Six ways your kid will ruin pop culture forever

That outrageous movie plot now seems completely reasonable, and it's time to silence some of your favourite tunes. Welcome to downtime as a dad.

dad and son tablet

There are some changes that come with parenthood which are obvious and well-documented, such as that your sleep will become largely theoretical, or that your tolerance for handling poo will dramatically improve.

However, there are insidious, subtle changes that becoming a parent forces on you. Now that you are dad, you’ll discover (if you ever get back to your beloved TV or tablet) that …

1. You’ll never sit through a film uninterrupted again

Not that you’re getting to the cinema anymore, but even getting from opening titles to post-credits in one go on Netflix, while your little one is asleep, is near impossible.

And the fact that movies, especially the blockbuster ones of the Marvel/Star Wars ilk, are only getting longer and longer doesn’t help. I feel like Lucas Films is simply providing the soundtrack to my couch napping.

Now post baby, our viewing habits are pretty much 25-minute bursts with the volume down and the subtitles on. And the experience is, let’s say, different.

For example, the subtitles to Better Call Saul are peppered with “[dog barking in distance]”, which is a plot point we assume the next series will finally address. (Who is the dog? Why is it so far away and what is it barking at?)

But even if you did get to watch something through, chances are you’ll discover that …

2. You have new nightmares now

In everything from action flicks to arthouse thrillers there’s an easy shortcut a screenwriter can use when they want to show a man who has nothing left to lose.

And that’s by having his family taken from him, or his child kidnapped by Russian criminals, or forced to watch Nocturnal Animals.

It may not have registered much before beyond “sure, the Punisher would be justifiably vengeful about his children being murdered, right?”.

But now, as you find yourself frantically looking around Myer for the tiny person that was merrily waddling along by your side mere seconds ago, you suddenly realise that this isn’t simply a plot device.

It’s an experience I was recently introduced to for the first time, and Liam Neeson’s behaviour in the Taken films now seemed perfectly natural — at least, until I found my son grabbing at tinsel on a low-lying display.

Connected with this is the fact that …

3. Things get horribly visceral

Once upon a time you’d register that a character harming a child was an efficient way to demonstrate they were a monster.

After you’ve got children of your own, Anakin slaughtering the children in the Jedi temple makes Attack of the Clones unwatchable. Okay, more unwatchable.

This applies across the board. Crime procedurals that used to be all about the sexy detectives solving crimes in 42 minutes plus ads are now overshadowed by obsessing over how the parents of the child whose body is discovered in act one are going to live with themselves.

That sort of existential horror makes it hard to care about the will-they-won’t-they dynamics of the sexy coroner and the sexy forensic scientist the way you did before.

So instead you’ll watch children’s films and then you’ll rapidly discover that …

4. Your kids have their own nightmares

You’re presumably shrewd enough to not be settling down with your little one to watch Pan’s Labyrinth or The Babadook or Jaws just yet, but kids don’t need genuinely scary films to develop their own internal theatre of terror.

“The weaker part of your child’s brain is their regulatory system,” explains Dr Ann Corwin, aka The Parenting Doctor, “the part that can regulate if they cry or don’t cry or whether they’re scared or not.

“They don’t have that control, even if it doesn’t seem like they should be scared sometimes.”

That’s especially true of younger children. As a friend discovered recently, a character as seemingly normal as the cook from Paddington 2 can become pure nightmare fuel for an impressionable three-year-old, even as they seem like a comedic figure to their parents.

And before you scoff, cast your mind back to your own childhood and who turned up in your nightmares, like the giant wolf Gmork from The Never-Ending Story, or the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Honestly, what were our parents thinking?

In any case, your generation and your kids’ generation aren’t even watching films the same way, since…

5. Styles have changed, grandpa

You know how every film gives you a migraine now through its super-fast editing and frantic CGI action (as I learned the first time sat through a Transformers movie with my nephews). That’s the pace of films now.

That’s not just a subjective interpretation either: in 1930 the average length of a shot was 12 seconds; by 2014, that had shrunk to 2.5 seconds.

And while this makes today’s movies seem frantically busy to us, it makes the pace of older films excruciatingly dull to today’s youth.

I learned this to my cost when I sat down to show my nephews Star Wars (oh, fine, A New Hope) for the first time — a magical coming-of-age moment which became increasingly awkward as I realised that the first 40 minutes is essentially a couple of robots wandering around the desert.

It was almost a relief to hear the heartbreaking plea “Uncle Andrew, can I please not watch this anymore?”

6. Speaking of evolving tastes …

Back in our parents’ day we didn’t have to worry too much about what they played around the house because children singing about wanting to hold hands or get adequate satisfaction was pretty benign.

But as society has become more tolerant of music with language less appropriate for childcare or staying with the grandparents we have to police our own domestic listening habits.

Love gangsta rap? Big fan of politically charged hip hop? You might need to do some pruning of the record collection for a little while, lest your eager-to-impress small person throw down some hot and wildly inappropriate rhymes about precisely what they think of the police at your next family gathering.

But even if you’re not into pop or hip hop, there are plenty of songs which aren’t perhaps ideal for smaller listeners — as I discovered as my son grooved around the living room to the rollicking ‘Papa Won’t Leave You Henry’, Nick Cave’s spirited tale of brutal supernatural sex murders.

As a rule of thumb, remember that few classic childrens’ songs feature references to “warm arterial spray”. Of course, if you’re absolutely determined to listen to NWA around the kids, you just need to be quick on the volume knob.

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