My 8 year old nephew was recently looking for the YouTube channel of his favorite Minecraft player, Preston. But by leaving out one crucial letter in his search – “Preston chanel” – the prolific and graphic career of adult actress Chanel Preston came charging at him at 250Mbps.
Similarly, I can’t comfortably leave the room while my kids are watching a YouTube video because of the unpredictability of its autoplay algorithm. The path between the immensely popular and kid-friendly “primitive underground pool building” genre and the “primitive underground pool building sucky fucky sex party time butthole” bot-generated media wormhole is a short one.
Sure, these are modern problems. Our ancestors-as-children were never bombarded with ahegao faces or given the convenience of being able to privately google “Colorado Campfire,” but let us not forget – previous generations were no strangers to gravely gory, disturbing, titillating or otherwise libertine stimuli.
Edward Gorey, Raold Dahl, and the entire Brothers Grimm anthology serve as sordid examples of what kids have been subjected to long before the internet came along. Public executions were considered family entertainment until only relatively recently. Seemingly innocuous “kids” songs like “Rock-a-bye Baby” (depicting a baby crashing to its death) and “London Bridges” (about sacrificing kids in the name of civil engineering) have been lullaby staples for generations. “Big Rock Candy Mountain” (with the original closing verse “I’ll be Goddamned if I hike anymore / To be buggered sore like a hobo’s whore / In the Big Rock Candy Mountains”) is about vagabonds grooming kids.
Every time I think the world has found some fresh, new way to corrupt my children I am reminded that the world has always been an offensive and macabre place. And that those horrifying realities are often set to catchy, hummable tunes for tots.
So if I try to shelter my kids from so much, why then is it somehow acceptable for them to sing a ditty about human decomposition but not witness the craft of Chanel Preston? Probably because getting pounded by another person is a social experience requiring a boundless understanding of societal nuance, while Mother Nature pounds every one of us eventually.
I’d like to thank my mother-in-law for passing down this family classic to my kids. And also thanks to Jill and Ernst (and Lazlo) for setting us straight on some of the lyrics (and for also setting me up on a blind date with my wife some years ago). Tip of the hat to the talented musician and world-renowned hiker, David Rhodes, for adding a plucky string accompaniment. And the biggest kudos to my daughter, Ramona, for proposing and singing and filming this LoveSong of the Month.
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