‘The Passion’ not appropriate viewing for preteens

Natasha Allen

In the past weeks, I have watched and heard much about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Media outlets trailed its debut ad nauseam, but it was actually something those lackluster reports failed to analyze that bothered me most.

Many of the millions of dollars this movie made in its opening days came from church youth groups. Children -I’m talking preteens- who would normally have no chance at viewing an R-rated film were filing in by the thousands. The same parents who commonly voice disapproval of R-rated movies allowed their children to see this one, which earned its restricted rating due to “explicit gore and violence.”

I can’t recall similar surges of parental desire to share with their children other historically significant films like “Schindler’s List,” “Black Hawk Down” or “Amistad.” Though there are several reasons, I suspect one of them is that these films contain material deemed unsuitable for children under the age of 17 as voted on by the Classification and Rating Administration. Members of this board, which includes parents, understand that violence, even Hollywood-produced violence, can scar a child. Truth be told, I have yet to fully recover from seeing “Old Yeller” at age seven. In addition to it being rated G, I think we can all agree it’s not even on the same scale of emotional intensity as this film.

It seems many parents are assuming that since “The Passion” is a partial depiction of the story of Jesus, it’s not only OK for children to watch, but it’s a good idea because then they can know how horrible a crucifixion really is – how steep the paid price really was. But is watching flesh being ripped from his body essential for having a genuine appreciation of Jesus’ life? And is it really necessary to rush such graphic images into young minds?

I am routinely baffled by the decisions this society makes in reference to what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. For example, a now-infamous halftime show accessible to children that included crotch grabs aplenty and sex-soliciting song and dance could be overlooked until a nipple-shielded breast was exposed. Over the years, I’ve incredulously read report after report of mothers being asked to leave public facilities for breast-feeding their babies. Yet few seem to mind if a church loads up its youth group and sets off to see an actor portraying Jesus slowly and savagely murdered.

How should one interpret this? Does this mean as a nation we are more receptive to seeing violence than nudity? That we would rather a child see a man virtually shredded in the name of love than we would a couple making love?

Initially, I was surprised more people weren’t questioning the appropriateness of taking children to see this movie. Since then, I have heard several people quietly voicing concerns but few were doing so confidently. I empathize.

Often religious issues are all but off limits in this region of the United States. Just by me stating opposition to children seeing this, Hollywood’s most recent elucidation of the story of Christ, someone will probably assume I am somehow in opposition of Christianity. But I don’t want this to be about religion or whether the movie is successful in its aspirations. I could care less if it wins every major motion picture award up for grabs next year.

I do, however, care that children are seeing this film too soon. Grown men and women have been leaving theaters across the country in tears, saying “The Passion” is the goriest movie they’ve ever seen and that they will never be the same.

Imagine how a 12-year-old must feel.

Natasha Allen is a senior print journalism major from Owenton.

This commentary does not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.