Now, there’s another term I truly hate. It’s a sorry euphemism for “we all know everything sucks, so suck it up.” It is apparently meant to justify the dulling of normal human sensibilities about what is considered impolite, unacceptable, and outrageous by labeling bad behavior “normal.”

For example, once upon a time it was considered incredibly rude to ignore a letter or phone message. Today, no one need bother answering anymore. In part, this is an understandable reaction to the overwhelming number of unsolicited emails and “junk” requests we send and receive each day. We are awash in a sea of desperation—for a job, a client, a book sale, a crumb of recognition. Everyone wants a piece of us, and so we are all busy dodging pokes while taking a few of own. Why respond to every Tom, Tiffany, and Todd who, with the push of a button, has asked us to purchase whatever they are hawking when we're too busy plugging our own snake oil? The Internet has made it so easy to annoy large numbers of virtual strangers, the “new normal” demands that we each “Just hit DELETE.”

Then there’s the matter of violence—another aspect of this so-called “new normal.” We read news reports of violent gun deaths every day; understandably, we’ve grown tired of hearing about them. We may still get upset to learn that innocent people have died, but we no longer find such stories shocking. Is this because they mirror all the media violence to which we are so regularly exposed, or is it the other way around? Either way, Hollywood has pushed the envelope to the point where there is nothing left to scandalize even the youngest among us.

Case in point: I was folding laundry the other day while my not-quite-13-year-old daughter sat engrossed in a video. I heard a lot of cussing, but decided to hold my tongue. All of a sudden, I witnessed an 11-year-old girl gunning people down with no emotional reaction whatsoever—just "pow-pow-pow-pow-pow” as she calculatedly took out a half-a-dozen or so of her adversaries. I asked my daughter what in the world she was watching, to which she mumbled, “Kick-Ass.” She explained that it’s a film about a high school student trying to become a superhero, and that her dad had given permission for her to watch it.

Okay, the movie is rated R. But even so, it holds irresistible appeal for kids my daughter’s age. (Whereas parents who “weighed in" on the Common Sense Media website say it is suitable for 15-year-olds, kids say the “magic number” is thirteen.) Here’s what Common Sense Media says about the movie (

“Parents need to know that Kick-Ass is a superhero action/comedy based on a popular comic book that kids will be eager to see. But be prepared: It features teen characters, and—most notably—an 11-year-old girl who dole out extreme violence (think slo-mo Matrix-style bloody gunshots to the head) and language (including "f--k" and "c--t" out of the mouth of the 11-year-old) . . . Due to a strong marketing campaign, very positive buzz, and good early reviews, parents are going to have a tough time keeping teens away from this one.”

Naturally, my daughter just rolled her eyes when I expressed concern about her witnessing such mayhem being coolly perpetrated by a girl younger than her. Is it any wonder teens and even pre-teens have become so desensitized to the pain of others that they have no qualms about taking a gun to school and firing randomly at their classmates?

That same evening, I caught a few minutes of Scarface on IFC while flipping channels. A highly provocative movie in its day, it now appeared rather dated, which gave me a chuckle at first. I watched the car chase scene in which Al Pacino (as Tony Montana) grew increasingly irate over the fact that their well-planned “hit” was going awry after the diplomat-target’s wife and two kids got into an explosive-rigged car. The designated detonator (sitting in the passenger seat next to Tony) wouldn’t back off despite Tony’s mounting agitation and nonstop use of expletives. Just when he was about to push the button, Tony blew the guy’s brains out at point blank range, quite literally splattering his gray matter across the passenger-side window. It was a bloody, violent, and quite shocking scene. But at least it made a point: You don’t kill innocent women and children, no matter how ruthless or professional a killer you may claim to be.

Common Sense Media asserts that Kick-Ass has "some arguably good messages about taking action instead of standing by when bad stuff happens.” I suppose in its twisted way, Scarface sends the same message. But does my daughter really need to learn that it’s okay to shoot people up in response to something bad happening at school? At least in my "innocent" day, "normal" meant that all the violent, cocaine-crazed assassins in movies like Scarface were F--ked-up adults.