The Thing I Like About …

Last House on the Left (2009):  the parents.

After an escaped felon and his “family” kidnap and viciously attack seventeen-year-old Mari, they wander, coincidentally enough, to Mari’s house.  Mari’s parents graciously allow the bad guys into their house and out of the storm, unaware of the horrific things these “people” have done to their daughter.  Then they learn the truth.

They ask each other where the keys to the boat are (Mari had taken the car); they look at each other without speaking because they don’t want the bad guys to overhear them.  But they never exchange “meaningful glances”, or discuss the ethical conflict involved in exacting revenge.  It’s not some weighty consideration that one or the other of them has trouble with; it’s not something that one of them has to wonder what the other one is thinking.  Without a moment’s pause, they shift into a dark space where only swift and total retribution is allowed.

And then they kill all the bad guys … with kitchen tools and fire extinguishers.

And a microwave oven.

Am I saying it’s good for people to turn effortlessly into killers?  Well, not when you say it like that, no.  But it’s good for them to know their priorities, and to be able to act to protect those in their care.  It’s good to have a relationship where the trust is absolute.  And it’s good to be brave in the face of evil, to do what needs to be done.

It’s not that the average parent is going to be faced with such a dire and unlikely situation.  It’s that it’s a nice alternative to the world we seem to live in, where being a good parent includes television/Netflix/video games/telephone/texting/twitter/facebook/girls’ night/guys’ night/getting nails done/etc., etc., etc.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – on the surface.  But when those things become the things we have to get done, and when we feel like every moment is a moment “for ourselves”, then suddenly we just simply aren’t good parents anymore – we’re babysitters, talking to our boyfriends and raiding the fridge and saying, “Go away, kid, ya bother me!”

It would be wonderful to live in a world where all parents understood their responsibility and were willing to make tough choices – like axing bad guys – for their children’s safety.  But sometimes I wonder if “modern” parenting is even aware of what should be obvious:  the kids aren’t there for us; we’re there for them.  And if you’re bad guys who try to hurt our children, well … it sucks to be you.

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