforehand, I could have told her that the T-shirt probably read, in it’s entirety, "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass", as this is the catch phrase of Stone Cold Steve Austin. I could have also told her that the "eyebrow" sign her son made referred to Rocky Maivia’s trademark of comically raising one eyebrow when he gets angry about something. Maivia is a sell-out Corporate wrestler, loyal to Vince McMahon, as opposed to Degeneration X, who are supposed free agents. I also know that WCW Wolf Pack star Scott Hall is a native Southern Marylander, who portrays a drunken sot in these shows. I could have told her all of these things.

I know all of this and more about WWF and WCW wrestling. Why? Because I watch it all the time, every Monday and Thursday night, and sometimes on pay-per-view. Not that I’m a major fan, mind you. I watch because my son watches.

Yes, I try to keep abreast of what my son is exposed to – whether it’s the music he listens to or the TV shows he watches. I could tell you who Lauryn Hill was before she was a Grammy winner, when she was the lead singer for the band The Fugees. And while my 15 year old high school sophomore son is allowed to watch WWF wrestling, his younger sisters are not. My husband and I consider it too sexually provocative and blatant for our girls. The beating up part we don’t necessarily mind – isn’t that what boxing is? But a good bit of the programs are the storylines, sort of "soap operas for guys", in which one character is nicknamed "Sexual Chocolate" and is always bragging about his prowess and trying to convince the silicon-breasted ladies of wrestling to have sex with him. Make no mistake, this is NOT Nickelodeon!

My son knows that it’s silly and just a show. He would like it if they would do away with the storylines and just pound each other in the ring, like they did in the olden days. He thinks Sexual Chocolate is ridiculous and offensive, and hopes that someone cleans his clock for him. He spends a lot of his leisure time trying to suplex his sisters or power-bomb the dog the way the wrestlers do it, without anyone getting hurt. But the younger girls don’t understand stuff like this, and while I can still make most of their decisions for them, I decide not to let them watch wrestling…or MTV.

It amazes me that we live in a society where we make a new law for every little thing that could even remotely endanger our children. We recall products because it could pose a choking hazard. We don’t use lead-based paint in our homes. We buy Net Nannies for our computers. Yet we don’t pay attention to one of the main things that influences our children…what they see on TV and what they hear on the radio. Are we so busy with our lives that we are willing to let the government and special interest groups decide what’s right for our kids? Are we so self-involved that we don’t have time to monitor the things that are truly shaping their minds? Do you know who your child’s best friend is? Do you know who their favorite teacher is?

Last night on VH1, they had a special on the music of the 70’s and one of the songs they played was "Tonight’s the Night" by Rod Stewart. My kids were all watching with me, and I recalled that my mom had a fit when she heard that song coming out of my record player when I was a teenager. She proceeded to listen to all of my albums, confiscating the ones she found offensive. I had a fit of my own, likening her to a Nazi stormtrooper and censorship fanatic. But now, as an adult listening to Rod Stewart sing about de-virginizing a girl in pretty explicit words in front of my children, I was embarrassed and turned the program off. And "Tonight’s the Night" is pathetic compared to some of the music that’s popular today.

Children have become desensitized to things that used to be a big deal – death, violence, and sexual activity. Some legislators think the answer is to ban programming of this nature, others think the answer is to put programs for mature audiences on later at night, and still others think that ratings are the answer. The flaws here are that:

  1. Just because a program is inappropriate for children doesn’t mean adults shouldn’t be able watch it
  2. Wrestling comes on at 9:00 at night, when most Elementary school kids should be in bed (but apparently aren’t)
  3. If parents aren’t monitoring their children’s TV watching, how are they supposed to know if a show if intended for mature audiences or not?

I have a better solution: How about if we simply start paying more attention to our kids? How about if we get more involved with their interests and activities, so that when they make a reference to Marilyn Manson we’ll know that he’s a Satan-worshiping goth rocker who sings explicitly about sexual perversion and racial hatred? How about if we act as the parental advisory, putting down the rules and guidelines for our children and standing firm when they complain?

My issue with Ms. Provence isn’t that she lets her son watch WWF wrestling, even though I personally feel it’s inappropriate for younger children. My issue isn’t that she obviously lets her second-grader stay up until 11:00 on a school night, even though I personally feel he should have been in bed by then. My issue is that she had no idea of what was going on in a program that her child is devoted to. And I suspect that if he gives her or some kid at school the finger, she will exclaim in surprise and dismay, "Where did he get that from?" I could tell her that, too - she lets him watch it every Monday night at 9:00.

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