Some things to consider when you take kids to the movies. Anything you take them to, they will consider you are endorsing. Although the movie ratings system gives more information than it used to, there really are things to consider beyond language and gratuitous violence. For example, what message is the movie overtly giving? What message is the movie covertly giving? Most movies, for example, depict teachers as stupid and useless. Fun loving teens have no problem outsmarting them, sassing them, even cheating on their home work. While this is often written into the script in a manner that is amusing, ask yourself if this is something a 12 year old needs to see. Are you already in fights over the homework? Why not let them enjoy that kind of movie on their own dime as young adults over the age of 18?
In this same vein, many supposedly heartwarming stories for kids revolve around "underdog" situations. The bad news bears, the might ducks, the big green, they all were really lousy teams that some how against all odds win at the end. How is this winning accomplished? Usually a new coach comes to town. As if everything can be fixed by some one external influence. If practice is filmed at all, it's generally in an MTV segue with time lapse photography. We are asked to imagine a season of drills has gone by, but none of the actors is every shown tired, or sore, or going to practice when they really don't feel like it. Once again, you might want to ask yourself, if you are going to spend money, in addition to time, at the movies do you need to reinforce the message that some people get ahead with no effort?
Especially if it's a DVD or video tape situation, your child might be watching the movie over and over and over again, memorizing dialog in a manner that wasn't even possible a generation ago. While books tend to emphasize effort, sacrifice and brains, movies written for kids often don't. If you want your kid to do well in sports getting out in the backyard with them would do them more good than watching a movie about it. Or buying a kid aerobic tape, or a kid yoga tape would give them something to do inside. Once values are firmly established, they can watch, if they are still interested, a movie like that when they are over the age of 17. Chances are, though, if you've raised a competitive champion, a movie like that would irritate them.
Once of the most dangerous messages sent to kids in subtle ways is the message that true love is defined by over coming difficulties in a relatively short time period. Girl meets boy, girl and boy have nothing in common, neither family nor friends approve of match, none the less a few weeks later Romeo and Juliet are riding off into the sunset together. These movies are usually marketed as "chick flicks." I think adults can enjoy them as a fantasy, in the same way we liked fairy tales as kids. The problem is, I see parents bringing younger and younger children to these kinds of movies. A child who has never had a relationship has no idea that finding the love of your life after a one night stand is a bad idea.
In the famous "Officer and a Gentleman" movie, not only is the female lead bedding the male lead after a few hours of meeting in a bar, but she is depicted as someone who does that routinely. We are never really told how many frogs she had to "kiss" (and I use that euphemistically ) before she meets Mr. Right. Of course not, because in real life the main characters would have been knocked up or received a venereal disease or something else unsavory, and that doesn't film well. I am not suggesting that these films aren't entertaining. Who doesn't like to see good looking people get together? I am only saying proceed with caution if you are taking youngsters to see them.
My former sister-in-law took her family to see Will Smith's incredibly popular film "Independence Day." Mr. Smith's character has a girlfriend who is a single mother and a pole dancer, a stripper of all things. When I pointed out to my young niece how unnecessary, even unlikely it seemed that an officer would date a "working" girl, she replied that it was "romantic." Gee. And it would be less romantic if she had been an over worked waitress? How about a maid? I think it's sort of sad a 14 year old girl would find it romantic that men visit clubs to find their next mate. And for teen boys I think it's an even worse message.
Hollywood loves to put forth images of the "hooker with a heart of gold." Many of the women who work in the sex industry are victims of some very sad circumstances. One hundred per cent of the ones I've met were molested as children. It's not that they don't have their story. That doesn't make them viable partners for functioning, loving, mutually supportive relationships. While that may seem totally obvious to anyone over the age of 30, it was clearly not so obvious to my teenage niece and nephew who shrugged off my critique of their favorite movie indifferently.
Ok, so you say to yourself, it's just a movie. It doesn't matter. My kid won't have any chance to meet sex workers anyway, so what's so wrong with "Pretty Woman"? Julia Roberts is quirky and funny and I want my kid to see her end up with Richard Gere and live happily ever after. It's because it does matter when your quirky and funny teen age daughter is moping and crying after a boy who treats her like a sex object. A boy who has no consideration for her, and she blurts out her many complaints about him over and over to anyone who will listen. You wait, you wonder, why doesn't she dump him? You love your daughter, you don't understand. . . it was that steady diet of Hollywood romance films that have inadvertently prepared her to accept all kinds of outrageous behavior. She thinks the director is going to make it all end up alright.