This past weekend, my mom and I spent our Saturday night at the movies finally watching the DC box office hit "Suicide Squad." One of the biggest takeaways from the night that really got me thinking didn’t happen on the big screen, but rather in the seat right next to my mom. At this PG13 movie filled with killing, guns, evil and scenes with sexual content, my mom’s neighbor was a 6-year-old boy.
Clearly he had read the comic books (because he announced every single character at the top of his lungs as they were introduced on screen), but certainly, this kid was way too young to be sitting through this movie, right? I mean, the critics had gone through and specifically suggested this movie only be viewed by patrons 13 and up. As Jared Leto’s Joker ripped through various scenes with his costumed assassins behind him, I looked over at this little boy and saw him mesmerized by the violence he was seeing on screen. At the end of the movie, he eagerly told his mom how much he loved it and even wanted to go see it again.
I am the first one to admit that I grew up a little “sheltered.” My mom made me wait until I was 13 to see PG-13 movies. But as crazy as it may sound, I grew up in a different time than the little boy I encountered at the movie. He is growing up with stories of violence in our own country headlining the news almost every day. But does this mean that he and kids all over the nation should be exposed to further violence as entertainment at such an early age?
Since I have no kids of my own, it’s hard to personally answer this question. It would be easy to hide all of the violence happening around the world and in our own country from our kids; to turn off the news and recycle the newspapers before they wake up in the mornings. It would be easy to gloss over active shooter drills in elementary schools and not go into detail as to why they have to practice hiding under their desks or in closets.
But should we preserve this childhood innocence? This is an extremely complex question with pros and cons on both sides. Some believe kids have the right to know what is going on around them and shouldn’t be shielded from the world that they are just as much a part of as adults are. There are children in Syria, Iraq, Israel and other countries all over the world living in this violence every day; in fact, it's all they know. On the other hand, perhaps childhood innocence shouldn’t be taken away at such an early age since kids will have plenty of time to learn about the horrors that happen in the world when they are older.
I am sure the little boy I met at the movies will look back fondly on his childhood memories, including this memory of seeing "Suicide Squad" with his family. It is impossible to tell for this 6-year-old in particular how (or if at all) witnessing violence so young will impact the rest of his childhood, adolescence and even adulthood. But with the increased violence we are seeing abroad and domestically, it is important to consider how much the youngest members of society deserve to be aware of the world they are inheriting.