Last week somebody posted a video on social media in which a child, about 5 years old, was mimicking Cephas of Mpali. Cephas is a well-behaved and intelligent boy, about 18 years old, but physically and verbally maimed due to his mother’s use of charms. The mimicking boy in the posted video displayed an unparalleled talent for his age. However, there was a concern that I and a good number of caring parents frowned upon, but that a few individuals failed to see anything wrong with. He has been exposed to images meant for adults. Simply put, Mpali is rated 16L. Meaning the content, including language, is tailored for people who are 16 years old or older.
Without reservations, I shot down the video that was meant only to amuse the group Friends Who like Zambezi Magic TV on Facebook. I did so owing to the fact that for the little fellow to mimic Cephas that well, he had been allowed to watch an adult drama series over a long stretch of time. You don’t need to pay particular attention to hear characters cursing and using abusive language in the same film. Some scenes show seductive and violent actions. The poor boy assimilates all that and his parents see no danger.
In a display that to me was a way of amplifying the ticking sound of the time bomb within him, the infant replayed the role of Cephas. If he had chosen, he would have enacted the Tamara-Hambe love scene that gave Hambe reason to believe that Mainza (a baby in the movie) was his son. I also have every reason to believe that the next video will show the same boy kissing somebody according to what he watches in Zuba with her parents.
From the responses I got for denouncing the video, it is easy to tell that some parents are blind to what lies beneath exposure of their children to things above their ages. What do you expect them to do when the child curses in front of visitors or mimics some sexual acts that they watched together in a movie? You see Applause! Why? Morals are in short supply.
It’s sad to see how some individuals misunderstand film ratings and drown their homes in moral decadence. Here is a glimpse of the facebook chat that I ignited. A handful of friends, I can’t tell whether or not they are real parents, felt that rating is just a number, it is up to each parent to choose what the child can watch, whether it is immoral or not.
Look at some comments from the chat: Someone said, “If it was a foreign child imitating a Hollywood star it would have been ok.” (This one doesn’t see the ratings in foreign movies) Another one said that people like us (referring to me and my supporters) have children with full of bad manners. (I wonder how that can be when we are the ones advocating good manners) They said we were the only ones who were against that little boy. One of them even went further to ask, “What of baby Mainza, is he 16 years old. Because that’s the baby who knows nothing?” Honestly, this thought beat my understanding. Somehow, it even sounds contradictory. So, In the eyes of such viewers, that number 16 or 18 is only a decoration to show the skill of the graphic designer.
On the other hand, I received backing from people who see the movie through my eyes and whose number is higher than my critics. One of them said, “The series isn’t suitable for viewers under the age of 16 because it may contain very strong language.” Another one came quite strongly saying, “I for one hate words such as “dog” in Mpali. Even in our community, I don’t like someone calling their friend that, be it an elderly (person) or young people.” Following this one, another supporter of ratings said, “True, I hate that too.”
More support followed like, “…Even the word idxxt is too heavy… (xx mine). If you are 16, watch it, if not, then make sure the kids don’t watch… if you allow your children to watch it and they start using the same language, then it’s on you, not Mpali… All in all, don’t allow small children to watch it.”
Another one siding with me said, “In some foreign countries like the UK it would be child abuse and child activists would visit your home.”
That is how viewers feel about film ratings. But what’s comforting is that despite my small sample size, the majority understand the meaning of those numbers we see when films start and feel that children must not be let to watch films that are rated above their age.
Let me conclude with the thought of American philosopher Richard Rorty, “We become better people not by reading theory and learning rules, but by empathizing with characters in a novel (or movie). We begin by imagining ourselves in different situations, we put ourselves in other people’s shoes and act more kindly towards others in real life as a result.”
In tandem with the saying ‘We are what we watch,’ Rorty is right. If our favorite characters use bad language, we tend to like that. I hereby feel pity, not for parents who stubbornly turn a blind eye to timely warning, but for the communities into which misguided children grow.