I'm a huge wrestling fan because there's still a part of me that will never cease to be 12 years old. When I was a kid, the conversation was how the guys aren't really beating the piss out of each other. It wasn't complex -- we accepted the explanation with a nod, and life went on.
Woo indeed, brother. Woo indeed.
Jump ahead thirty years to my favorite wrestler, CM Punk. A few months ago, the guy's real life contract was expiring, and he wasn't happy with the way his character and career were going. He decided that he was going to let the deal expire and move on with his life. Seizing the opportunity for a good storyline, the WWE let him grab a microphone and flat-out bash them from head to toe.
Two weeks later, they set up a planned segment in which the head of the company, Vince McMahon, attempted to offer Punk a new contract to continue working for them. But Punk added some fairly crazy stipulations and humiliated his boss in public:
I was discussing with my kids the way they wove in real life grievances with scripted stage performance when the conversation took a turn I hadn't expected. And that is how this man was absolutely owning his boss and bending him to his will.
To them, this was gold. Hell, who doesn't love a good "I quit" story? Or hearing about an employee reach their breaking point and hand their boss his ass? Even my kids, who haven't worked a day in their lives, ate that shit up and asked for seconds. But when I really thought about it, I realized that my oldest son will be legally able to work in just a few short years, and there are going to be times that his boss will push him to his own limits.
And it will most likely take place in a ring.
Suddenly, this awesome segment about sticking it to the man became a very real concern about what is and isn't acceptable in a work environment. About burning bridges and what that means where promotions are concerned. And that a real life boss put in that situation would fire your ass in a heartbeat, and the next job you applied for would be calling that person for a recommendation. That every last ounce of your ego will be screaming at you to suplex him through his own desk and exit to the sounds of heavy guitar and cheers. But doing that would pretty much ensure the end of your financial life.
And this is where a parent really has to keep their eyes open because that message is everywhere. From the old Jerry Maguire walkout to random sitcoms that spout the message, "Give up your day job and pursue your dreams." It's a great, flowery message to put in the hands of a fictional character, but in reality, it can cause your ass to wind up homeless.
"My job in advertising was so dissatisfying. I just wanted to dance."
My kids are fans of rap, so it's inevitable that, sooner or later, they're going to hear the N-bomb several hundred times in a three minute period. They're also getting to the age where their taste in movies is slowly going to become less Pixar and more classic Tarantino. If you add in modern standups who think that comedy means being as shocking as humanly possible, you realize there's a whole world that appears to be doing the opposite of what we teach our kids: "Don't be a bigot."
What they're not old enough to understand yet is the difference between blatant racism and ironic slurs. And if you think the difference is easy to explain, fucking try it.
And it's everywhere; get a bunch of dudes together and they'll start immediately making gay jokes at each other. The opening minutes of Superbad features Michael Cera accusing his friend of sucking his dad's dick and there were nine seasons of Scrubs that revolved around it. South Park wouldn't be the same if you took out Cartman, and he's the most racist, homophobic character I've ever seen on TV. Dr. House constantly makes racist jokes towards Foreman and lesbian jokes at Thirteen.
And in private, I do all of that shit. The ironic slur is a big deal to me, since where I grew up, it was commonplace to hear people making racist comments and dropping homophobic slurs in a completely unironic manner. Speaking up against it pretty much guaranteed a brutal ass-beating. So, behind closed doors, my best friend and I made a full time job out of making fun of these assholes, and when we imitated them, we'd throw in the racial slurs as a means of mocking the whole personality type. We made a team of all black supermen in the John Madden football games and pitted them against all white opponents, each named after one of the racist dickheads we went to school with. And of course we'd play as the visiting team so that every time our black players scored a touchdown, the crowd would boo.
We like to think this is how EA would want the game to be played.
But obviously there's a sharp line between, for instance, the bully at school accusing me of being gay and Wong doing it. It can be the exact same words, but they mean the opposite because of the relationship we have. Likewise, both myself and my best friend make wife-beating jokes around our womenfolk, and they laugh every time, right before we make them get their asses in the kitchen and leave us menfolk to our thinkin' talks. The reason is because they know we don't beat them, and fail to beat them so much that the idea of us even attempting it becomes kind of funny.
Man, that just gets funnier every time I see it!
But what is "obvious" to us isn't so obvious to a 10 year-old. So now imagine my kids overhearing those jokes. And then imagine them using those words toward the girls at school. Or their female teachers. So it becomes my job to make this often very fuzzy distinction very clear ("But why can the rapper use that word?") and to try to walk them through all of the many layers of irony under which I live my life. It eventually comes down to telling them to just not attempt the ironic slur thing at all, because all it takes is one teacher or coworker to take you seriously, and your ass is done.
"Sir, we need to talk to you about your son's art project."
Yes, Daddy can do it because he is paid to do it and because he is a master of the art. Some day you, too, will possess the maturity and life perspective to safely tell your best friend to go surf a tidal wave of dicks. You'll understand when you're older.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Ways to Avoid Your Terrible Parents' Mistakes and 12 Things You'll Wish You'd Never Seen Under a Microscope.