Jason Keil

Jason Keil is a writer whose work has been published in the Phoenix New Times, AZCentral.com, Phoenix Magazine, and OnMilwaukee.com. He also co-hosts the podcast What The Fork.

"It Follows" and Innocence Lost

There is a scene in the excellent indie horror film It Follows when the two leads discuss their reactions to seeing pornography for the first time, and the consequences that followed when their parents caught them. The movie is disguised as a genre flick. At its core it ponders those moments when the scary realities of adulthood creep into adolescent lives. That scene caused me to reflect on times the world showed me something that my parents should have taught or warned me about but never did.

My life is filled with these moments. A careless babysitter not realizing that the original Fright Night had nudity. A scene in one of the Lethal Weapon movies that taught me how to shave. That moment at a friend's house when he put on Straight Outta Compton. Unlike the movie, none of these points in time led to a shape-shifting monster relentlessly stalking me or caused feelings of intense paranoia like it did for the pack of teenagers in the film moving through the mean streets of Detroit without parental supervision. The movie wouldn't have been very scary if it was only filled with moments that warped their sheltered suburban worldview.

The moment that left the largest impression on me occurred in 1994. A friend and I went to see Pulp Fiction and I left the theater having seen and heard things I never dreamed of. I was exposed to extreme violence, sodomy, and drug use propelled by pop culture references and profanity-laced conversation. It's the first movie that made me think about film as an intellectual medium and inspired me to pursue it as a possible career. It also made me think about how most people's taste in art isn't the same as mine and how audiences have varying levels of tolerance for the uncomfortable. 

I paid to see Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece at least four times when it came out. Once it began its run at the discount theatre where I worked through high school, my co-workers and I would watch the diner scene where Jules and Ringo have their discussion about Ezekiel 25:17 as we waited to begin the cleanup between each showing. As I would constantly reference the dialogue in conversations, my mom finally asked me to take her to see it. 

"No," I simply replied.

A threat of punishment showed that she was serious. Off we went as I squirmed uncomfortably next to my mom during scenes filled with gimps, overdoses, and racial slurs. Afterwards, we went to dinner. My mom's parental instincts made her realize that the world had beat her to the punch, as if John Travolta and Uma Thurman had robbed me of my innocence. She must have felt like she failed to shield me from media containing such dubious plot points, and I felt like I was in a whole lot of trouble as a result. 

She simply advised, "Be careful about what you watch in the future, ok?"

I didn't heed her caution, and through the years I've discovered for myself just how much of the abhorrent parts of the world I want to allow into my entertainment. Too much left me a little detached and desensitized, maybe causing me to grow up faster than intended. Parents can't always protect us. They can't always be our gatekeepers. In the case of It Follows, the parents are practically non-existent, allowing their teens to mindlessly absorb the television as the world around them breaks into the house like a rock through a window. Sooner or later, our lack of concern will get the better of us and we'll learn our lessons. 

So I've shared with you my moment. When did your parents fail in keeping your eyes and ears innocent from the ways of the world? Has it followed you into adulthood?

Please share in the comments below.