A.O. Scott, film critic for the New York Times, has a fascinating article about taking children to PG-13 and R movies.
Now, before you don your Puritan garb and start chanting “Burn him! BURN HIM!” I think his argument deserves some merit. Obviously, he doesn’t advocate taking your 4-year old to see Saw IV. But he does make an astute point about the need to support—and more important, challenge—our children in the kinds of movies they watch.
He observes: “The mind of a child is made for learning, and even movies that have no explicit didactic intention can teach a lot. An adult companion is helpful to provide explanations. Which is what may make some parents uncomfortable: not the bad stuff their sons and daughters will see, but the difficult stuff they may find themselves asked to explain” (par. 6-7).
I spent Christmas with my nieces (ages 5 and 1.5) and saw a lot—a lot—of Veggietales and Disney Princess movies. Not having seen Veggietales films before, I was actually quite impressed by the strong narratives of each flick, because they refused to dumb content down for their viewers. (Okay, fine, I admit that I also secretly like Bob and Larry.) But the Disney Princess movies were another story altogether. Oy. They were largely seizure-inducing Pepto Bismol-drenched CGI with absolutely no redeeming value. I think seeing those two types of “kid-friendly” films back-to-back-to-back made me realize more fully the need to use our media to challenge our kids cognitively and emotionally.
I think we can be smart and intentional about the kinds of movies we experience with our kids. After all, entertainment shouldn’t be the only outcome of our movie-going experiences. While I enjoy dumb action flicks every once in a while, the movies that resonate with me emotionally or intellectually and that I have conversations with friends about afterwards are the ones I know will be in the DVD collection eventually.
In his article, Scott notes, “There is pleasure to be found in bewilderment, in the struggle to make sense of what is just above your head, and there is wisdom as well” (par. 3).
It’s something that we often forget in the maddening consumerism of film.
Disclaimer: I have no kids. That I know of.