Alphabetical Movie – Lolita
Since Lolita is a story about pedophilia, I’m going to tell a story about pedophilia.
Doing Vilification Tennis at the Renaissance Festival is a dicey proposition. We are doing a show that is pretty vile and vulgar and the audience likes it that way. However, we are doing it at a venue that is advertised as appropriate for all ages. That means you have to walk a pretty mean balancing act between offensive humor and trying to ensure parents who are walking by don’t have to explain too much to their kids later. Because parents hate that. More on that later.
Most days I think we do an admirable job of walking that tighrope. Every now and again, though, there is a complaint. I take the complaints seriously and I do my best to keep the performers from getting out of hand. Our show is best if we flirt with the line without merrily skipping across it.
On occasion, we get an instruction from the festival management about the kind of material they would like us to avoid. Most of the time, the request is a little odd and when I ask for clarification, I find it was one joke that caused the problem.
For instance, I was once asked to cut all references to beastiality from the show. I asked them if the joke “you lost your job as a shepherd because too many of the sheep were starting to look like you” crossed the line. Well, no. That was pretty subtle and that was OK.
I went through a few other jokes and finally was able to determine the real issue was with a song called “you hae sex with farm animals.” The problem was the blatant statement “you have sex with farm animals.”
Now the song was ridiculous and I have no idea why it made someone lose their shit but I dutifully asked the performers in question if they would mind not singing the song any more. Problem solved.
However, there came a time when I was asked that we drop all pedophilia jokes from the show. I again asked a few clarifying questions and was satisfied that they meant exactly what they said. No pedophilia jokes. There was the potential for an actual lawsuit so they were off the table. End of conversation.
OK. They were off the table.
But I got to thinking, when we deliver a pedophilia insult in Vilification Tennis, we are saying that the person on the receiving end is a pedophile and that is pretty messed up. We aren’t saying “woo-hoo pedophilia!”
We are saying exactly the opposite – pedophiles are horrible. I would argue that people who do that sort of thing to kids deserve to be ridiculed as much as possible.
So who would complain about such a thing? Who would be pissed off to the point of threatening a lawsuit when people are saying “hey, having sex with a child is a really horrible thing to do?”
But of course, the people threatening lawsuits are not pedophiles who are offended that we are making fun of them. No, they are parents who don’t like the idea that their kids might learn about pedophilia from an insult show at the Renaissance Festival. They want to tell their kids in their own way (not at all) and at the appropriate time (never).
Does losing pedophilia jokes hurt our show?
No. Every restriction forces us to become more creative and write funny material within the rules. Which you can easily do. Want to write a joke about a sexual deviant? No problem. There’s all sorts of ways to do that! Necrophilia is totally OK! So is beastiality.
As long as you say something more creative than “you have sex with sheep!”
But my problem is the idea that you are somehow going to be able to protect your kids from concepts that might scare them. Eventually, they are going to grow old and die. Eventually, they are going to get dumped by someone they care about. There are lots of unpleasant things out there and you don’t protect your kids by pretending those things don’t exist.
You protect your kids by telling them about those things and telling them how to avoid them.
I’m not talking about telling kids every sordid detail, by the way. I’m talking about being able to answer the question “what is a pedophile” in a simple terms that help your kid undestand what a pedophile is, and how to avoid them. They’ll probably never need those skills but wouldn’t you rather they had them?
Our show isn’t damaned by the fact someone will sue the festival if they hear us making a pedophile joke. In fact, it may be better because of it.
I honestly believe, however, that potential litigator’s kid is not better off as a result. That child is sheltered and poorly equipped for the real world. Monsters under the bed aren’t real but there are monsters. And they look like everyone else.
Why not prepare your kids for those monsters instead of deciding that the monsters are the ones who tell your kids about something before you were ready to do it yourself?