My 11 year old and 13 year old have bought every single episode of South Park on Apple TV. And whilst they know the subject matter that they talk about on their favourite cartoon is wrong on many levels, they laugh and snigger about it because it’s funny. To them, it is so far fetched, none of it could happen in real life, especially to my 11 year old.
Yes they have both been through mild cases of being bullied, and they have had their eyes open to things like affairs, divorce, isolation, dysfunctional families, loving homosexual couples, learning difficulties and even an episode of domestic violence, but the concept of sexual misconduct, guns, suicide, war heroes, physical disability, drugs & alcohol abuse, and, but not limited to, mental illness they haven’t seen or been involved with first hand.
So when my 11 year old asked me recently ‘Do priests really molester kids at church?’ I automatically responded with a ‘yes.’ He was shocked. I did elaborate and said it wasn’t all churches or religious institutions, but it happens because the church is a place of trust and worship, and the people who are a part of the church confide in their priest, especially at a catholic church, to confess their sins so that God can forgive them and they won’t feel bad for what they have done. It’s a power play… the priest is seen as the middle man between God and the sinner, so he has the power over you, and can abuse that power, by doing sexual things to you or even by scaring you into believing if you don’t do something for him, you won’t be forgive by God. So you do it, because catholics are raised to believe that all their sins need to be forgiven by God so that when you die, you will go to heaven.
It put into perspective, that their favourite TV show touched on some fairly heavy material that came close to the bone with many people out there. That, whilst some things are funny, most of it is based on fact. Kids get molestered, people take drugs to get high and forget about their problems, people have sex-changes, people go through the physical and emotional affects of being in a car crash, people struggle in all types of relationships and with all types of illnesses, the list goes on.
So is it a good thing that my boys watch South Park? To be honest, I would rather they be exposed to these types of controversial questions through cartoon than in real life. I want my boys to be able to understand that we all go through our own personal crises, and that we all not an island that is bullet-proof. We all have feelings, we all have concerns, we all have people abusing their power over us, but all in different degrees. We need to be compassionate to other people’s feelings, and help them whenever they need help. We all need to give people the strength that they haven’t got to get out of their ordeal, if that’s what they want.
I believe my 11 year old now watches South Park with different eyes. He is a compassionate soul and would do anything to make sure people didn’t get hurt. And for me, I will still answer my boys as openly and as honestly as I can.