October 26, 2014 | by Kimberly Fletcher
Raising Super Villains: Breaking Responsibility for Others

As a parent of two small children I make parental decisions every day. I choose to place parental controls on our iPad for YouTube to prevent them from seeing content I don’t feel appropriate. Weekly I reinstate our channel locks on our Direct TV after I watch AMC’s The Walking Dead to prevent them from watching such shows. I have the same discussion over and over with my son Lex explaining to him why he is not old enough to play Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim These are things I choose to do as a parent. I am taking responsibility for my children.

Recently Florida-based mother Susan Schrivjer started an online petition to get Toys R Us to remove the Mezco Toyz line of Breaking Bad action figures from their stores. The figures are based on the award winning AMC television series about a chemistry teacher who turns to cooking crystal meth and a life of crime to provide for his family. The action figures depict the characters Walter White, played in the series by Bryan Cranston and Jesse Pinkman portrayed by Aaron Paul. Obviously there are many action figures in the market based on popular TV and film series, that is not what the controversy is over. The issue is the White figure is holding a tray of crystal meth. Schrivjer who stated she is a fan of the series was “appalled” that the figures would be sold in a toy store. She felt that Toys R Us’ “visions and values” needed to be reevaluated.

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Regardless of Toys R Us citing that the figures are labeled as suitable for children ages 15 and old and located in their stores with other “adult action figures”, the  toy store chain caved on October 22, 2014 putting the figures on an “indefinite sabbatical” from their stores after more than 8,500 people signed an online petition. The conversation became about parents and grandparents who shop at the big box retailer being forced to explain to their children why the toys came with a bag of highly dangerous and illegal drug and why a person who does this should be glorified in an action figure.      

 

Many supporters of the figures have pointed out the hypocrisy of this argument citing the other toys sold in the retail chains stores which these same petitioners deem morally safe. The most talked about being Barbie. The Mattel doll who has created an unattainable body image for our daughters has been cited with causing self-esteem issues for decades, but is not a concern. Are these parents having body image conversation with their daughters each time they enter that Pepto Bismol pink aisle? Do they discuss gun control after entering the G.I.Joe aisle? Are we not as equally concerned with the Reels Toys by NECA which glorify fictional mass murderous such as Freddy, Jason and Leather Face? What about the video games that depict women as decorations and sexually objectify them (check out Feminist Frequency  for more insight)?  It is your right to have conversations with your children about things you feel are appropriate and what you are comfortable to discuss with then at an appropriate age, but since when do we feel the need to explain every single thing with our children sees. While doing your food shopping and you have to purchase tampons do you explain the menstrual cycle when they see the box go into the cart? When exiting that same aisle do you discuss safe sex when you past the boxes of condoms?

batman arkAbout two weekends ago, my son was on Google Hangouts with one of his friends when he asked me if we owned Batman: Arkham CityI said yes we did, why? He told me this friend just got it and he was playing it and Lex wanted to play it too. I said no he couldn’t. Later when Lex was offline I pulled him aside to talk about my answer. “Am I {insert child’s name} parent?” I asked. Lex responded that no I wasn’t. I explained that it was not my right or duty as a parent to tell his friend I didn’t think that he should be playing that. I told Lex that his Dad and I felt the game was too grown-up for his age and too violent. That we make decisions based off what we feel is right and wrong and it’s not our place to push those ideas on other people’s kids. I then reminded him that he does get to watch things that other parents of kids his age, would not deem appropriate which his Dad and I allow. He understood. Was he happy about it – no, but he understood.  

This made me think about the situation after Sandy Hook. There was a lot of talk about if people should talk to their kids about the violence that erupted in that town. Parents spoke out telling school systems it was not their place to bring it up in school, forcing them as parents to address the very serious topic of school violence with their children (young and old alike). In cases this prevented the Educators who we entrust with our children’s education and lives each day from using this time to teach new protocols to their students and to help them handle strong fears and emotions. For our family we needed to make a decision to discuss the tragic events with our Kindergartner, age 5 and our daughter who was only 4. We choose to address the event with them. We did not go into details and we did not show them video from the news. We explained that a bad man who might have been sick did a terrible thing. He hurt a lot of people in a school. They asked questions and we answered them. We talked about listening to our teachers during drills and emergencies. We explained to them that the most important thing was for them to be safe, that their number one priority was to take care of themselves. This was hard since we raise both our children to help others as best they can, but in reality they needed to watch out for themselves. We talk about if we see something that isn’t right, like a gun in school to tell someone right away. It was a difficult conversation, but one we felt we had to have.  

Coming from a family with alcoholism and drug abuse in our genetic background my parents had to make a choice to talk about with me and my brothers or not. My Father didn’t want to have those conversations. He was very much of the mindset that it was not something we talked about. My Mother on the other hand felt it was like sending us out with a loaded weapon we knew nothing about. That without the knowledge that we might have a highly addictive nature we were being set up to fail in life. She made sure each of us was aware of this, giving us the chance to make the correct decisions for ourselves. For this reason I didn’t go out binge drinking in high school with the other kids on the weekends. In college I drank responsibly and to this day I do. I have never tempted fate with drugs, knowing that it could take me down a bad path quicker then maybe it would others. Being in the back of my head at all times, it makes me reach out to my siblings if I see one of them post one too many alcoholic drink pictures once too often on Facebook. This knowledge is power.  

Does this mean I’m going to sit my 7 and 5 year down to discuss crystal meth? Not yet, but that is my choice as a parent. It is your choice as a parent not to shop a store because you don’t like what they sell or maybe you just don’t frequent those that have questionable items. Its your decision not to purchase toys you feel are inappropriate for your children, you simply don’t buy them. It’s your call to turn a blind eye to topics which could be important for your child to have some knowledge of, 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue;  45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into intercourse or oral sex or that 54% of parents admit they’ve never spoken to their child about date violence.  

If you don’t talk about it it doesn’t mean it won’t come to your doorstep. How does you child know that sniffing products found in your home could be deadly to them, or when a friend tells them it cool that it really isn’t? When your 13 year-old is inhaling cleaning fluid to get a buzz dies 24 hours later, is that the time to have a discussion? We’re not always protecting our kids by keeping them in the dark on things that we feel is taking away from their innocence. There are ways to approach topics that seem a little too adult with kids. We don’t have to go into detail or become graphic. Still it’s about our freedom of choice in the matter. If as parent you’re not ready for those conversation simply tell your child that and that you don’t feel its the appropriate time for that discussion. Take responsibility yourself don’t let others make it for you.

Kimberly spent years as an agent for MI-5, a consultant for Fringe Division and an adviser for the Torchwood Institute in London before walking away for a quieter life. A Master of the Art of Google-Fu she now spends her days being un-extraordinary in a field of cube farms creating magic with her black-box. Kimberly settled in the Northeast region of the United States with her tinfoil hat husband, Mad Dog, to raise their family of Super Villains. With a degree in film-making, a love of photography and art she fights the evil Stepford-wife urges to become an ordinary soccer mom.

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