My son turned 8 a few weeks ago, and I got him the old movie The Pink Panther. I watched it ages ago, and I remembered thinking that it was really funny. Imagine my horror as I watched this movie with my four small children and realized that one of the central comedic elements was an adulterous wife.
(Spoiler Alert) In The Pink Panther, Peter Sellers plays the bumbling cuckold Inspector Clouseau, whose wife runs around with the very jewel thief he is trying to catch. The movie doesn’t contain any graphic sexuality, which is why we watched it to the end. The movie handled the adultery in a way that very tasteful and humorous. People running in and out of doors and hiding under beds and whatnot. At the end of the movie, the Inspector’s wife conspires with dethroned princess to frame Clouseau for the theft in order to free their beloved jewel thief.
Is adultery really entertainment?
I have a bachelor’s degree in theater, so I’m well aware of the history of the battle of the sexes in comedy. It goes back to the ancient Greeks at least, when Aristophanes wrote a play in which the women of Greece deny their lovers sex until they stopped the Peloponnesian War. People have been laughing about this kind of stuff for a long time.
But is that good? My son has been trying to learn how to tell jokes over the last couple of years. One of the things that I’m trying to teach him is the difference between good jokes and bad jokes. “Good jokes make everybody laugh,” I keep telling him. Body jokes, or poop jokes don’t fly. And jokes that make one person feel sad are completely verboten.
In my youth, my faith and morals sustained serious damage because I watched television and movies that made light of sin. Bad jokes. Movies like American Pie and Revenge of the Nerds trivialize human sexuality and make sinful sexual behavior look normal and desirable. I loved those kinds of movies growing up, because they catered to the surging testosterone pulsing through my adolescent veins.
Now as an adult, I have very different taste in entertainment. Sin fills me with horror, even if, or especially if a movie is tries to make it look like it’s no big deal. I have to work a little harder, but I try hard to find entertainment that only contains good jokes. As a parent, finding wholesome entertainment is well worth the effort. Get Smart makes us laugh over and over.
Looking for the teachable moment.
The climax of the Pink Panther is truly hilarious. Our whole family laughed uproariously as the characters chased each other around in silly costumes. The big ending didn’t really have to do with adultery, and instead showed the Inspector catching the robber. But it still left me with the question of what to do about the central ‘bad joke.’
So after the movie, I asked my children if they thought that Clouseau’s wife was a good wife or a bad wife. They universally said bad. Ok. I’m making progress. But why was she a bad wife? Because she loved money more than she loved her husband. Pretty insightful. We talked about how she was especially wicked because she framed her husband for the crime so he went to prison. I pointed out that Momma was a good wife. They could see why immediately.
At the end of the day, I used the movie to talk about something that I don’t get to discuss a lot with my small children. Adultery is bad. It’s a sin, and it is destructive to families. Watching the movie helped the kids to see that, but I had to draw those connections for them very specifically.
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