Monday, November 24, 2008

Fight or Flight? Pulling the plug on “Fight Club”

On occasion, our family watches R-rated movies together but one movie made me question the wisdom of that. In Indian American families like mine, “Meet the Fockers” isn’t considered a family movie: I was trashed by a friend or two for watching it with my teenage kids and squealing with delight over the crude humor.

But last week my 14-year-old insisted we rent “Fight Club”. His best friend (he’s 14 also) claimed it was really cool. “It’s supposedly one of the best movies of all time. I’m waiting to read the book. It’s a classic by Chuck Palahniuk, mom.”

So we sat down, he and I, to watch a cynical, smoke-filled movie about a young man and his misadventures with a strange misanthrope who builds bombs from soaps. Along the way, we discovered what young men who are unhappy do to fend off insomnia: sit in on testicular cancer support groups, commiserate with members of AA or like groups and seek raw satisfaction in listening to a terminal cancer patient tell her group that she’s looking for sex. “Fight Club” gave us more than we bargained for: many sentences which start with the letter ‘F’, candid references to and images of condoms and vibrators, casual romps with colorful vocalizations, and, of course, nocturnal trips to a liposuction clinic during which one of those fat-filled plastic bags snags on a barbed wire, leaking amber-colored liquid (which could pass off for thin pumpkin soup). Need I say more?

Anyway, less than half way through the movie, I yanked the plug. Then I left the brand new unread copy of my son’s book out for the vultures by purposefully striding over to the garage and dumping it next to all the things I’d set out for Goodwill. The video, I snapped to my son, was going to be returned “first thing tomorrow morning”.

“From now on,” I spat out, “I’m screening ALL your books too.”

Then my son began asking for a logical explanation about why I felt this movie wasn’t right for him. How was he in any way less mature than his 18-year-old sister (who I would have permitted to watch this movie)? “What makes you think that I can’t handle it as well as, say, any 18-year-old? I’m just about as mature as any adult out there, I think, mom,” he says to me, wondering aloud about why, at the same time, he’s tearing up over this silly incident.

All I did then was put this big, stubbly bear on my lap and tell him that sometimes parents simply want their kids to be kids and movies like this disillusion kids and may be that’s why I did it, not because I didn’t trust him with the material. The book by Chuck Palahniuk isn’t in the garage any more. Some time in the night it made its way back to the gargantuan bookshelf in the big bear’s room. I paid $13.95 for it. And my son won’t rest until he gets every cent’s worth out of every book - even if it’s going to be ten years from now when his mother may have no say at all in this matter. Or anything else, for that matter.

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