You’d think that technology or social media or violent video games or predators were the biggest threat to our children. It’s worse, folks. The biggest risk to our children’s well-being is much more insidious and it hides in the skin of a hungry and vicious wolf. It is “fun,” and fun will eat your children.
Because fun? Fun is really, really bad for kids.
If something isn’t “fun,” kids don’t want to do it (mine included). Unfortunately, a large majority of things that need to be done aren’t fun. Society’s relentless pursuit of fun - aka Let’s Make Life A Giant Carnival Cream Puff Bouncy Castle - is hindering my ability to effectively parent my children while imparting any sense of reality about the world. This “fun” shit? I don’t like it. Not everything is meant to be fun. Like “work” for example. If – as a consequence of its nature – your job happens to be fun, that’s great! You’re one of the lucky ones. I’m happy for you; really. Now please get back to your cubicle at the candy-tester factory.
My point is that not everything is fun, or should be fun. When we try to fool our kids into thinking it is, we’re setting them up for some serious disappointment when they leave our homes for the real world. (Spoiler: the real world can be a real asshole.)
The other day I told my kids we were going out for dinner. Their response should have been something along the lines of “Thanks, Mom! It certainly is kind of you to take us for a dinner out. What a rare and unexpected treat! We love you best!” Instead I endured a 20-minute conversation about restaurant selection based on the most important criteria of all: which establishment offered the best treasure box after the meal. The food could have been fabulous, the service impeccable, but if my kids weren’t walking away with coloring books or a sticky slapper hand after, it was all for naught. This is not the type of discerning diner or future dater I wish to raise.
Some things are not meant to be fun; like a trip to the dentist, for instance. I should have realized dental care was becoming too much fun years ago, because whenever I announced a check-up appointment my children would high-five each other. At our dental office after each successful cleaning appointment, children are taken to the “Prize Table.” The prize table is huge and covered with all sorts of crap that will soon be living in my vacuum canister in a dusty heap with errant Cheerios, Lego pieces, and my hopes and dreams. Sitting in the dental chair for an hour twice a year now earns you a Sponge Bob pencil and a Gooey Eyeball. That Gooey Eyeball was in my son’s possession less than an hour before it found a permanent home on my bedroom ceiling, where it is now stares at me with a lint-covered cloudy pupil while I’m getting dressed. Thanks, Dr. Brown! You make me long for the good ole days when dentists hated children.
I don’t have a complete aversion to fun. Fun is important, and when I see it forming organically, I don’t shut it down. If my kids find a way to make taking the garbage to the curb enjoyable, or cutting the lawn bearable, I let them roll with it. That’s self-created fun, and it’s an excellent coping skill for the future. Kids need to learn that sometimes (most of the time) the result is the reward. Work hard and enjoy the benefits which arise from that effort. Maybe the outcome will be fun, and maybe it won’t. Maybe the only consequence of a dogged effort will be knowing you did your best and that will have to suffice. I’ll throw you a party on your birthday and for your graduation, but don’t expect a festival because you earned a new belt in Jiu Jitsu. You won’t get a bubble machine or a cake, but you can break a jerk’s arm in six different and painful ways, and really, is there anything better than that?
My daughter complains constantly that her chores are not fun. I take this with a grain of salt because she is 16 years old and nothing is fun except going to the mall or making Vine videos of opening a grilled cheese sandwich for her Twitter followers. I am fully aware that emptying the dishwasher and dusting bookshelves are not fun; I’ve been doing these things for over 35 years. They’re not fun. They never were, and they never will be. I hate doing them, and that’s why I make her do it. It’s the circle of life and I’ve assured her that one day she may be lucky enough to have children to do her chores as well. I’m pretty sure it’s all that keeps her going. It’s also furnishing her with pragmatic expectations for the future. My kids aren’t perfect. (Seriously; I have stories). But they work hard most of the time and they know: I don’t pay for grades, I don’t turn mind-numbing chores into scavenger hunts, and I don’t give rewards when they acquiesce to vaccinations. You want a gift for sitting still for your tetanus shot? Okay! Here’s some “Not Getting Lock-Jaw” for you!
It’s time to take artificially constructed fun out of childhood, because we are creating a gratification-seeking populace who won’t do anything unless there’s the promise of a chocolate milkshake afterwards. I can reasonably assert that our kid’s future middle-management supervisors are not going to offer them a trip to a treasure box for cardboard crowns when they close the Anderson file.
If we tell kids to pretend they’re scullery maids in a King’s kitchen when they’re scrubbing pots and pans, we are removing their chance to create their own fantasies. Doing dishes can be a time to sing show tunes or imagine ways to run away, or to just do the dishes. By making every chore and job fun we prohibit a child’s ability to seek joy on their own terms. If someone tells you what to pretend, is that pretending at all? That’s imagination restriction, and that blows. If kids make fun on their own while working, that’s awesome! But parents constant pursuit of fun for their children is a misguided attempt to bring joy to kid’s lives and while it’s admirable, it’s very harmful. It’s like Charlie Sheen continuing to make sitcoms; we may understand the motivation behind the endeavor, but ultimately it’s better if no one is exposed to that shit.
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Preparation for most things is key - anyone who's taken four days to prepare a Thanksgiving meal only to have it devoured in 10 minutes will tell you that. No wait; that's my example for "preparation is bullshit." Still, it can't hurt to be prepared for things, and with some sweet retro-style TV action coming up by way of Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp in just a few days, you'll need to know a bit of the Wet Hot back story to fully appreciate the show.
Even if you've seen every movie you're "supposed" to have seen, every classic or cult hit, it's likely one or two have slipped through the cracks. I didn't see The Sound of Music until I was 40, and Lord of the Rings Academy Award statuettes were rusty before I even thought to watch the trilogy. But those are the movies that once you've seen them, you can't forget - and if they're good (LOTR -amazing; Sound of Music - meh) you can't stop talking about them and find it shocking other people haven't seen them.
It took me 15 years to finally see Wet Hot American Summer after it's 2001 release and I can't for the life of me imagine why I didn't see it new in theaters, other than I had a small baby at the time and may have been busy buying horrifically ugly turn of the century footwear.
Did I think I was some kind of hip pilgrim? A badass patent-leather Nonna? What was I thinking? I blame breastfeeding brain.
It was made before the stars involved were big names but now reads like a blockbuster credit roll: Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Janeane Garolfolo, David Hyde Pierce, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Showalter, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon...all of whom have aged little, and while no one is saying out loud they use baby koala bear foreskin cream, I think we can propogate that rumour.
It's a camp movie concerned little with the campers or camping, but rather focuses on the teenagers running the show - the awkward, horny, bossy, teenagers we all knew and were and probably dry humped with in the back of a Ford Econoline van with no rear windows. Wet Hot American Summer appears to be less a movie than a reason for a bunch of likely real-life friends to spend some time together while appeasing their management so why the hell not just make a movie? And yet it's incredibly watchable.
All the action takes place on the last day of camp at Camp Firewood in the summer of 1981 and it's worth a watch for the soundtrack alone. (And also the serious cut off jean shorts and tube socks. As someone with decent thighs but some lower extremity varicose veins happening, I am all about bringing back shorter shorts and tube socks.
The movie will leave you wanting more, and now 15 years later, enter Netflix and a group of celebrities now famous but still willing to get back into it for the sake of Camp Firewood. They've aged (chronologically, at least) 15 years yet still play teens, this time on the first day of camp. Starting July 31, the original Wet Hot crew will appear in an eight episode Netflix original series along with some new faces, like Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig and the series serves as a prequel to the movies last day of camp.
So glad we're getting more hot; more wet, more summer.
Up your internet package, because the binge watch starts in three days!
As a heterosexual woman, naked men are my thing. While my personal tastes tend to run a little more Beer Belly Bill and less Magic Mike, I was on board when offered the chance to screen Magic Mike XXL in advance of the movie's premiere. It was pretty much what I expected, and the decision to order extra cheese for my nachos to suit the suspected cheesiness of the film was well-informed.
I'll be blunt: Magic Mike XXL has little to offer in way of plot, character development, or witty banter. There is no one scene clinching an Academy Award nomination, and most of the writing was likely completed passing a sauce stained napkin back and forth on "Bucket O' Wings" night at a Hollywood Applebees. What Magic Mike XXL does have is an abundance of muscular, lithe, talented dancers, who shake their oiled asses to the beat of a sweet soundtrack. There's gyrating and rubbing and sex equipment and sparkles. It's precisely what you expect in a stripper movie, but it is also so, so much more. Magic Mike is a women’s movie, and a fucking great one at that.
Despite the conventionally attractive male physical forms, It's not the men’s bodies that make this movie. (Although in the larger view they function much like extra blue cheese does for your Bucket O' Wings - it's not the main meal, but rather something that makes it more palatable, and afterwards you're glad you paid the extra.
Magic Mike XXL is a fantastic movie for so many other reasons than the barely there G-strings and really firm asses and surprising cameo appearances. (I am looking at you, Michael Strahan. I am looking haaaaard.)
I saw Magic Mike XXL in a dark Toronto theater full of women. We were all kinds. We were big and small, tall and short, all colours, all shapes, all sizes. (I was the short apple-shaped curly haired brunette in the back with her mouth open because what the in the actual fuck is even happening on screen right now?
But then I started watching; really watching. When I did, I noticed something very different about this movie. It's the shift in gaze here - from the traditional male gaze to the oft-forgotten and always under-appreciated female gaze that I noticed first. Make no mistake; this is a movie made for women, clearly, but it's also Made. For. Women.
No other movie this year has been as body positive without the increasingly pat "love the skin your in" message. This movie - and the men in it - interact with women of all colours, sizes, shapes, and ages - and they do it with no side-eye or chuckling. It is what it is, and it is positive and female-friendly and while I'll stop short of calling it a complete feminist victory (I don't think Magic Mike XXL passes the Bechdel test) it is a fine start to what we can hope is a new tradition in film making.
Amy Schumer's Trainwreck is good also; but not as good as Magic Mike. I liked it; aa lot even. I laughed frequently and even enjoyed it far more than I did Magic Mike, but it portrayed Amy's character as an a anomaly rather than an example of the standard. And she may well be, at least in the circles in which I run. But isn't that why we go to the movies in the first place – to escape that which we know and see portrayals of things which we are not entirely familiar?
The men in this movie travel (I don't even know where but there's an RV and the scenery changes a few times so excuse me for not recalling exactly but I have a good reason and that reason is Joe Maganiello and some sexy snack foods.) There were no jokes about weight, no out-of-earshot jabs at transgender characters and dancers and clubs, no after-the-fact chatter about “doing her a favour” or “taking pity” on a group of women who in any other film would have been immediately dubbed MILFs. These male characters seemed to truly appreciate each woman they encountered whether or not she was a client, employer, or the mother of a potential girlfriend.
So while I will admit to Magic Mike XXL making me a wee bit horny (because PEPSI), what it did in even greater abundance was to make me very, very happy.
Magic Mike XXL knows their audience, and to be blunt, they nailed it.
Image Source: Warner Bros.
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