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Times are strange, says comedian Elvira Kurt

Remember when we were kids and we’d go down to the local butcher, a shaggy-haired dude, and your mother would order a cut of meat, perhaps a Mennonite raised chicken who went by the name of Agnes who ranged about freely on the organic farm until last weekend.

Mother would smile, “Agnes? That’s my grandmother’s name!” And the butcherista would add, “Well, she was a sweetie right up to the moment she volunteered to have her neck wrung.”

While you wondered who they were talking about, the chicken or grandma, the hipster butcher would render the meat on the spot with tools he forged himself at the local community college in a night class called ‘Welding for Latter-Day Artisans’. The butcher would ask mother if we had plans for the entrails, organs or rosebud. If not, would we like to donate them to the ‘Butcher the Youth Foundation’, a relatively new non-profit that serves street kids, despite sounding like it serves up street kids.

Mother would think about that week’s menu planning and what locally sourced organic produce would soon be delivered from the slow food micro-farm in which we had a share, and base her answer on that. “Not today, I’m afraid.” Sorry, street kids, it’s Offal Wednesday at our place so better luck next time.

Maybe afterward we’d go to the coffee shop with mom, and she’d get a double espresso made from the fair trade bean of the day. If you were lucky you’d get to munch on a freshly made cronut. Remember?

Yeah, me neither. Instead I got hauled off to the supermarket closest to our apartment where I was expected to co-operate or else. ‘Else’ meaning some form of mental and or physical pain concocted out of the dark scary well of my mother’s imagination and inflicted swiftly and sharply without a second thought. Or remorse.

Babies, you’ve come a long way. Thanks to this backlash against hyper-consumerism and soulless corporate branding, my kids live in an age where they have the best of both worlds. Is there anything more olde schoole than me taking them to the fish monger down the street for the catch of the late afternoon, followed by a stop into the cheese emporium to pick out whatever the cheesecrafter tells us is the best bet from teat to table that day? The fact that I do it with no hint of irony couldn’t be more ironic if I tried.

Then it’s out of the cast iron frying pan and into the digital fire, for which I’m sure there’s an app. For my kids the future is now and the big question is always how to let them access that content. Should they watch it On Demand? On demand… holy Veruca Salt! We wonder why our kids are so entitled yet it’s built right into the medium itself: on demand.

“I want The Doodlebops NOW!” If On Demand doesn’t cut it, they can also get it on Netflix, Apple TV, iPad download, my smartphone. I’m so bombarded by requests for screen time, I’m not even sure I own the device they want to watch on. I don’t even have time to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before they ask about the next thing.

At least I draw the line at YouTube. No YouTube. Though even that’s becoming a reliable source of heated conflict between my nearly eight-year-old and me. “But why can’t I watch YouTube?” she pushes. “I’m just watching My Little Pony videos.Not even the whole episode, just video clips.” Uh-huh, okay.

So I scan them and, yes, I can see the clips she’s talking about but I also see a ton of strange crap that makes no sense, weird visual fan fiction where bits of the TV series are Frankensteined together or set to other music. There’s wacky homages from other cultures that involve people videotaping themselves drawing or colouring in My Little Pony characters… sure it’s done with skill and precision but that doesn’t make it any less weird. None of it’s nefarious but all of it makes me uneasy. Why are they doing that? I wonder. 

When I counter my daughter’s logic with an explanation that some content may be inappropriate for her age I hear myself go off on a rant about how adults fetishize the show, taking a sidebar to digress about the grown (largely) male fans who call themselves Bronies. This then merits a tangent into the subculture of Plushies, and suddenly I’m creepier than anything on YouTube.

So I relent. “Fine, you can watch YouTube but only the Judge Judy channel.” At least someone in her life should be laying down the law.

Comedian Elvira Kurt is a mother of two. She can be heard Fridays on CBC Radio’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi and seen every week hosting Mark Burnett’s new game show, Spin Off.


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2013.



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