Bringing babies to midnight movies

The massacre in Aurora, CO stands alone as the largest act of domestic violence in the history of the United States. It took a day, but the debate and dialogue about guns finally was initiated. We once again are discussing how to identify and then control individuals who are mentally and emotionally unstable and pose threats to engage in horrific acts of violence.

Many journalists have suggested that we pay less attention to the perpetrators of these crimes because they are not deserving of the publicity that they often seek. Rather these journalists suggest and have been engaged in focusing on the victims in Aurora and elsewhere.

The families of many of those who were killed in Aurora have been interviewed. Dozens of others who were wounded have also been queried. One theme that continues to be present is how many of those who went to see the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” is how many individuals and families who went to the midnight showing brought along infants, toddlers, and other young children. Dozens of adults who have been interviewed have talked about how their first actions were to protect their children, and fortunately most of them were successful in doing so.

However, a lingering question is why did so many parents bring their young children to a midnight showing of such a movie? Unless the children are in the habit of staying up after midnight on a regular basis, bringing them to a 12:00 AM show clearly upsets their sleep cycle. This can take days to remedy and clearly diminishes the alertness and calmness of the children the next day.

“The Dark Knight Rises” can be a haunting movie. It is loud; visually it paints a dark image of life, and there is considerable violence. Early childhood experiences become indelibly imprinted in the memories, perspectives, and values of children. Do we want our children to literally and figuratively see the sordid side of life? Don’t we want them to have as long a period of innocence as possible? Don’t we want them to look at electronic media as a means of learning basic fundamentals about language and positive human relations? If so, then it would be far more productive for the children to be watching PBS and viewed selected DVDs rather than going to midnight movies that can be frightening and certainly do not emphasize skill building.

While it is doubtful that any scientific studies have been done about who brings children to midnight and other late night movies, it is likely that it is individuals and families that financially struggle. They simply cannot afford baby-sitters, at least on a regular basis. If a baby-sitter charges $7.50 an hour, what would they charge for their services from midnight to 3:00 AM? It would be reasonable to double their fees. For a family desperately trying to make ends meet, $45.00 for a baby-sitter for one night would in all likelihood be prohibitive.

So what alternatives are there, particularly for those who really want to see a particular movie? First, they need not go to the midnight showing. The next evening it will be showing at 7:00 PM and the baby-sitting cost will be cut in half. There are some afternoon showings so that parents can easily take their children. While this does not address the substance of what the movie might be doing to the children, it eliminates the cost of a baby-sitter.

Our population is such that there will be millions who want to see movies like “The Dark Knight Rises.” So the option of diminishing the demand by the public for such movies is not feasible. We have to live with the reality that many in our population like those films that are dark and violent.

Another option, one that will drive conservatives nuts, would be for the government to provide free or inexpensive day care for children whose parent(s) who go these movies at reasonable hours. It would cost all of us as taxpayers, but perhaps save us money in the long-run because children would be less jaded and perhaps better educated. It might also spare us another perpetrator so that there are not more victims twenty years hence.

In a day in which Republicans oppose Head Start, school lunches, etc., this idea is extremely unrealistic. However, progressives need to continue to think creatively about what can best serve our society, particularly those who can least help themselves such as infants and toddlers. Violent movies will be around; there will be demand to see them; and parents will feel that there is nothing wrong with taking them to such movies. We need new ideas to overcome the outcome of this formula. Again, it is up to progressives to think creatively.