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Family Values: The Eeuwful Truth

2009-11-20 13:30

Ever watched a movie, or listened to the radio with a family member, and suddenly found yourself wishing the earth would swallow you whole?

Lots of things have embarrassed me in my life. Like the time I was at a guy friend's house and I couldn't get the toilet to flush and he had to come help me.

Or waking up after The Morning After the Night Before and realising I'd insisted on playing a guest all my favourite vinyl, because, like, they really have to hear early U2, Steely Dan... And how about some Blue Nile, just to end the evening on a truly toaster-in-the-bath note?

Or every single time I've lost my temper.

But the most excruciatingly embarrassing grown-up moments have always involved having to listen to sexually explicit music, or watching sex scenes, with family. It's like accidentally walking into a room and seeing your granddad in his scants. Eeuwful.

I'm not bringing this up because I'm some kind of prude. Far from it - I love Missy Elliot, and I didn't only visit Amsterdam to sample the cheeses. I'm a firm believer in sex both before and after marriage. I even accept that old people shag. But the other day, I took my father with me to see the new teen zomedy (zombie comedy, duh), and it was terrifying. Not because of the flesh-eating zombies, but because of the teen love scenes. Now it's not like we were watching Debbie Does Dallas here. The kids in this movie never even got naked. But I still spent every kissing scene wishing something evil would jump out of the screen and swallow me alive. I was immeasurably more comfortable with blood-thirsty undead masses ripping the heads off rotting corpses.

On Facebook, friends and colleagues' comments poured in when I posted a request for their worst moments. Jinty told of the horror of having to discuss the moral merits of shagging for cash with her intellectually advanced dad after taking him to watch Indecent Proposal. Sipho mentioned the orgy in Requiem for a Dream but failed to elaborate. Juanita cringed through the poolside scene in Showgirls with her mom. Clinton's little daughter woke up halfway through a tender moment in The Reader and wanted to know "why". Rhianne took her Pa to the pictures and nearly died when Cameron Diaz gelled her hair with sperm.

Come back, violence and death - and the generation gap. All is forgiven!

And then, there's Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service" song, which is all over radio. Dorothy Black's most embarrassing moment involved her father (who is a priest) discussing that track over breakfast. How do you explain the porno mechanics of "2 in the oh! and 1 in the ah!" to your father? I cringe right along with her, remembering how Mom and I used to play 5fm on the road to high school when I was a kid. I'm sure even back then, the "egg white" line would have made me fling myself out of the car door into the freeway traffic.

But the kids seem to be alright with it. A DJ friend cringes every time his 12-year-old stepdaughter marches down the corridor rapping "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick", by Lady Gaga. How do you tell her to stop without explaining why? I don't know. A few years back, I witnessed two five-year-old girls dancing to "Cameltoe" - with all the gestures - in front of the TV at a braai. What the hell happened to family-friendly insinuation like "Baby you can drive my car / Yes I'm gonna be a star / Baby you can drive my car / And maybe I'll love you". Or "fish and finger pies"?* 

I've always been kinda opposed to so-called family values entertainment. Because? Well, because it's mostly an insidious tool of the societal hegemony that turns the masses into nothing more than zombies with good skin, who think idiots such as George Bush and Julius Malema are leaders of calibre.

But it turns out there's at least one reasonable argument for family values. 

I believe PG ratings can be useful to all of us, and will protect all of us, if correctly utilised. The way I see it, they're there to advise children of all ages regarding what they will and will not be comfortable watching with their mom, dad, siblings - or children. By paying attention to the rules, we can make sure the people we shouldn't watch it with are not there when we turn on the TV, flick through the radio stations, slide in a DVD, or queue up a song that's going to make us feel like in some way, they're witnessing us experience the things that are instinctively best kept private. 

Blood may be thicker than water - scientifically speaking - but I can imagine nothing creepier than cringing through any episode of True Blood with my father. 

* Re. "Baby you can drive my car". Hey nineteen, that's The Beatles. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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