I went to see the movie "The Hangover" recently. This is hardly news. Millions of people have seen it.
What struck me was who I saw it with. Sitting in front of me, between a man and a woman who I presume were his parents, was a boy in a Little League uniform who couldn’t have been more than 9 years old.
And sitting down the row were two other children, maybe 4 and 7.
And a few rows up and a few rows back were several other grade-school-age kids – all with parents or guardians.
Now, in case you aren’t familiar with "The Hangover," it is a crude, funny, crude, wild, crude, fast-paced, crude story of four guys on a bachelor party in Las Vegas who wake up with no idea what they did the night before.
As the movie goes on, they reconstruct a night that includes sex, blood, strippers, used condoms and a frontally naked man locked in a trunk.
That’s just for starters.
The language could make a sailor blush. And there are shots at the end of a man and an old woman engaged in oral sex that baffled, given the R rating. Time was, that was X.
I don’t tell you all this to influence you on the movie. I tell you all this before the movie influences your kids.
Learning by viewing, right?
The 9-year-old had been in line behind me for tickets. I actually spoke to him about his Little League game. His voice was high, his cap was forward, and he said his team had lost the game "17 to 22."
Later, I heard him ask his mother if they could see "Land of the Lost," the Will Ferrell comedy, which is at least rated PG-13.
The mother said no, she wanted to see "The Hangover."
And thus the Little Leaguer got a crash course in everything from sex, drugs, stripping, roofies, drinking games and getting beaten up by Mike Tyson.
I don’t get it. Even the most liberal, open-minded parent would have seen "The Hangover" as inappropriate for kids. It’s not as if the ads fool you into thinking it’s "Cinderella."
Yet here was this kid, and the other kids, sitting with their parents, and I can only assume it was for one of the following reasons:
They couldn’t afford a babysitter.
They think it goes "over their heads."
They just don’t give a damn.
As for the first, well, times are tough. But if you can’t afford a sitter, aren’t there any PG or PG-13 movies you can endure?
As for "going over their heads"- please. If a kid can learn how to spell from "Sesame Street," he or she can figure out sex and guzzling alcohol if you SHOW IT TO HIM OR HER FOR TWO HOURS!
As for not giving a damn? That’s obvious.
So who raises our children?
It’s bad enough the stuff you can hardly control – billboards or TV commercials – that feature semi-naked people leering and writhing as if all of life is one big sex-and-beer orgy.
But to willfully take your child into a theater, when you know the subject, when you know the film is rated R, just because YOU want to see the movie, is a denial of responsibility that almost leaves me speechless.
And it did. People with me wanted to say something to the parents of the Little Leaguer. But I shook my head. If they sat through the whole movie and never as much as covered the kid’s eyes, I knew what would come if I questioned them. A glare. Maybe a shouting match. One of those, "Who are you to try to raise my kids?"
The answer, of course, is the irony of the whole thing. They will let Hollywood raise their kids without a peep of protest, but you, a concerned neighbor, should keep your mouth shut.
People often ask why this country is so screwed up. I wonder if we don’t get the country we deserve.
That’ll give you a real hangover.
Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).