Is it nudity or violence? What tips the scale and motivates a parent to make the “off limits” call?

The daughter is enthralled by the story of the Titanic. Her cousin lent her a book when we were last in Iowa, and when we got home she actually checked a documentary dvd on the disaster out of the library … and watched the whole thing in one sitting.

Okay that last part she gets from me. I love historical documentaries. I once celebrated the Fourth of July holiday by watching Ken Burns’ Civil War* from start to finish.

But Dee’s fascination with Titanic went into overdrive when she discovered there was a movie about it.

Nothing beats history except the Hollywoodization of it.

For a decade plus old film, it is still surprising hard to check out of the library. I had to get in queue, and we waited a month.

And as the credits rolled, I had my reservations.

“People die,” I reminded Dee.

“Yes,” she said, “I know that. The ship sank.”

“This is only sort of make-believe,” I cautioned.

“I know,” she replied in that tone. THAT tone. The one that reminds me that she isn’t feeble-minded and that I am being over-protective.

So I girded myself, and we watched the first half on Friday night.

It’s a horrible movie. Very James Cameron. Cheesy. Trite. Insipid dialogue. Caricatures in place of characters. CGI that wouldn’t pass muster on a Wii.

And the acting? Aside from Kathy Bates, who couldn’t be awful if she tried, it was spectacularly awful. DiCaprio and Winslet give it their all – but the script was hokey and stacked against them from the opening bell.

But even as death loomed, what really made question my parenting skills were the bare breasts.

Yeah, not the liberal use of “fuck” and “shit”, or “shite” depending, but nekkid titties.

We are not particularly modest in our household. I don’t duck for cover when the daughter is about, and Rob and I sleep in the nude.**

Perhaps it was the suggestiveness? Eight is still a bit too young for the “full monty” explanation of sex.

Last night was the infamous “Jack sketches Rose in the nude scene” and by this time, Dee was firmly indoctrinated into the “Jack is an artist, so it’s okay” camp.

But the sex in the car?

Nothing is shown. It’s all suggested and then cut-away to another scene before coming back to find them sweating and undressed (ironically, Winslet’s breasts – so prominent during the “art” scene are strategically covered now.)

“Um,” Dee said, “are they naked?”

“Yes,” I said – steeling myself for a “grown-ups in love sometimes get naked when they kiss” explanation.

“Hmmm,” and her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed and she said no more.

Bullet dodged for another day.

But then came the iceberg. The panic. The rising water. The frantic, and tragically doomed, people scrambling for boats.

After a scene which highlighted a father lying to his young daughters so he could get them onto a life boat with their mother, she asked,

“Can I have a tissue?”

“Should we turn this off now and finish later?”

“Yes,” she agreed. “You and Dad and I would have been on a boat together, wouldn’t have we?”

And of course I didn’t lie to her. It was women and children first and the majority of the men on Titanic who had any balls or integrity went down with the ship.***

She hasn’t asked to watch the end today. She knows Rose lives and that Jack dies. We talked about that in advance. But in the larger scheme, this isn’t make-believe. People really died. Dads really died.

Maybe I should have copped out and told her the movie wasn’t appropriate for kids – and maybe it really isn’t – but she watched the documentary already, and it was far more grim and real.

At eight I was still watching Disney mostly. Was I better off for being sheltered?

I have vetoed films that I know other kids her age have seen already. Pop stuff. Fantastical but dark.

She doesn’t want commercial tv. She is far less exposed to the over-sexed culture and mindless distraction that numbs mind and soul than the majority of her peers.

She knows death first hand, so it’s pointless to pretend it doesn’t exist.

And it’s futile to shield her from the fact that human beings mainly exist to couple. The world revolves around that … and killing each other.

I am betting it will be a while before she asks to finish the movie and when we do, it will not be in the evening before bed.

*I still marvel at how the Civil War became Ken’s. Alien historians a thousand years from now will marvel that one man caused all that destruction a hundred years prior to his own birth.

** Rob, by the way, is covered up and if  Dee were a boy, it would be the opposite situation. For example, I began shooing my nephews out of the room when I dressed when they hit five. Although, I am not so concerned about the over five year old boys whose mothers bring them into the women’s change room at the pool. That’s their problem.

***And yeah, that sounds sexist but seriously? Who would really cheer on the idea of men first in a situation like this?