Whoever thought I’d wax nostalgic for the good old days of Disney movies – the destructive messages of serendipitous meetings at royal balls, fortuitous shoe fittings, happily-ever-afters and falling in love with the heroine while she is asleep.

Those of us raised on these movies and these messages require some serious deprogramming before we understand the amount of work involved in building a successful marriage and to appreciate that, as wonderful as it may be, marriage has few (if any) galloping off into the sunset moments.

But I feel a fondness for those good old days because, as damaging as those messages were, they are nothing compared to today’s! (Yes, it’s official. I’ve become an old fogy). The objectification of women has reached new lows with an exclusive emphasis on physical pleasures following close behind. If a relationship is too difficult, it is usually discarded; it is time to move on. Commitment has become a dirty word with the latest trend being the promotion of “serial monogamy”. (C’mon, marriage was never meant to last forever. It’s too hard. It goes against man’s nature, so the argument goes.)

As appalling as we may find these ideas, constant exposure to them has its effect. They seep into our consciousness – and that of our children. They cloud our expectations and influence our viewpoints.

“This isn’t what I signed up for,” an unhappy young woman confessed to me, as images of exotic vacations and dream homes were trampled by needy children and the financial recession.

“She just doesn’t meet my needs,” kvetches a longer-married man to my husband, completely oblivious to the self-centered nature of his complaint.

While our own reactions may be more subtle, we would be naïve to assume that we are not impacted, that some version of what Hollywood (and all mass media) sells hasn’t wormed its way into our subconscious.

Whether it’s our material aspirations, our expectations about our physical relationship (probably more polarized than ever from the viewpoint of each gender) or the types of conversations (clever and snappy – in coffee houses and bars) or our parenting (helicopter or free range – are we parenting chickens?), it’s getting ever more difficult to be on the same page and see our way forward.

Critical Thinking and Discussion

I think we all need to take a step back. We need a little more introspection, evaluation – and conversation.

We have a responsibility to stop before allowing ideas to just permeate our minds without careful examination. What did I just read? Does that idea make sense? A Jewish life is a conscious life. Our job is to choose what we let in, not just be passive receptacles for any idea, no matter how ill-advised or destructive.

The same applies to television and movies. I’m not about to take on Hollywood or the TV industry but I have two suggestions for its fans who are going to watch anyway. The first is to watch together as a family. The advantage there seems obvious. It is, at the very least, a modicum of family time and you will know what your kids are watching (at least until they acquire car keys).

And two, talk about it. I know you’re tired and just want to zone out at the end of a long day but these really are our teachable moments. It can be a simple conversation with a profound impact: What was that show suggesting about men? Women? Their relationships? Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not?

Parenting is not just a full-time job when our children are young. It continues and gets progressively more complex throughout their lives. We need to be constantly aware of the messages that are bombarding our family and available to challenge or discuss them. (No parental speeches; just open dialogue, at the right time.)

It is our job to prepare our children for marriage by giving them a clear-eyed vision of its opportunities and responsibilities and the realistic and practical tools to deal with both, no matter what Hollywood tells them.