Whither Rome?

I remember when Harry Potter came out how certain groups got up in arms about the fact that young kids were reading about wizards and witches and how terrible this was and how it set them up to become wiccan, etc. And I kind of rolled my eyes and agreed with the other folk (many from the same religious background of those having panic attacks) that Tolkien, Lewis, Alexander, White, and even Lawhead* had all had wizards and sorcery in their novels and the children who grew up reading them managed to, on the whole, avoid thinking becoming a practicing wizard was a reasonable aspiration. I was sort of on the bandwagon of "Hey, it's getting kids to read", though I took that with a bit of a grain of salt and hope that maybe Harry Potter would be the gateway drug (as it were) to Narnia and Middle Earth and insert other wholesome-er fantasy realm here.

And now, it seems like people are trying to use the same argument to justify the worth of what is, essentially, pr0n without pictures. Except there are a number of differences. First, 50 Shades is targeted to the adult audience. One would like to think that a "duh" would make sense here, but when it's also labeled as fan fiction for Twilight lovers, you have to wonder how many teens are sneaking their mom's copy and/or buying it for themselves on their Kindle. And really, as much as I wouldn't want my teen daughter reading a Nora Roberts title for the little and not hugely explicit sex contained therein, I sure wouldn't want them reading what I've been told amounts to a primer for BDSM. (No, haven't read it. No, don't plan to.) When I asked my one friend who has admitted reading it why, she said, "Oh, but there's a story there too!" I thought to myself, isn't that what men say about their skin magazines? (As in "I just read it for the articles!")

This trend, coupled with the fact that movies that manage to snag PG-13 ratings these days vs. those that got it when it first came out (that today would, I guess, be simply rated G the way some G movies are) and our overwhelming acceptance of violence as entertainment, make me wonder: did we learn nothing from Rome? Honestly, some days I wonder when the Colosseum is going to be built - then I look at good men, family men, strong Christian men who are really into ultimate fighting (there are two in my extended family) and don't really see a problem with the idea of, basically, fight club (without rule number one, cause dang, all they talk about is their fight club.) And how do they justify getting involved and involving their 5 and 6 year old sons in it? It's a way to get them to exercise.

So we have pr0n that's fine, because hey, it gets people to read, and we have brutality that's awesome because, hey, it gets the kids off the couch. I ask, but honestly I'm not sure I want to know the answer: what's next?

*Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are probably no-brainers. Alexander is Lloyd Alexander with the Chronicles of Prydain, White is John White with the Archives of Anthropos (link is book 1), and Lawhead is Stephen Lawhead with his Dragon King Trilogy. All are wonderful for kids and adults alike. And none will cause embarrassment while reading in public.

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