Juno. A 7:30 showing on a Saturday evening at the local mall. Cell phones lighting up in the darkened theater, skittles clattering on the floor, missing (or hitting) their intended targets, a couple of pre-teens sucking face in the next row up... Just a typical evening in suburbia. Except there was a little more, erm, adult activity going on than I remember from my high school days gone by...
The kids in front of me were, in all actuality, going far beyond the PG-13 rating of the flick on the screen (more on that later,) and the language peppering the conversations around us was, shall we say, a little saltier than I am accustomed to. The movie in question, a vulgar satirical expose of teen pregnancy in all its glory, was poignant at one or two points, but remained for the most part a dim reflection of the disturbing reality that is young adulthood in today's sexually permissive, parentally-absent atmosphere.
These kids, children really, were freely shouting profane and sexually-explicit one-liners at each other, trading the requisite barrages of skittles, popcorn and text messages with the neighboring rows in between make out sessions. And while it's practically a rite of passage to invade an early evening showing of the latest teeny bopper blockbuster with 24 of your closest classmates and basically act like animals for 120 minutes of blissful, parentally-unsupervised revelry and flirtation, I don't recall copulation being part of the equation.
I exaggerate, but only slightly. The madness playing out onscreen was nothing compared to the anarchy reigning in theater number 2 of Carmike Cinema. I've seen drunken sorority girls rolling on ecstasy showing more restraint in the arena of physical contact. The aforementioned young lady, girl really, directly in front of us spent the majority of the film on her boyfriend's lap, and to maintain the PG-13 rating on this blog, I can't go into further detail.
Yeah, it was disturbing. And when the lights came up and we exited the theater, there was more to be disturbed about. Because sitting in the darkened rows behind us were their parents. Well, probably not their parents, per se, but several pairs of properly-aged adults who were either unaware or unaffected by the behavior their progeny were engaging in.
And you know, that's not too far off from the truth, whether or not these adults were these particular children's parents, the stark reality with which we are confronted today is a veritable crisis of parenthood, and entire generation of children being raised by computers and ipods and peers, coming of age and sexual maturity with no grasp on morality, let alone reality. I'm coming down awfully hard on mom and dad, here. But I couldn't help but think that every one of those kids in the theater had, at one time or another, both a male and a female parental unit, ostensibly present at least at conception, but apparently checked out of the picture at some subsequent point in development... But why?
To what may we attribute this certain and unmistakable era of parental apathy we've entered into? Could it be that perhaps, while mom and dad have been searching so tirelessly for personal fulfillment and happiness, whether in a second or third marriage, a consistently more demanding career, or extra-marital sexual exploits, their children have been suffering the consequences, maybe even *gulp* learning by example?
I don't want to end on a despairing note, but I left that mall last night feeling heavier and more hopeless than I've felt in a while. Because all the writing and teaching and preaching in the world going to be hard-pressed to change hearts hardened by 18 years of apathy. Every one of us eventually has to choose for oneself: how am I going to live my life? And every one of us is going to question, rebel, turn away in sin and (hopefully) turn back in the end. But what if we've never seen anything worth turning back for? What if we don't know any other way to be, because we've never seen anything else modeled for us, either in the home or in the classroom?
Monkey see, monkey do. So what are we going to do about it?