liam neeson on phone

What Hath Liam Neeson Wrought?

Today’s pithy comment comes in response to yesterday’s post about a mom sick with fear because a man (!!!) was in the vicinity of her daughter.

Nothing happened. And yet – because the press is so eager for any story of a child in peril – it reported the “incident” with the gravity usually reserved for a plane crash. (Remember Lenore’s dictum: If something is an “incident” it means NOTHING HAPPENED.)

In fact, it was just a mom whose fear of predators got the best of her — in part, I’m sure, because of news reports like the one about her! As the anchorman notes, “Mom and dad said they have hammered ‘stranger danger’ into each of their kid’s minds.” He sounds sad that their warnings came true.

I’m sad that their warnings ended up warping the mother’s mind. Really – you have to watch the video. It’s pretty remarkable. The mom refused to appear on camera and STILL the station made it into TV viewing. And in reality (I later read) it was just some parks department guy setting up a T-ball game in the field behind the family’s yard.

Okay – so here’s the comment it prompted. It comes from Steve Nations, who describes himself as a happily married father of two mostly grown children, in Oak Park, IL. (Weirdly, the same town that inspired yesterday’s post on Let Grow!):

I think this is part of the “Taken” phenomenon, from the movie starring Liam Neeson.  In that movie his teenage daughter is kidnapped while in Paris with a friend and Neeson goes on a rampage to hunt her down, killing lots of bad guys in the process.  (I thought it was a great movie.  I loved it.)

This movie scenario might seem like every dad’s worst nightmare, but in many ways it’s actually many dad’s greatest fantasy — the idea of heroically saving your daughter from a brutal life as a sex slave.  I think many parents would relish the chance to be that hero. (Instead of being the hero by being a stable and loving presence, being at dinner every night, that sort of thing.)

I think that many parents desperately want to be the kind of action hero we see in the movies, so they let their minds believe that so many people who are just setting up a T-ball game are actually trying to lure their kids into slavery.  These parents desperately want to fight a bad guy, so they let their minds imagine that bad guys are all around.

I think Steve’s right. It’s a mash-up of Mean World Syndrome (the more bad stuff you see on TV, the more evil you think the world is, so you stay inside and end up watching more bad stuff on TV…) and the delicious anger historian Paula Fass describes in her book, “Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America.” She notes that we humans love to feel angry, outraged, righteous, brave, and appalled. LOVE it. Any crime involving a child allows us to feel all those emotions at once.  That’s why the TV station — which must know this was thin gruel — bothered to turn a nothingburger into a two and a half minute story. They are giving us what we want.

They always do.

And so does Liam!




One Response to What Hath Liam Neeson Wrought?

  1. Dave November 10, 2023 at 4:03 pm #

    Thank you. I know too many people afraid of nothing real. Panic first, react, and then feel relief that you child, who was never in danger, is safee.