March 6, 2008

Spencers Under Fire

"They even picked up a phallic-shaped cup."

When I was a kid, my Mom didn't take me into "Spencer Gifts." And by the time I was in high school, and was able to wander around the Mall unattended, she must have figured that if I were to wander in there I wouldn't be harmed by anything I saw.

Apparently, today, some parents aren't content to rely on parenting. They are appalled that their child could go into Spencer's and see cartoon penises. Of course, they could tell the kids "don't go into Spencer's." But since they have no faith in their children, they want Spencer Gifts to change.

This video/story from a North Carolina local ABC affiliate tells the story of these parents who want something done about Spencer Gifts.

They conducted a hidden camera investigation, sending in 13 year old girls to buy objectionable items. They were shocked when the girls were sold the items, one of which had a suggested age rating of 18 or older. Nobody bothers to point out whether those age ratings are enforced or proscribed by law. My understanding is that they are voluntary recommendations from the manufacturer and not enforceable by law. The second Spencer Gifts they investigated did hassle a second group of youngsters in the store, and would not sell them the items.

What struck me initially was that these people appear to think that Spencer Gifts has changed over the years. Here's a news flash: Spencer Gifts is not getting more edgy. You're getting old.

I remember it being quite risque when I was a youngster. Although my parents didn't take me shopping in there, they did tell me what sort of stuff was in there. And I did see some of it when I got a little bit older. I object to the historical revisionism of middle age. Note, when you were a kid, and before you were even born:

  • People had sex
  • People told dirty jokes
  • People drew pictures of genitalia
  • People somehow found a way to balance those things with raising children, often without passing laws

Spencer Gifts is a tacky, tasteless gift shop. You can't legislate tact or good taste.

The parents were not mollified when they saw the second store did stop the kids from buying stuff. The argument then became "we don't even want the kids to see penis cartoons!" Lady -So don't take your kids in there!

These are the same people who have convinced you that movies are getting more and more rude and crude. if you're ever bored and want to try a fun experiment, rent some "PG" movies from the 70's and early 80's and compare them to today's PG and PG-13 movies. Guess what - movies have become almost completely sanitized when it comes to risque content and language. Don't rent a rated "R" movie from the 70's. Your post-millennial sensibilities will not be able to handle the shock.

I completely appreciate that some people have good taste. We'd never allow half of the stuff at Spencer Gifts in our house. That's why we choose not to shop there. (But when I was a teen, it was the only place I could get a decent black light bulb.) Make your own decisions for yourself. Please, stop trying to make other people's decisions for them. The endgame of this scenario is to make it so difficult for places like Spencer Gifts to exist that they can't exist for anyone.

It brings to mind the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. I highly recommend it. It tells the tale of the runaway, twisted hyper morality that has given us films with overblown violence and nonexistent sex. It reveals that right-wing Christian moralists who prefer to remain anonymous judge films harshly for any sort of what they deem sexual content, but give a pass to all sorts of killing and violence. A tiny bit of Maria Bello's pubic hair shows up in a loving, intimate scene and the MPAA raters hit the roof. But they don't bat an eye when a killer stabs a woman through her breast implants in a similarly rated film.

Something is wrong.

I understand if people don't like certain aspects of society. But, for the good of a free society, you need to ease off on trying to sanitize it. You think you're doing good for the community, but you're making decisions for adults, who should have the freedom to make those decisions for themselves. Your morality is not demonstrably superior to their own. So, ease off. And teach your kids about how you think their world should be. And let them become adults and decide for themselves.

Technorati : , , , ,

Posted by James at March 6, 2008 9:57 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links
Comments

My parents would go into Spencer's with me when I was a kid, because they knew I liked to look at all the groovy lights and beaded curtains and fart jokes. They sort of steered me away from the naughtier things. I had some idea of what I was missing, and knew that when I was older I could get a better look at my leisure.

When I got older, I got a better look, and then I went back to looking at the groovy lights and beaded curtains. (It turns out that the fart jokes aren't as funny when you get older and suddenly LIFE seems like a continuous fart joke.)

Posted by: Julie at March 6, 2008 11:06 AM

Jesus tapdancing Christ. MEN HAVE PENISES. WOMEN HAVE VAGINAS. And you are lucky if your 13-year-old isn't already having sex behind your back. I'm pretty sure the cartoon penis isn't going to be anything new.

Again, people ought to try parenting once in a while. They may find it's easier and works better than demanding every freaking company on earth panders to their every whim.

Posted by: pippa at March 6, 2008 11:15 AM

Spencer gifts still exists!?! God people are stupid (in so many ways).

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at March 6, 2008 12:22 PM

To quote Dawkins (again), "You don't have the right not to be offended." People really need to get over the idea that they can walk around the world with their eyes open and never see something they don't like.

I distinctly remember in Spencer's, a ceramic chick that had just hatched from an egg with the saying, "kiss me, I just got laid." I thought it was so cute that I showed it to my mother, who quietly urged me to put it back. It wasn't until I was older that I understood what it meant. We also went in there for the groovy lights and bead curtains -- I had an orange plastic bead curtain and one of those lamps that's two printed plastic tubes that turn when they heat up. I loved the back of Spencer's (groovy light section) when I was a kid.

Posted by: Maggie at March 6, 2008 2:29 PM

Oh, well, and maybe I should add: but look what a degenerate I am now. ;-)

Posted by: Maggie at March 6, 2008 2:30 PM

Newsflash: Parents are responsible for supervising their children to prevent their children from experiencing something that the parents might find objectionable or inappropriate.

Then again, if I were Spencers, I wouldn't want a bunch of 13-and-unders walking around in the store unescorted giggling uncontrollably.

OTOH, what parent lets their 13 year old walk around in a mall unsupervised these days? My son will be 15 next month, and I'm finally to the point where I might CONSIDER dropping him off at the mall with his friends. And, I live in boring vanilla NH!

Posted by: Kitten Herder at March 6, 2008 7:10 PM

I remember going to Spencers many times as a young highschool kid, gazing longingly at the "fundies" and wishing I had someone to use them with...

Posted by: Bull at March 6, 2008 7:49 PM

Do we want to deny that to future generations? I think not.

Posted by: James at March 6, 2008 7:58 PM

Wow Bull, you did that too?

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 6, 2008 8:19 PM
The parents were not mollified when they saw the second store did stop the kids from buying stuff. The argument then became "we don't even want the kids to see penis cartoons!" Lady -So don't take your kids in there!
...
The endgame of this scenario is to make it so difficult for places like Spencer Gifts to exist that they can't exist for anyone.
...
But, for the good of a free society, you need to ease off on trying to sanitize it. You think you're doing good for the community, but you're making decisions for adults, who should have the freedom to make those decisions for themselves.
Right, but, of course — and this won't be news to you, but I'm just sayin' — it's not about being mollified, and it's not about what their kids do or don't see, and it's not about a free society nor any sort of freedom. It's exactly the case that they want to make sure that places like that can't exist for anyone, because what's it about is telling people what to do, imposing their morality and their sense of decency on everyone.

And no amount of sense-talking will help, because they're "right" by definition — their definition. The best we can hope for is that "they" go back into the minority whence they came, so we can return to the '70s of enlightenment.

Well, it seemed "enlightened" at the time.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at March 6, 2008 11:40 PM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved