I'll be up front with you, folks: If you've got kids tuning in, you may want to turn the volume down, because, sadly, today I've got to use a few phrases and make some allusions I'd rather not have to.
I live in Manhattan, and as we approach Thanksgiving I've been seeing ads on the tops of taxi cabs for this supposed kiddie movie called "Free Birds"-produced by the same folks who gave us "Shrek." It's about animated turkeys and Thanksgiving and so on.
Now actually, I've got little idea of what's in the movie because the ads are so bad, I just don't want to see the movie. You see, there's a very prominent tagline in these ads that has ruffled my feathers. It says, "Hang On To Your Nuggets." Ha, ha, ha. Can you believe that? This shameless marketing of a kids' movie using a vulgar expression has got to be a new low.
I believe the folks who try to sell anything to kids with this level of crudeness need to be called out on behalf of beleaguered parents everywhere. So let me be the skunk at the garden party.
Now I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised. In "Shrek," you'll recall, we're treated to similarly low-brow humor. When the evil-and homophonically-named-Farquaad tortures a legless Gingerbread Man, his victim spits in his eye and barks: "Eat me!" A goofy announcer says of Snow White, "Although she lives with seven men, she's not easy!" Later, when Shrek sees the tiny Farquaad's towering castle, he asks, "Do you think maybe he's compensating for something?"
Uh, yeah. Maybe a lack of writing talent?
Honestly, are such jokes really necessary in a children's movie? Or, in the case of "Free Birds," are wink-wink, nudge-nudge references to one's private parts the way we want to talk to our boys and girls about sexuality and anatomy? Can't we just allow kids to be kids-especially while watching a supposed kids' movie?
Apparently not. In "Shrek," unfortunately, parents were ambushed by the crude humor after they got the kids into the theater seats. At least with "Free Birds," parents have ample warning. The vulgar tagline, as I say, is everywhere-even on the tops of taxis.
Of course, this kind of thing isn't limited to movies. Madison Avenue is stooping even lower on TV. Take a new ad for Skittles-the one that features two kids, aged about twelve or maybe thirteen. The boy's got a mouth full of Skittles. And the girl obviously wants some and is willing to do, well, whatever. They kiss, let's say passionately. And then comes the tagline... "French the Rainbow!" Yeah, you heard me right.
It is the Thanksgiving season after all, so let me suggest a serving of something more wholesome, shall we say. Of course there are a number of great holiday classics. But let me also suggest a more recent movie. The one I've got in mind not only encompasses Thanksgiving, but another tradition on this most American of holidays: football. I'm thinking of "The Blind Side," the great 2009 movie starring Sandra Bullock playing a Mississippi mom who, because of her Christian faith, takes in a disadvantaged young man named Michael Oher.
It's a worldview-stretching film that reminds us of the inherent dignity of every person and the possibilities of friendship across lines of both race and class. There's a key scene in which the wealthy family shares a takeout dinner for Thanksgiving with Michael, setting in motion the young man's life transformation.
And by the way, there are no nuggets on that menu.