“How do you feel about zombies?” my son, age 14, often asks me.

What can I say? 

I hate zombies.  Sorry.  They’re ugly and flesh-eating and drooling blood and spilling guts and shlumping along with rotting faces, and…well, violence doesn’t really rock my boat.

“But zombies are already dead,” he states matter-of-factly.  “I won’t ask you to play ‘Black Ops.’”

Heaven forbid.  A game where my wonderfully kind and funny and ethical musician-scientist-writer son takes virtual aim to kill PEOPLE?  (Even if those people are trying to kill you, which makes it self-defense, my son insists.)

My inner girly-girl cringes.  My inner Mommy howls.  When I was his age, I liked boys already—quite a bit actually, especially if the boy happened to be attached to my older sister—but I did consider their romping and grossness more than a little uncouth.  Having grown up in a peace-loving, rather intellectual family of one male (my poor outnumbered father) and four females (including myself), I did not play army or cowboys and Indians, and I hoped the boys I knew would outgrow their bang-bang obsessions.  I did not find sport in pretend killing.  I didn’t even like Stephen King novels until much later (I LOVED his last novel on time travel!).

Then, years later I had a child, one child: a boy, not a girl.  And I had that child with a horror writer, of all people.  Go figure.

No yellow canopy bed, yellow carpet, yellow walls for my baby.  Enter mean critters for decoration and entertainment, starting with dinosaurs and then monsters and ghosts and vampires, and now with zombies.  Wait, I got the order wrong.  When my son, age 5, was up all night with the stomach flu, we had to watch “Scoobie Doo and the Zombies” to keep him calm (and me sane).  Seven times, we watched it.  Even then the creepiness seemed to bring him solace and even joy.  The cartoon just made me feel yucky, not too different than what it feels like to clean up puke.

Not that I didn’t try to keep my parent-child interactions stereotype-free.  I swear I tried.  When he was just a young toddler we participated in a “Mommy and Me” class in which I handed him a beautiful, soft-to-cuddle doll.  And my sweet, very affectionate and emotional little boy looked interestedly at the doll, dropped it onto the classroom floor, and ran it over with his truck.

Then he smiled.  “Again!” he said, and dove for the doll.

I teach psychology, so I’ve done my research on this stuff.  And I know, for example, that modeling aggression in children can influence them; of course it can.  But even the research tells me that a non-violent person—a child raised with love and attention, a child with good social skills and empathy skills and without aggressive tendencies—will NOT become aggressive just from playing video games.  I know this.  I know that video games can provide an overly civilized life with some edgy action and (safe) danger.  I know that games provide a channel for a kid’s aggressive impulses. 

As a school counselor, I also know that kids who are never allowed to play with toy weapons often make their pretend weapons out of sticks or crayons or whatever is handy.

Video games, in a kid who has friends, is nice, and gets good grades, is not a problem.

Still.  Zombies?  Please.

“But you never tried my game, not even once,” my son claims.  “How can you be sure you don’t like it?”

Um.  Is this the same argument I’ve given about his trying a new kind of vegetable?  About trying a movie that does not have “beheadings” in it?  About trying a new type of music, or listening to a viewpoint that he’s never heard before.

Not the same, my mind insists.  I mean: It’s disgusting!

“That’s why it’s fun to kill them,” my son says.

And he’s got a point, in his world anyway.

Which is now my world too.  It’s in my living room.  I ration it like you’d ration Halloween candy.  I keep one eye on the content and both eyes firmly closed.

“Will you try it?” he asked just today.  “If you want to stop, we’ll stop.  What do you say?”

What do I say?  What do I say?

What else?

“Bring ‘em on,” I’m going to tell him. 

I’m already working out for the experience…


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