Notes From Another Planet

Got a permission slip from school asking if our sixth-graders could watch the 1999 PG-13 movie version of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in English class. Looked it up on screenit.com and was troubled by the description there. Previewed it. Wow! More nudity and sexuality than our boys had ever seen on the big screen. Now they were supposed to encounter it with a class of peers, sans parents? Was it worth taking a stand? After some thought and discussion, we decided that it was.

The boys were disappointed, but we arranged to take them out to lunch while the rest of the class watched the movie. They were good sports about it. I described the scenes briefly to the boys so they'd realize the movie contained far more sexuality than they'd yet seen; reiterated that sex is a good, powerful, enjoyable gift; explained that the culture will try and rush them through and beyond the natural shyness that every young person experiences when they first think and learn about sex. (This is what they heard after I got done describing the scenes: "Blah, blah, blah ... sex ... blah.") But that hesitation and embarrassment is the right response, slowing young teens down to a "flowering" pace of maturity and preparing them to handle sex with honor and joy. Sadly, their peers will soon become as jaded and flip about sex as most adults, and might be battered and ruined by such a view for a lifetime. I pray our boys don't.

Two surprises in this whole series of events. First, the teacher told us that in five years of teaching, no other parent had ever expressed any concerns about this movie. Hello? Are we dwelling somehow in a parallel universe? These are eleven and twelve-year-olds — how could the hyper-sexualized Hollywood touches added to Shakespeare's play not be startling to them?

The other surprise was my own hesitation to come across as a lowbrow prude who doesn't value the "high art" of Shakespeare. But, to paraphrase a popular line in the play, the course of true love never did run smooth. My own "cool" factor must be compromised to love our boys truly. One last note: The conflict that spurs the plot of "Midsummer Night's Dream" is between Titania and Oberon, who both want custody of an Indian boy. Ironic, is it not, as we continue to wrestle against the culture's warped view of sexuality in the lives of our own Indian boys?

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