They can't listen to Obama; I couldn't watch Forrest Gump!

When I was an eighth grade student, my English class read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. As a tie-in and a probably a reward for our engagement in the lesson plan activities surrounding the reading, we were scheduled to watch the movie Forrest Gump: rated PG-13 for drug content, some sensuality and war violence. Permission slips were sent home, perhaps on a Monday, and we were given until Friday to have them signed. I observed for the next few days my classmates, returning signed slips smudged with coffee stains and their own grubby fingers, and I inwardly felt a tense mortification: my conservative parents were not going to like this. Not just in the classroom, but in life, I was not at this time permitted to view PG-13 movies without parental consent.

I think it was Wednesday after school when I finally got the balls to ask my mom to sign the simple form. Not to my surprise, she wanted to "talk it over" with my dad. She would let me know in the morning. She called him and caught him before he left work. He rented the movie on his way home, although I think my parents had already seen it at the theater.

My younger sister and I were banned from the basement family room as they watched, scrutinized and detailed every reason I was not to view the movie, wrote it out on a long yellow-lined piece of paper: every curse word, every sexual innuendo. There, in my dad's print, were their moral obligations. (They were especially opposed to the multiple times the word "God damnit" was used.) If this had happened now, they could have just logged on to imbd and pressed print, but they actually had to do their homework. They took it further, citing overall themes that bothered them. Everything he touched turned to gold. It isn't realistic. Etc.

In the morning I learned my fate: I was not allowed to sit in class and watch the movie. I needed to talk to my teacher. I dreaded English class all day, but got the courage to speak with Mrs. Miller after the bell rang. I handed her the blank slip, "My parents won't let me. They said I should ask for an alternative assignment."

I swear, she looked shocked. She paused, and I am sure she was racking her brain, weighing the options. Finally, there it was -- I could sit in the library and write an essay. Yes, I was the only one who didn't get consent. Tears sprang from my eyes. The ultimate embarrasment, being exiled from class for this reason.

Later, at home, I announced to my parents, "I am NOT going to school tomorrow! I will not be an outcast!"

They took mercy on me, and agreed I could stay home sick. Then, they decided to take their case to the schoolboard. I don't recall the goal; were they going after the teacher for showing it? Did they want to forbid any PG-13 movie from being shown in school at all?

I don't remember when or even if I confessed to my parents that I had already seen Forrest Gump one Friday night weeks before while baby-sitting, after the kids were in bed and I had a couple of hours to kill. I'd watched it. I got paid to watch it. And it wasn't the first time I'd broken the no PG-13 rule.

This weekend, some kids are probably reeling that they aren't allowed to hear our president speak. Perhaps they don't care, perhaps they agree with their parents that they shouldn't be forced to listen to our president, or, more likely to this president.

I hope not. I hope they log on to the internet after this speech is aired and watch it, consider it, listen in and draw their own conclusions. I hope they are like me. I hope not being allowed to do something makes them want to do it more, just this once.

I can't tell you how many PG-13 movies I sneaked around to watch after this moment in my life, until I turned sixteen and started working at a movie theater, at which time the ban was lifted.

Maybe some of these outcasted kids will end up working for the DNC. One can hope that everything they touch turns to gold.


Popular Posts