Why can we see images of superheroes fighting and be excited but we can't see them kiss?
Taylor and I have things. We learn from people around us and we begin to copy them and then before you know it, we add that thing to the list of mindless habits that we enjoy having together.
He is now 6 and a half (the half is important, parents know) and out of nowhere he has begun fake vomiting when people are kissing on television. I didn't skip a beat in joining him in that. I completely agreed that kissing on television is something that children shouldn't be seeing and shouldn't be enjoying for a while. It didn't take more than a few times laughing this off for me to step back and begin questioning, of course.
There are some fundamental questions here around hyper-sexualized cartoons. I have no idea why cartoons are kissing. I remember Bugs Bunny kissing but we are talking about a different type of kissing now. There are comical kisses and romantic kisses. Kids know the difference very early on and they react - as the images are constructed to elicit real responses from people. No surprises here.
I think mainstream America thinks about this in a pretty simplified way and that is: romantic kissing is bad for kids to see but we want them to see it because we want all of our kids to be heterosexual. Spongebob and Patrick can't even hold hands. Talk about masculinity. Back to the question above, which is, why can we see superheroes fighting and be excited but we can't see them kiss? This became abundantly clear when I began reflecting on how my son and I engaged with Spider-Man movies/shows/games.
In one sitting, we will watch Spidey defeat all of the villains and save the city and we would cheer him on and be excited and pay full attention but as soon as he goes to kiss Mary Jane, we would cover our eyes, fake getting sick to our stomach, turn away and cringe, etc. What is that about?!
My thinking is that there are a few things happening here but I think the most important one is that I'm participating in helping my son construct this idea that men should be aggressive and fight and kill but they should not be emotionally attached, vulnerable, loving, caring and affectionate. That said, it does beg the question: is kissing then a good thing to have on television? Is it not a helpful tool to work against the extreme violence we see on TV? Does it add to the problem by just adding sex to the already violent screen? Either way, I cannot get rid of it. I cannot control what he does when I am not around, what his elementary school friends tell him, what he sees when he walks into a restaurant or a store where televisions are on.
So I just told him. Yup, I said I wasn't going to participate in that and he asked me why, naturally. I told him that I don't think we should cheer on people who are fighting and get disgusted when they kiss because kissing is a part of showing someone love and affection. He wasn't buying it. I then reminded him that we kiss each other, even though it isn't on the lips, it is a way that we show each other love and we want to ensure that we don't forget that men do that and it is actually a beautiful thing to show someone you love them but we aren't going to do that just because it is on TV, the same way that we aren't going to run around drop-kicking people at random.
He bought it...I think. I've learned that whatever I say, he will follow. A great power, that comes with great responsibility.