Moral values and men in drag

We watched Hairspray for a family movie night last week. We watch it quite often, Eve especially. One night while Angus and I were out, Matt was desperate for something to watch with her that didn't involve fairies or barbies, so he stuck it on. Eve loves anything with singing and dancing, so she was all good. Of course, it's not without its parental pitfalls: "What's a Negro?"; "Why can't the white people and the brown people dance together?"; "What's sintegration?". Sometimes I'm more surprised by things they already know (at one point Michelle Pfeiffer's bitchy bleached-blonde character pulls the padding out of a young dancer's bra -- Angus: "what was that?" -- Eve (dismissively): "just some fluff to make it look like she has boobies" -- Me: sputtering inarticulately).

It's funny with kids. When they're very young they find almost nothing surprising because they know nothing to begin with -- everything is possible. Eve used to make her female Barbies kiss and get married. I hadn't thought about it, but after a few years of Disney movies I don't think she does that much any more. I also have to remind myself that just because I'm all for homosexual rights including marriage, she doesn't necessarily know that just by osmosis. We had a funny/ appalling moment when Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad and John Travolta as his wife Edna were kissing, and Matt said "you know that's actually a man, right?", and the kids were mouth-hanging-open shocked, which kind of surprised me (really? they bought that?), but then they kissed and Angus said "ew, then that's a man kissing a man", which also surprised me in a less amusing way, and I said "well, that's fine", and Matt said something really stupid like "well, it's okay because he's pretending to be a woman", and my head exploded, but then I looked at Matt and it was obvious he hadn't really meant to say that, and then we had to pause the movie and have a small discussion.

Then we watched some more and the whole integration thing came up again and we went back over the whole white people thinking that dark-skinned people weren't as smart or as good, and policemen hassling them and people not letting them be in the same classroom or swim in the same pools. Eve looked distressed and said "but Mia's not that bad" and we had to pause the movie and emphasize once again that those white people were WRONG WRONG WRONG. Then Eve started to list the people in her class that wouldn't have been able to be there in the 1950's, and Angus reiterated his original opinion, which was 'well that's stupid.'

Oh, and the moment in the first song when she sings "There's the flasher who lives next door" and Angus asked what's a flasher, and we said some people walk around naked except for a coat and then whip open the coat at random passersby. Angus sat there looking stricken, until we finally added that these people are not well, and this behaviour generally results in a fine and/or imprisonment, whereupon he looked extremely relieved -- I guess he thought we were laying it out as a legitimate career choice or something.

So yeah -- fun movie night and all-around education in how you can start to assume too much about how your kids think and what they know, and how the time we make to spend with them can be really important. Although thankfully I won't have to advise Eve on stuffing her bra when the time comes.


Anonymous said…
This post totally had me laughing out loud. In fact, it sort of woke my toddler. But that's OK, it was worth it.

I clearly have to see Hairspray, like, yesterday. I've seen the Ricki Lake version several times, but not the newer one. Must get on it.
Amber Dusick said…
Oh my god, warning taken, lol. I look forward to movie nights like that...learning lessons and all!
Lanita said…
A lesson is waiting to happen everywhere. It was nice that you stopped the movie and had the discussion at that moment. I am afraid sometimes we just skim over the answers...but this was a good lesson for me. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
What a fab mom to open the door when opportunity knocked...Hairspray was the perfect opportunity for some valuable lessons to be taught. Kudos to you!
Mary Lynn said…
Awesome post.

Oy, though, it is hard to figure out when to start on some of these discussions. Hana has, on at least one occasion, proclaimed that boys can't marry boys. I replied that actually, in Canada they can, to which she said, "Mommmmmmm!" in an exasperated voice. And then I said, "No really, Hana, they can." And then she sighed heavily in that stop-trying-to-fool-me kind of way. And then I decided that perhaps this conversation could wait a year or two.

I have a hard enough time convincing her that Jamie is allowed to like the colour pink even though he's a boy.

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