I feel like a hypocrite when I say to Scout after her fourth I’m-missing-out-on-something-HUGE-esque plea for the day;
“No. You aint watching Doctor Who. You aint NEVER watching Doctor Who, not until you’ve moved out of home and have kids of your own (i.e. at least 30)”.
Granted, there are benign episodes of Doctor Who, those that don’t force you to watch through slightly splayed fingers but they are, in my opinion, the minority. And let me tell you, I muthaflippin’ LOVE “Doctor Who” but the level of fantasy/horror in it I deem largely inappropriate for a 7 year old.
I had a “discussion” with a chum last week about Doctor Who. She lets her young kids watch it, they’ve grown up with Doctor Who from a young age. She considers it a family show. We finished the discussion on fake evil eyes and an agree to disagree sentiment, but I still feel that for someone like Scout, who has a ridiculously fertile imagination, it is not something she should be watching. It would give her nightmares for YEARS. She would convince herself that a Fallen Angel was living under her bed and she would have to stay awake ALL NIGHT so it wouldn’t get her.
Ahem, no thanks. No f*cking thank you.
I watched Doctor Who when I was 7, armed with an active imagination and a propensity for nightmares. I watched Davros and the Daleks through slightly splayed fingers. I racked up a decent horror back catalogue by age 10 – “The Amityville Horror”, “The Green Slime”, “The Uncanny”, “The Andromeda Strain” (you know, the GREATS from the 70s) before graduating to “The Exorcist” a couple of years later, in my opinion, the most terrifying of them all.
It makes my blood freeze to think about Scout watching those same movies at such a tender age. I suspect before a child is at least 10, they’d struggle to separate what is real and what is fantasy. I wondered what the hell (sorry, had to) my mother, an otherwise sensible woman, was thinking. I worked my way through the entire horror section of our local video store in my very early teens and my parents didn’t bat an eyelid. Slashers like “Halloween”, Ghost movies (“The Changeling”), Zombies (“City of the Living Dead”) and Demon spawn (“The Omen”). The bloody, the beastly and the baleful.
Then it occurred to me that parents in the 70s and 80s generally raised their kids with a looser hand. I know this is a generalisation, but culturally, I think kids ran freer 30 years ago.
I remember being Scout’s age and buggering off to the lake near our home for hours with the neighbours’ kids. We would return sunburnt and happy and my mother would make us lunch. I took the bus to primary school by myself. I doubt the crime rates are any higher now than they were then, but in 2013 there exists amongst parents a heightened sense of helicoptering that was a fairly rare beast in the late 70s. Media saturation has made us paranoid, overprotective. The only news we got in 1978 was the nightly news on NBN3 (black and white, bitches!), the Newcastle Herald and the news on ABC radio. Now, you can’t escape it. Perverse murders. War atrocities. Kids stolen and hidden in a cellar for 20 years. The stuff of horror movies. It’s in your face 24/7. Twitter. Facebook. 24-hour news channels. iPhone apps. Blogs. Today’s parenting sphere often seems to me like a weird oxymoron of both overprotectiveness and a desensitised view of the same horrors we are trying to protect our kids from.
I didn’t think I’d be an overprotective parent, having been raised by permissive parents, but when it comes to visual horror I defer to my instincts. Those instincts are themselves hypocritical and run contrary to the idea that I’d relished those dodgy 70s horror classics from a deeply disturbing young age and I turned out alright (just ask me). I can’t ever see myself being OK with allowing Scout to watch any horror until she’s left home, unless it involves a dopey dog and a bespectacled nerd called Valma. I know Doctor Who shows only mild horror, fantasy more than horror really, and there are possibly some episodes I’d consider her watching, but thematically, there is some scary shit thrown in there, albeit in the dodgy retro cardboard-style of the early 70s.
Something my friend said resonated with me though, that reading something in a book can be worse than seeing it portrayed on screen – that a young child’s imagination can formulate something far scarier in their heads whilst reading. I think she’s right and in many ways, I envy her throwing a little bit of caution to the wind and getting the family together for a Doctor Who marathon.
I just can’t go there. Not yet.
How young is too young for scary horror movies?