Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

Take some time to watch this video, which currently has one million hits on YouTube. We’ll talk after.

You’re back? Great. So then, WHAT THE FUCK?? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

I saw this video a few days ago and had no intention of posting it or commenting on it or ever having anything to do with it, but I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My initial reaction was that it was one of the most revolting things I’d ever seen, but I recognize that most of this revulsion arises from my own upbringing, where picking up or even touching a dead animal was probably the most transgressive thing a kid could do (Why? I don’t know, because they have “germs”.) So, okay, I understand that the kid is just curious and that this natural curiosity about the world is to be celebrated or whatever, or at least not quashed in a mountain of misplaced shame.

It took me a while to finally figure out what it was — beyond knee-jerk judgment — that was bothering me, which is not the child’s actions but the father’s reaction. Leaving aside the whole thorny issue of why a parent would ever post this video in the first place (I doubt she’s going to want to relive this moment when she’s 12 or 16 or 21), the father never once suggests that wild animals, whether dead or alive, should never be considered playthings, let alone taking the opportunity to teach the kid something about death or teaching her that this squirrel was once a living thing and therefore is due some basic respect. He never even mentions burying the poor thing except as an afterthought. His entire reaction has this sort of everything-my-angel-does-is-good-and-I-refuse-to-damage-her-delicate-psyche-with-negativity,-man sheen to it, which is one of the creepier recent developments in parenting.

Is it me?

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3 Responses to Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

  1. I am not sure that the father was too afraid to say anything negative to the daughter. What was apparent to me was that this is about him. Everything he says seems to point to the fact that he is a Good Parent. It’s not really that his daughter is adorable; she is adorable as a reflection of his adorableness. He loves the camera. Filming this moment is the most important thing going on. He can’t even stop filming to parent her. I think I’m supposed to say to him “thanks for sharing this precious moment with me.” This is the part that eludes me. He seems to be about showing off his daughter, but moreover, his Parenting. And the mother seems oddly bothered but passive at the same time. The daughter doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing but playing with an animal, could be alive or stuffed–she has no concept of “dead,” and I hope that I would use this as a time to introduce something about death, the difference between life and death, and that which is sacred in both if this were my child. She still wouldn’t understand, but hey, my parenting, my rules/worldview.

    We are all allowed to make mistakes, to rethink things, to parent across a broad spectrum which covers so many shades of gray that even Benjamin Moore can’t name them all. I sort of hate to rush to a judgement of the particulars. Again, the thing that bothers me most is the camera being what the father is primarily interacting with and it is the barrier to him actually parenting. It’s so weird.

    One could argue that there’s nothing horrible going on here (what bothered me most was when she repeatedly nodded the squirrel’s head up and down and repeatedly gets the animal close to her mouth, touches her mouth after handling it, etc without being instructed to stop. Okay, you’ve got a point….). I think if we were in contact with more dead animals, as in the case of actually killing our own food for meat, we may not view this in the same way, let alone that we may build up some immunity to certain bacteria that is quickly present in dead flesh.

    It is all just so sad to me. It feels like an indictment of a culture that has lost its way. But perhaps my imagination runs wild and it’s just a simple little film. They should remove the video from youtube if they have any sense or decency. It’s not too different from balloon boy, really. “Let’s get famous. Let’s get attention. This is all about me me me. Look what I made.”

    Jeez, you should really restrict who can respond in your comment section. Who let me in?

  2. I just rewatched it. He instructs Thea to “say goodbye to the camera,” twice, as if the camera is alive. Maybe he’s just confused about the difference between what is alive and what is not-alive–?

    He asks Thea “yeah, what happened to the squirrel?” But he isn’t interested in anything she might understand or not understand. He doesn’t care what his daughter says or does except as it pertains to the CAMERA. It’s all about being on TV. It’s all very cute. Maybe she can be on American Idol, Dead Things Edition.

    He says “the killer” and “the kill-ee” because he thinks he’s clever. Why does the mom call for the dog and then leave? The dad laughs when Thea nods the squirrel’s head.

    This is sadder than I thought. Maybe more disturbing things going on. But who knows? They may be a happy, well-adjusted family who are headed for a life of normalcy. That’s what’s really got my curiosity piqued. This may have no negative impact except that there is already a HUGE reaction and I think that’s what this is about. PAY ATTENTION TO ME. MAKE ME FAMOUS. I AM ON TV, me and my innocent daughter who asks for none of it.

  3. crisi-tunity says:

    I truly have no idea how to respond to this in any way other than YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK.

    I somewhat appreciate that the parents are both being cool about it, and letting the kid explore the dead thing, without reacting frantically and negatively and making the kid cry – which is what my own parents would have done – but I think they go too far the other way. Way, way too far. The parents themselves have no respect for the dead animal, much less the kid, and like you said, they’re not using this opportunity for a teaching moment at all, when I think it’s a really good one. Unless you live in rural Saskatchewan or something where dead squirrels are the norm.

    But my main reaction is, jeepers, dead rodents are not safe. Don’t let your daughter play with a goddamn dead rodent. What the hell kind of parent are you? That might be unkind, there might be all kinds of things going on that we aren’t privy to in this little slice of life, but that’s what I think.

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