movies for the kids

Ah me, I love it when the comments provide blogfodder. Amy sez:

Ambivalent about Where the Wild Things Are. I’ve heard it’s too scary to take young children to, and I wonder, then, what’s the point? Because I was excited to bring my boys. (I like In the Night Kitchen better anyway.)

Yeah, I’d heard that Maurice Sendak had a few words for people who thought it was too scary for kids, and there was a follow-up article as well – well, more than one, probably, but that’s the one I read. Both articles made a point that I tend to agree with, which is that childhood is a much darker time than grown-ups remember, and while they should be sheltered from many things, they can handle some scary – in fact, they need to be able to confront their fears in a safe environment.

So I would be very skeptical of any claim that it’s too scary for all kids, by which I don’t mean kids of all ages because yes I know older kids can handle more than younger kids; I mean kids of all characters. There are kids like Ignatz, who at 7 explained to me that Nemo’s mom and siblings had to die in the first scene of Finding Nemo, because if they hadn’t there wouldn’t be a story. Then there are kids like the Sniglet, who used to cry anytime someone on the TV looked sad.

I think the cardinal rule here would be Know Your Kid – know what their fears are, what they’re coping with. I was a nervous child, and the end of Bambi was completely overwhelming for me. The fact that, when I saw it, I hadn’t seen my own mother in two years? Yeah, that probably didn’t help, although to be honest, I bet I would have freaked out anyway. I tend to inhabit movies a little too much, which is why I could never be a movie reviewer, because there are whole genres I can’t cope with, even now.

I read that Where the Wild Things are has a violent father-figure and a smothering mother-figure. I think that’s more helpful than a sweeping “not for kids,” because then I get to decide whether these are issues in our family that might be problematic for my kids, and maybe I should screen it first. So I think the second rule would be that reviewers should not decide what is or is not for all children, but should indicate what sort of themes are addressed.

Not that I disagree with Amy in any way: I just used her comment as a jumping-off point. Thanks, Amy!

Song du jour of the day: Endlich ein Grund zur Panik (Finally, a Reason to Panic), by Wir sind Helden.

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4 responses to “movies for the kids

  • amy

    We were thinking more along the lines of the 5yo. We read the book to both of them, of course. And I don’t shy away from the fairy tales, the REAL fairy tales, not the Disney version–the ones in which dark things happen. Last summer after watching The Little Mermaid for the nth time, I told them the Hans Christian Andersen version, and we talked about it. I didn’t read your links (really, I shouldn’t even be taking the time to comment at the moment) but I would say, yes, childhood can be dark, and kids should not be denied access to stories that explore that darkness, such as fairy tales. Disney-fying them does nobody any good, really. BUT, and this is a big but, having fairy tales with a dark side read to you is a far cry from seeing these images on the screen. I tend to think that our minds, by themselves, are not going to come up with images that we can’t deal with. But when kids are fed images that they wouldn’t imagine for themselves, that can lead to trouble. Am I making sense? Gah, I hope so.

    • alala

      Sure you’re making sense, and I wasn’t really arguing with you, just following up on what I think in general about movies and kids. Your kids are younger than mine, and you know them well enough to know what they can handle, so I’m not here to second-guess your decision, whatever it turns out to be.

      And you’re right about the difference between storytime and movies. The Cinema in Munich has its speakers turned up to 11, so even relatively innocuous movies can be overwhelming. But I think my point still stands, which is that reviewers should let parents know what themes are addressed, and then parents should decide based on their knowledge of their own children.

      And amen to the Disney comment. Gack, they make me so angry!

  • amy

    Oh, I knew you weren’t arguing. We were discussing! I like discussing.

    There was a website that had reviews of movies by parents for parents. Forgot what it was, though. And it might have had a very Christian slant, which might not necessarily be everybody’s cup of tea. I always intend to watch the movies first, but who has time? Which is why my kids see very, very few movies.

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