An Idiot Abroad, and One at Home

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An Idiot Abroad, and One at Home

Ricky, Karl, and Stephen

With a foundation set where Roan effectively and responsibly self-regulates what he watches on TV, I’ve been somewhat freed up in having to force limits on what we can watch as a family. If it’s inappropriate, Roan will have nothing to do with it.  However. Over the holiday break, our family was introduced to an awesome series called “An Idiot Abroad“. This series is hysterical, and even maybe educational (?). In a nutshell, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send their friend Karl Pilkington to visit each of the Seven Wonders of the World. Karl is reluctant to try new things, and not terribly open to new experiences, cultures, or lifestyles. Hilarity (at Karl’s expense) ensues. The show is broadcast on Sky, which is (as far as I can tell) a major British network. The show has some language peppered throughout it that could be a deal-breaker with Roan, but none of it is used in a vulgar way. Typically poor Karl is just describing something awful that just happened to him (again), and has no other choice than to drop an F-bomb here and there.

I checked-in with Roan and found he was ok with that. I was too, again – because it was more conversational and not at all mean-spirited or angry or vulgar. Context is everything, no?

But my liberal tendencies were put to the test with one episode. And I’m still thinking: did I Parent-Succeed or Parent-Fail? I’ve been able to rationalize that it was all good, no problem and that I am still on Santa’s Nice list. But I’d love to hear what you think (as long as you agree with me.) (Kidding.) (Ok, not really kidding, I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone told me how inspiring and inspired my decisions are? But I kind of think I’m not going to get that this time.)

While watching an episode where Karl is sent to Brazil to visit the Cristo Redentor statue. He also is lucky enough to be visiting during Carnaval. In the opening sequence, Karl expresses discomfort with gay men, and asserts that he has no interest in being in crowds on the beach. And of course, he is subsequently put in a situation where his guide is a gay man who leads him to a crowded beach. It’s all well and good with Roan, Anson and me eating dinner and laughing at Karl ha ha ha he’s sweating but won’t take off his shirt ha ha ha poor Karl but that guy has to learn to adapt! It’s funny and he’s a good sport and then suddenly those Brits surprise the Nelson Call family by broadcasting Karl on the beach. But now? It’s a nudist beach.


And the conservative mom in me is all:

“Eh….I don’t think this is appropriate….”

And then the cool chick in me is all:

“Eh, lighten up Grandma. It’s not sexual at all, just naked people walking around on a beach. Human bodies are not offensive.”

And then I look to Anson for his read and he’s just looking back at me all blank-canvas style. Then offered this helpful gem:

“It’s no different than watching National Geographic….?”

It actually is wildly different, so I move on to Roan with a nonchalant:

“So. There are a bunch of penises on our TV. Heh. Don’t see that every day! OH! Say, a vagina! Hmmmmm….how’s your dinner?”

And Roan was a little giggly and then we all had a pretty good laugh at Karl’s reaction to being on a nude beach and his use of the word  “knob” and then the scene changed and it was over.

But did I do the right thing in letting it play out? Or should I have turned the TV off?  Honestly, I think it might not be that big of a deal. Watching naked people having a day on the beach will probably not turn Roan into any type of psychotic weirdo. I mean, probably the worst part of it was me getting all up in everyone’s grill about is this ok is this ok is this ok is this ok? That probably will turn Roan into a psychotic weirdo. Poor kid.

And yes, we’re continuing to watch the series. While it’s clearly not intended for children, it is a brilliant introduction to other cultures, and the Seven Wonders of the World. It’s also a very realistic portrait of how strange cultures and customs are exactly that: strange to us. It’s totally politically incorrect and definitely offensive to some, but not us. Not really. Ok, maybe a little bit. But it’s a good discomfort. What say you, reader?  Did I Fail? Pass? What would you have done?

17 thoughts on “An Idiot Abroad, and One at Home

  1. Probably exactly what you did. Left it, felt uncomfortable, sought some advice. Thinking about it, removed as I am, I’m inclined to say that it’s good to introduce adult themes to your kid while you’re there, when possible and when it’s not too disturbing (I’m thinking gratuitous-violence level of disturbing, or something that would make him seriously afraid for his safety – like watching live 9-11 coverage while in the city, maybe?) That way you get to dissipate some of the mystery, show him the appropriate way to respond to it, and defuse the forbidden fruit aspect.

    But I feel you – I don’t want to rush my children to maturity. While I don’t want to trigger their little “bad stuff-pay attention” alert by rushing to flip off the tv when bad words come on, I also don’t want to kill their little child spirit by making them face adult stuff too soon. As for this instance – I really don’t think nudity would do that. Heck, give him a year or two and he’ll have his little paws on a nudie mag anyway, giggling and uncertain about what it’s even all about, but knowing it’s sort of “bad” to do. At least now when he looks at the airbrushed silliness on Playboy’s pages, he’ll have some recognition that naked bodies don’t normally look – or pose – like that.

  2. I think I would have skipped a beat also, but probably ended up in the same place. As long as the kid is cool with it, I think it’s fine. Like you said, context really is everything.

  3. I think you did pretty darn good, at least you didn’t overreact and gasp to jump up and change the channel and spill milk or make some sort of scene that would make it all more memorable for the wrong reasons.

    I only had girls (3) and they are very modest and would probably have suggested the channel be changed or said nothing at all… I wouldn’t let them watch Roseanne as kids, but I think they did when I wasn’t around and we all have the same sense of humor now that they are adults.

  4. Don’t sweat it for a second. Roan would probably have wondered more about it if you jumped up to turn off the TV!

  5. Aren’t our reactions to nudity quite strange? We shouldn’t have an issue with seeing real people naked in real life or on our TV screens and yet, we feel uncomfortable. I think it’s a good thing that a 7 year old is seeing real naked people – I’m sure you guys felt way more uncomfortable than he did! You did the right thing.

    Nudity on TV is a funny thing – here in Australia we get a lot of American TV shows and they ALWAYS blur out babies’ bits or adults’ naked bums. bit of overkill I reckon. and yet on UK TV they obviously have no issue with showing full frontal nudity. And then the Europeans are a whole different story!! good on you for exposing Roan to something a little less censored than what kids normally get. There are much worse things we should be worried about our kids seeing on TV (violence in particular) than a few shots of a nudist beach!!

  6. pass – Roan sounds like a very normal kid, probably a little more evolved what with his “self policing”

  7. We were turning channels when a lovely girl on girl scene from Hung, appeared on the screen, the remote failed to respond then the TV image froze. Seemed like the image was on screen forever as I mashed buttons… Luckily, my five year old didn’t seem phased by what she saw. I was bracing for the question “what are those girls doing Daddy?”

  8. Nudity’s no big deal. People who shelter their children too much do them a real disservice; as the kids get older and start entering the real world, they are unprepared and people take advantage of them.

  9. IMHO, well-done parenting. FYI “Idiot” is my husband’s very favorite thing on tv. Did you see the one in China with the old man carrying his own toilet seat everywhere? Hysterical!!

  10. But wait, was it standard TV or HD? Joking, but semi-serious, too. Remember old, crappy standard TV on a 13″ set. Such images would mean nothing. On a 46″ diagonal LCD TV in 1080p, well, that’s a bit more… vivid. On the whole I’d say it doesn’t matter. He’s a wise kid in NYC. He and his friends probably talk about things. The visuals only have added a little. He’ll figure it all out with the capable assistance of his ‘rents.

  11. I think it was fine. Roan giggled, which is normal for kids when they see naked bodies in funny situations. Bodies are bodies – not a bad thing. Clearly Roan knows when it is and is not appropriate to be naked, so I think you’re in good shape. No big deal. I think you’re right…being all awkward and making it a big deal would be more detrimental than letting it play out the way it did. 🙂

  12. I think you handled it well. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to think through it like that and probably would’ve jumped the gun in changing the channel. In reality, nudity isn’t bad, it’s the way our society approaches nudity that makes it taboo and sexualizes all nudity. I think by acknowledging the nudity you gave him the opportunity to discuss it if he wanted and to not dwell on it. I bet changing the channel definitely would’ve raised more questions.

  13. I am chuckling. We have this debate on a regular basis in our house (debate is probably too strong a word). I grew up in a fairly international family, my husband uhhh not so much. I think about it this way: many Europeans (and obviously other cultures – Brazilians, Africans, Australians…) are exposed to or frequent nude beaches from the time they’re born. I lived with a French girl in college who clucked her tongue every time I did something overtly ‘modest’. Its just a different way of thinking of nudity – as clothing and natural rather than some puritanical shame. We let our girls watch more ‘adult’ type shows and are conscientious about our language around them, but if an f-bomb or a boob pops out on tv we just explain that its not something ladies say and thats that. You can’t hide the world from your kids, and language and nudity are BIG parts of the world…, and in my opinion its much better to have a trusted parent figure there to explain whats happening and how to manage it than to have it tossed at them when they’re alone or with peers. I think you’ve done exactly the right thing!

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