Yesterday, one of my younger sisters officially entered parenthood, not by giving birth (she did that three years ago) but by sharing a ridiculously pumped-up news story as fact on Facebook along with the line, “Really?!?!?! What is the world coming to?”
Any parent has to admit feeling this at least once. At least I think so. I don’t have kids myself, as all my friends who took the time to do what every other species on the planet does on a daily basis without comment, ceremony, or elbow-wrenching self-back-patting regularly remind me. But that act has an apparent effect on the logic center of the brain right around where bullshit and fact get separated.
“You may pick up your house slippers and License to Panic at your local Office of Maternity.”
I know it was true of my parents and their parents before them. My mother would regularly check in with me to see if the reports of strangers wandering around upper-middle-class suburban neighborhoods handing out free drugs to kids was true. She would then take the time to remind me never to take temporary tattoos from anyone because they were most likely laced with LSD or angel dust. Like they do nowadays.
But here is the exact exchange between myself and my middle sibling:
Sister posts this article, along with the aforementioned exclamation.
I respond sarcastically: “Congratulations! You are officially old. Pop culture rumor news has come to your attention, and you’ve not only taken it as fact but declared the admission of the aged: ‘What is this world coming to?’ Before you go off thinking you’re the first parent to gasp at a situation like this, might I call your attention to such past rumor motivators as The Warriors (1979), The Wild One (starring a young Marlon Brando, 1953), and Giambologna’s work The Rape of the Sabine Women, completed in 1582. You may pick up your house slippers and License to Panic at your local Office of Maternity.”
She replies with incredulity: “And those movies are? Obviously not good if I have never heard of them.”
After several moments to see if she’s joking, I reply: “Well, 2 films and a statue carved during the Italian Renaissance actually. The Warriors is based on a novel which itself is based on the The Anabasis by Xenophon, a Greek soldier around 400 BC. It sparked copycat violence, cultural panic, and a video game released in 2009. The Wild One was based on a short story that was based on a biker street party in Hollister, California, in 1947 that got blown up in the press as “The Hollister Riot.” The film was actually banned in Great Britain until 1969. And The Rape of the Sabine Women is a statue carved from 1574-1582, depicting a party shortly after the founding of Rome in which Romulus ordered his men to abduct the women of the neighboring Sabines to make them their wives and help create a Roman populace. Less a ‘rape’ than a mass seduction wherein the women were told their parents were denying them their Zeus-given right to intermarry. Like most parents, the Sabines were none too happy with their daughters’ choice in men.”
In response to almost 3,000 years worth of examples, she types: “Oh … I might want to watch the wild one.”
There will not be a “purge” this weekend if for no other reason than the social contract is real.
Me: “Point being, violent pop culture regularly leads to small incidences of copycat behavior from the youth, exaggerated reactions from the press, and parental nervousness.”
After a moment, me again: “But yes, I think you’d like it. Just don’t tell [her Marine biker husband (who’s a really nice guy)] that they’re riding Triumphs.”
Her: “Haha I won’t.”
So, in brief, no. No, there will not be a “purge” this weekend if for no other reason than the social contract is real, and even if it weren’t, there is no way that there would be more people running around committing random crime, for no reason other than they would be outnumbered by the groups of citizens with bats and handguns who don’t want their daughters raped and property stolen or damaged.
Tell your friends to take a deep breath, pour themselves a shot of vodka (so the kids don’t smell it), and get the hell off of Facebook for a little bit.