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Column: Gen-X or Gen X-rated?

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

I don’t know which is harder these days – being a teen-ager or a parent of teens.

The two roles admittedly have pinnacles of joy as well as pits of despair. A perfect model of this is the minefield-laden world of movies.

Last week, celebrating our daughter’s 16th birthday, hubby and I stepped on a few movie mines.

First, for the big slumber party, “American Pie” – a movie not on our list of acceptable Hiller family films – was requested by all the kids present the night of the party.

Hubby and I had watched the movie without the kids when it first came out in video, being dedicated filmophiles from way back, and decided that it was not appropriate for our teens, then aged 15 and 18.

“American Pie” is a coming-of-age film about four high school senior boys wanting to lose their virginity on prom night, and their individual journeys to that end. It got pretty explicit in several scenes in between all the cute teen-age comedy.

“Can we watch it?” daughter asked the night of her party.

“Absolutely not!”

“But everyone has already seen it.”

“Oh, really?”

So, the night of the birthday party, we queried these great girls whom we’ve known for years and sure enough, all but one had seen at least parts of the movie. Hmmm.

While we were still against them watching it, the thought did occur to us that we could be parental dinosaurs, and the fact that all the girls had seen it but ours (and our recent DHS graduate son, too), was a red flag telling us so.

In a move to make the party smooth and wrinkle-free, we reluctantly acquiesced.

Ever the active mom, I did pop in on them several times during the movie.

“Hi, kids! Fudge?”

The other movie mine we stepped on that weekend was “Me, Myself and Irene,” which we went to as a family with Aunt Nancy. We knew the movie was R-rated and we knew that the writers/directors of that film, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, are known for their gross-out scenes, and boy, were they. Aside from those parts, the movie was a fascinating study of personality and awesome acting by Jim Carrey, but I would have fainted had my mother been there with us. And, trust me, we are not prudes!

The Farrelly brothers themselves say they are surprised at how much the American public lets them push the envelope and get away with in their movies, and say they would trim the gross scenes if test audiences indicated that preference.

On balance, the movies our kids have seen in their lifetimes have been far more positive than negative. Movies like “Little Voice,” “What Dreams May Come,” “The Straight Story,” “The Sixth Sense” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” all provoked thoughtful, meaningful conversation afterwards.

This week we even rented the 1959 film, “Some Like it Hot,” after it was named the No. 1 funny movie. Yet, there were probably many parents back then who didn’t like the fact that Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dressed like women throughout the film.

I guess it will always be a tightrope raising teens – trying to decide the best time to let them learn about their teen-age world with their peers, thus exposing them to some of the things that are common conversation around school.

When movies like “Wayne’s World” make the word “schwing” a part of everyday teen-age conversation, and your child starts using it in a context that makes it clear they have no idea what the word really means, it’s time to go to the movies and see what is going on out there (and to tell your child what the word means.)

Just like movies such as “An Affair to Remember,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Casablanca,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” had impacts on our long ago childhoods, hubby and I wonder what movie experiences our children will take with them into adulthood.

When the parties were over and we were back to normal after much parental angst on our part, we did talk about both movies as a family. It was during that conversation that I got my answer about whether it is harder to be a parent of teen-agers or a teen these days.

“Mom, Dad, the movies were really no big deal,” they said. “Stop worrying about it. When’s dinner?”

(Linda Hiller is a staff writer for The Record-Courier.)