Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003) s06e08 Episode Script

Stranger Danger

Hi, I'm Penn, and this is my partner Teller.
Tonight on "Bullshit", we'll take a look at the dangers we kids face.
WOMAN: Penn? Teller? What the hell are you two doing? You better not be hosting some strange show for a bunch of strangers.
We don't know these people.
Who are these people? Come on! Let's go.
Oh, man! Mom, stranger danger's bullshit.
PENN: Childhood is supposed to be full of adventure, wonder, and joy.
Yet if you believe what you hear today, childhood is all germs, accidents, and child molesters on every corner.
Yep, it can seem like the entire world exists just to harm our kids.
We live in an era of amber alerts and Megan's law.
Kids are hardly allowed outside to play.
Instead of playing with their kids, parents act like Secret Service agents protecting their little future potus.
Maybe I shouldn't say, "fuck," in front of the c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n, but fuck! Are kids really that fucking delicate? Tonight, we'll cross the country to find out.
We'll meet a mom in New York whose 9-year-old wanted to ride the subway by himself Everybody should be able to do this.
PENN: These two California moms, who'll have a schoolhouse debate about the threat posed by child molesters.
We'll talk to a child psychologist about whether fear of strangers is a bigger danger than actual strangers, and we'll meet this woman, who's a founding member of the Surviving Parents Coalition.
Also, purely in the interest of science, we'll start with one of our famous bullshit experiments, and not that fake fucking Paris Hilton famous-- Real famous like that coleslaw at the fake New York deli down at the strip mall.
We're gonna test the dangers that moms have been warning kids about for generations such as You can't go into the pool until 20 minutes after you eat.
Don't go swimming until an hour after you've eaten.
You'll get a cramp.
PENN: To make our bullshit experiment seem scientific, we hired this lab rat, and we started by giving him a meal that he loves.
Why? We're too fucking cheap to actually pay him.
That, and we had a little surprise in store for him.
Swim, monkey, swim.
Oh, don't worry.
No harm could have come to him.
We had our crew standing by on alert.
The only danger in swimming right after eating is if you don't know how to swim.
Otherwise, absolutely no problem with it.
I'm Dr.
John Rodarte.
I'm a pediatrician.
The thought goes that your blood supply is being shunted away from vital organs down to your stomach and intestines to help digest all that food.
In reality, there's plenty of blood to go around.
It's not gonna cause any kind of danger if you go right to swimming right afterwards.
I think for the most part the--the myth of telling your children not to swim right after eating is really just handed down from generation to generation.
Uh, you know, my moms told me that, their moms' moms told me that.
Uh, so it just gets passed on.
PENN: You cramping up yet, kid? Ok.
Nice work.
You better put your coat on, or you're gonna catch a cold.
Don't go outside without your jacket.
You'll catch a cold.
Don't go out of that door without a jacket on because you will catch a death of cold.
PENN: Well, there's really no ethical way to disprove this one, but we can't let that stop our bullshit science.
That's right, we put our lab rat in this industrial freezer, set at 20 degrees.
Fork over the jacket, pussy.
Hurry it up.
It's fucking cold in here.
RODARTE: There's a longstanding myth that if you go outside when it's cold without a jacket that you're gonna catch a cold.
Uh, actually, totally false.
The temperature outside actually has nothing to do with whether or not you're gonna catch a cold.
It actually is a matter of being in contact with a person who has that cold to transfer it to you.
PENN: This is going pretty well.
The rat's being pretty patient considering.
Let's get out of here and start the scientific medical testing.
Hmm.
Feels okay.
You all right, kid? Excellent.
Oh.
A little overenthusiastic with the thumb there.
Maybe that's a side effect of brain freeze.
We'll examine more of these mothers' myths in a bit, but first, we wanted to learn about the most-dreaded childhood danger.
No, not being in cheesy stock footage that ends up on a show called "Bullshit.
" No, sir.
The most dreaded danger is stranger danger.
So we placed an ad on Craigslist seeking a passionately protective mom, and, Jesus molested in the manger, did we ever find one.
I believe that there's perverts lurking everywhere.
I do.
I do.
Hi.
I'm Ann Frohoff, and I'm a mother, and stranger danger is real, and you can never be too careful.
As the old saying goes, "You'd rather be safe than sorry.
" At least I would.
I would like to know that I could do everything I could to keep my child safe.
PENN: Ann has an 8-year-old daughter and many, many concerns, like about Madeline McCann, the 3-year-old who disappeared from a hotel room in Portugal while her parents were eating at a nearby restaurant.
I just cry tears for these people when they--when they get their children taken away from them like that, but then again, what are you doing leaving your child in a hotel room by themself? PENN: That is a tragic story.
We take it that you'd never leave your kid alone like that? I wouldn't let her probably even walk to school until she was in middle school, and even then, she'd-- I wouldn't let her do it alone.
I have two children, and I certainly don't want anything bad to happen to them.
I too worry, so-- Oh, excuse me.
Oh yeah! Even doing "Bullshit" can't stop me from playtime with my children.
Hi, children.
Did you miss me? Mox? "Z"? Hey, careful with that paddy cake.
Don't want you spraining a wrist.
Buh-bye.
Say bye to daddy.
While enjoying the stylized acting in this particular film clip that we bought, one might wonder are there any moms out there who don't think there are perverts lurking on every corner, ready to grab their kids? In the upper-middle-class, fairly affluent suburban neighborhood that I live in there are not predators lurking on every corner, trying to kidnap your children or sell them drugs or molest them.
PENN: Right, there's not much danger in suburbia.
I'm L.
J.
Williamson.
I'm a writer and a mom, and I believe stranger danger is overblown.
I guess a mom wouldn't say, "Bullshit.
" People have this stranger danger fear because they don't know their neighbors and aren't living in connected communities as much as they once were.
PENN: Hey.
She actually thought about this bullshit.
There's a thing called, called street smarts that can't be taught, and it's not called sitting in your living room smarts.
PENN: You got to love a mom who knows how to craft a sound bite.
In a bit, we're gonna pit this mom against the scaredy-cat one in a sexy cage match to the death, but before that, what else can we do to our little lab rat? Don't sit in front of the TV.
It'll affect your eyesight.
My mother always told me, "Don't sit close to the TV.
You'll hurt your eyes.
" And I always tell my boys, "You're too close to the television.
Back up.
" For our experiment, we played a show we could afford to buy rights to and put our kid 7 inches from the screen.
Get up there.
You'll want to sit close.
I think it's our show on prostitution.
It's a common myth, too, that children sitting too close to the TV can get eye damage or even go blind.
PENN: Hey, hey.
Get up there, you weasel.
30 minutes.
RODARTE: It's really not true at all.
In fact, children have the ability to accommodate to closer vision even much better than adults.
So it's really not true that that's going to impair your vision.
On the other hand, if a child's continually sitting close to the TV, maybe that's an indication that their vision is bad, not necessarily caused by the TV.
PENN: And when kids watch "Bullshit," at any distance, it's not only good for our ratings, it's good for them.
It expands the little bastards' motherfucking, cunt-pickle vocabulary.
It's also been said that "Oh, you'll catch-- "You'll get radiation exposure, or you'll get a brain tumor," things like that.
There's really no substantial evidence that any of that is true either.
We're not gonna spring for an MRI, but look.
A, d, f, h, z, p, t, x, u, d, z, a, d, n, h.
PENN: See? His eyes are fine! Now open the gate and toss in the moms.
What, no cage? Looks like they're just gonna debate in a schoolroom.
Shit.
Sorry.
These are some hot MILWIDS.
You know, Mothers I'd Like to Watch Debate.
Let the games begin! No fish-hooking.
As far as a child getting snatched off the street, um, do you know how rare that actually is? I mean, it's comparable to the number of people that get struck by lightning.
But it does happen.
It doesn't-- It doesn't matter.
It does happen, and you need to make your child aware of it.
What have you taught your children about lightning strikes? There's a thunderstorm predicted for tomorrow.
Yeah, well, you know, there's a lot more human beings in the world than there are rain clouds as far as I'm concerned.
I think that if you make an assumption that you base your life and your child-rearing policies on things like that, it should be based on hard evidence, not on wild speculation because-- Tell that to somebody who's had their child abducted or molested.
PENN: Ann is right.
If your child is that one in 1.
5 million, then that statistic isn't very comforting, but enough guesswork.
Let's talk to an expert, a child endangerment officer from the L.
A.
P.
D.
Dr.
Jared Maloff.
I'm a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, California.
PENN: Or a clinical psychologist, 90210! I think that parents who have the mentality that the outside world is a dangerous place and project that onto their kids are doing a severe disservice to their children.
PENN: And why the fuck is that? MALOFF: These are children that aren't really going to get to feel that the world is a place that is okay to be explored.
They're not gonna be able to make the types of quality, deep, long-lasting relationships with other kids, and as they become adults, with other adults, because they are brought up to feel that people should not be trusted.
PENN: Oh, who needs friends? Aren't there worse things that could happen to these kids because of their overly protective, worrying parents? Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, as well as depression, and children who are raised this way really become at risk for these things as they grow up.
PENN: Okay.
So it's pretty clear.
Parents shouldn't scare the living fucking cunt-shit out of their kids.
MALOFF: Some parents have a tough time backing off and giving their child the room to spread his or her wings.
PENN: You think parents need to take a step back and let their kids try things on their own? What, are you fucking nuts? Don't you know what happens when you do that sort of crazy shit? This woman will tell you.
I mean, I'm really worried about driving in cars and worried about crossing streets, but I think that now people are very overprotective about something that I don't think they have to worry about, which is kids leaving the house.
I'm Lenore Skenazy.
I'm a columnist at the "New York Sun," and I started the blog, Freerangekids.
com.
They really think that kids have to be in those 4 walls for them to be safe because if they leave there's going to be somebody attacking them, kidnapping them, or maybe just raping and killing them.
PENN: And you don't think that's likely to happen? There were, in 2006, 115 incidents of strangers abducting kids, and 40% of them unfortunately were killed, but we're talking about 50 children in a country of 300 million people, including 75 million children, and that turns out to be 1 in 1.
5 million, and if you live your life worrying about 1 in 1.
5 million chances, which people do, you really can't do anything.
Want to be scared? The chances that something will kill your school-age kid this year are 1 in 3,000.
Here are the causes and the probabilities, and there's very few you can do anything about.
Drive carefully, teach your kids to swim, don't give your kids loaded guns, even put a fucking tinfoil suit on your kid before you even start worrying about strangers.
Sometimes weird, horrible things happen, but they're so rare, you can't live your life thinking that that's what's gonna happen and therefore you better not do anything.
PENN: Easy for you to say.
It's not like you'd endanger your kid.
Wait a second-- Is that your kid? My name is Izzy Skenazy.
PENN: That's right.
Lenore created an uproar in New York when she named her kid Izzy Skenazy.
I know.
My kids are Moxie Crimefighter Jillette and Zolten Penn Jillette.
People act like their fucking house is on fire when you give your kid a truly great name like Izzy Skenazy.
Lenore also created an uproar when she let Izzy ride the subway by himself.
Izzy's the kind of kid-- He's very curious.
He wanted to go by himself on public transportation.
I figured, okay.
He was 9 at the time, now he just turned 10, I said, "Sure, let's do it.
" So I took him to Bloomingdale's, and then finally I said, "Okay, Izzy, now is the time," and I went one way, and he, thank God, found his way the other way to the subway.
PENN: Fuck God! Thank Izzy.
This is not actual footage of Izzy's odyssey.
He re-created it for us.
He was probably safer on his own without our skeevy camera crew in tow.
So what happened that day when Izzy's mom left him in Bloomingdale's? Did he stink pretty from a perfume sample? Did he make it home safely on the train? Did anyone bother him? We'll come back in a bit to find out.
Here's a hint.
In the entire U.
S.
, 115 kids were abducted by strangers.
That same year, a study at Georgetown University reported 635 "credible" episodes of abuse by Catholic priests and deacons.
And calm down, we're-- We're not just picking on Catholics.
Many other denominations had numbers as high or higher than the number of stranger abductions.
We don't know how many of the victims were kids, but one thing is clear.
The park or the subway are a lot safer than church, aren't they, Teller? Okay, okay! Cut it out! Let's check back in with our lab rat.
PENN: Did your mom make you throw food away if it fell on the floor? Well, oops! Yep, the floor's not floory enough for our experiment.
So we dropped his sandwich on a freeway overpass.
Oh, and fuck that 5-second rule, kid.
You let it sit there for a full 5 minutes.
There is at least some degree of truth to that in the fact that food can get contaminated when it falls on the floor.
There's no truth to the matter of how long it can be there.
So the typical kitchen floor in your own household--if the food falls on the floor there, chances are your child's not going to get sick.
Now, is there a potential possibility? Sure.
But the likelihood of that is very small.
PENN: Okay, rat, feel like you're gonna puke your brains out? Nice job, ratty boy! No matter how much we even talk about some of these myths that are out there, you'll still get a very large percentage of the population that doesn't believe that they're untrue.
It's just so ingrained in our own learning growing up that we can't possibly fathom that that's not true.
PENN: Talking about the risks posed by strangers can seem very abstract, but it's not that abstract if you're that one in 1.
5 million.
Honestly, I think this world is a lot scarier than I think as parents we want to believe.
Hi, I'm Erin Runnion.
My daughter Samantha Runnion was kidnapped in July of 2002 by a stranger.
She was found molested and murdered less than 24 hours later.
My husband and I were both at work.
My mom was home with the kids.
Samantha's best friend had waited for her on the couch.
And when Samantha was done with dinner, she asked if they could continue to play.
They took their game outside.
The predator did the exact same thing that is so common.
He used the puppy line.
So he said, you know, "I need help finding my lost chihuahua.
Will you help me find him?" And Samantha asked how big it is, apparently.
And at that point, he ran toward her, grabbed her.
She kicked and screamed.
And so I got the phone call, um, when I checked my--my voice mail on my way to the car.
I had 8 voice mail messages on my mobile phone.
And so I, um, I just had to try and keep it together and try not to crash on my way home and stay as hopeful as I possibly could that this was all wrong.
There are no words to describe the absolute panic that your child is terrified and in pain and may never come home.
It was the scariest thing one can imagine.
PENN: Samantha Runnion was killed 11 days shy of her sixth birthday.
Her killer was convicted and is now on death row in California.
Erin Runnion founded the Joyful Child Foundation in Samantha's honor.
Its goal is to protect children from sexual abuse and abduction.
We as parents, I'm all for us being paranoid.
It's our kids that we don't need to push that paranoia onto.
It's our, it's our responsibility to protect our kids, not our children.
They don't need to worry about strangers.
We do.
And we need to stop focusing on stranger danger.
We need to stop focusing on the tiniest pieces of the issue and really look at overall, how is society protecting its children? PENN: Whoa.
What did she say? The problem with stranger danger is that it addresses just a tiny percent of the problem.
The vast majority of both abduction and sexual assault, over 95% of the time, it is someone that the child and the family knows and trusts.
PENN: So we shouldn't be teaching our kids to be afraid of strangers? You know, we don't need to frame this as though the boogeyman is-- is really out there and he's gonna get you.
That's not conducive.
Children don't respond well to fear.
PENN: So, then, what should parents be telling their kids? I would say that my best advice to parents is to use the bathing suit example.
Talk about inappropriate touching and make sure that your child knows that you will love them no matter what and that if anybody ever touches them, hurts them, tickles them in the area that their bathing suit covers or their underwear, to tell you.
You can keep it that simple.
We just have to stop for a second.
Erin Runnion has experienced the worst thing anyone can possibly imagine, and yet she's still coming at this from a rational, statistics-based point of view.
It's astonishingly brave and humbling.
We don't think we could do it.
So most of the time, stranger danger is a little like our worries about swimming after you eat or getting sick from the cold.
RUNNION: Kids need their freedom.
At some point they're gonna have to take care of themselves, so it's better to--to start empowering them and giving them the confidence that they can handle that and that they can handle their world than to make them so afraid that it's just an evil place.
PENN: And what about Izzy, the kid whose mom let him take the subway alone in New York at 9 years old? Poor Izzy must have been scared shitless.
Uh, sorry, Ms.
Skenazy, I--I-- I mean, uh, poopless.
I knew I was ready for this because I've always loved Manhattan and, like, the transportation and the buses and the trains.
PENN: Tell us about your trip, Izzy Skenazy.
IZZY: So I got on the downtown train, and I knew the street that I lived on, got off there, and then I took the cross-town bus.
PENN: Cool! But you probably wished your mom was with you.
IZZY: I was really happy that I got to go by myself without my mom because with my mom it makes me feel tiny, like I'm a regular baby.
PENN: And how did the world find out about this? I wonder if this would be something interesting for people to read about, me letting my son take public transportation home.
And apparently, it was bizarrely interesting to the entire world-- Boy takes subway and lives! And were you shocked by the reaction? I was completely.
I'm still shocked.
I'm shocked I'm talking to you.
I mean, it's really, to me, it's the equivalent of boy rakes leaves.
I think the media has turned us into a quivering mass of jelly a-scared of our own shadow.
Well, good for you for actually giving your kid the chance to prove he could do this.
What he did is what any kid would have done a generation ago.
What happened? One generation, we went from, "Sure, kid, here's your token, get on the subway," to, "[gasp] Don't do that.
" How did it change so fast? But it did.
Fucking fine question.
What do you think? I think it changed with the advent of cable TV.
I think that people are hearing so many more things so far removed from their local news about horrible things happening somewhere in the world that we've totally lost our perspective.
We kids are tough.
You can't protect us from everything.
We don't want to be you.
We have to be our own people.
Sure, we need--we need you take care of us, but we also need to learn to stand on our own.
We're the future, and we can't let the future be scared of bullshit.
That was very good.
Yeah, that's right, yeah, yeah.
Enjoy the future.
Here, have a snack.
Thanks.
- Aah! - Aah! We'll let Izzy have the final word.
When I was on the train by myself, I felt like I knew everything just because I knew that one thing.
And I love knowing that I know a lot.
I think that's a great feeling.
Quick Sync n' Edit: VeRdiK