What do you think about informed parental evaluation of movie appropriateness for children? Do you go by critics’ comments and movie ratings? Or are you like me and look at each movie on a case by case basis to see if your child is ready to watch it?
When I was younger I’d watch Siskel & Ebert’s movie reviews and I’d find myself constantly disagreeing with them. They would say some movies were so excellent, and I’d go out and see them and be bored to tears. Actually, the movies that they said weren’t that great, I many times happened to like. This started me on the path of forming my own opinions about movies, and not paying attention to critics, at all.
When I was in elementary school they just came out with the PG-13 movie rating. Before that, you went from G, to PG to R. Back in the 1980s, TV shows didn’t have any indicators on them suggesting what age-appropriate audience they were targeting. My parents always used their personal judgment for determining if something was too scary, gory, or mature for my brother and me to watch. As children, my brother and I watched Tom chase Jerry, Wile E. Coyote run the Road Runner off of cliffs, and my brother pretended he was the ultra cool Rambo Sylvester Stallone portrayed, climbing trees wearing camouflage, bearing fake guns and plastic knives by the age of 6.
Today, my brother is a police officer and I’m not an axe murderer. I don’t remember either of us having terrible nightmares because of what we were allowed to watch on TV or in the movies. At a young age, my parents explained to us that movies and TV shows were not real, and the things that we saw in the movies and on TV were not things that people should do or say in real life for the most part. We understood, and we always took what we watched with a grain of salt.
To this day, I don’t go by movie ratings or movie reviewers’ recommendations when I decide to see movies in theaters or at home myself. I always evaluate them based upon my thoughts whether or not I think they would be interesting to me. Many times I disagree with a reviewer’s thumbs up or thumbs down about a movie. I also find myself questioning sometimes why a movie was rated as being appropriate for someone who 17 years old or older when you hear worse words exchanged walking down the street every day.
There is no censorship for real life.
Recently, I rented The Hunger Games. I loved it. My 7 year-old heard about this movie from TV and other family members who had seen it and read the book. She really wanted to see it. I was skeptical. I knew that there were violent scenes in it. I didn’t want her to watch it and have nightmares. However, after I saw the movie by myself, I did let my 7 year-old daughter watch it.
Some people may think I’m crazy for doing that. When I watched some of the scenes that some may consider scary, violent or heart wrenching, I felt they were done in good taste. I think the way the movie was done; the scenes were portrayed appropriately without excessive blood, gore, or violence.
I will say that not every child is at the same level of maturity regardless of their age. Not every child can handle watching the same things and not get scared. But blood and gore on the movie screen doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s scary or offensive to everyone. My daughter is much more scared of watching gorillas attack each other – which was featured on the news in a clip a few years ago – than she was watching The Hunger Games. To her, she realizes movies are pretend, but gorillas on the news are very real, and she recognizes the difference and can process the distinction. This is just one example of how one person may view something and be frightened, but yet something seemingly innocuous and rated PG like gorillas in a zoo, can cause unwelcome thoughts and keep you up at night.
The Hunger Games is rated PG 13, but my daughter was not traumatized by it at age seven. We actually talked about a few of the scenes I felt were scary or violent before she watched the movie, and she said she thought she could watch it without getting upset or scared. She really enjoyed the movie after she finished viewing it, and as a parent I can tell l you I’m not the least bit worried she’s going to go out and stab someone as a result of watching it. She hasn’t had any nightmares either and has told me that she felt bad for Katniss having to go out and fight because the government wanted it that way. She walked away from watching The Hunger Games with feelings of sympathy and compassion for many of the characters. (She also wants to take up archery, but that’s just a child’s mind and sense of adventure at work!)
My daughter actually saw National Lampoon’s Vacation recently, too. She knows enough not to repeat certain language because I’ve spoken to her about that; the context wasn’t even just about repeating four-letter words heard in movies, but she understands it’s not something you should do if you hear other people speak like that, as well. As far as Vacation goes, much of the dirty humor goes right over her head, too, because she doesn’t understand it yet. She’s viewing the scenes where Clark Griswold walks through the desert with a shirt around his head as funny, and giggles at the dog peeing on the picnic basket. Her perspective is very different from someone who is twice her age and viewing this film, and I really don’t see her as any worse for watching.
I feel I’m a parent who evaluates movies on a case by case basis and not by their ratings alone. I’m all for the mature and informed parental take on movie evaluation. Before I allow my daughter to watch a movie that may be questionable, I always watch it first and then make a determination if I think it’s appropriate for her or not. Even with movies that the industry rates as G or PG, I don’t just say that she can view them without knowing something about them. What is not scary to one child may be scary to the next, no matter what it’s rated.
If you are a parent and you don’t have the time to research or view all movies before your child does, then I can definitely see how critics’ reviews, watching trailers, or reading ratings can be helpful to you in determining if a movie is appropriate for your child to see. But, I do also think that parents should keep an open mind when it comes to movies and the level of understanding that their children may have at any age. Just because they hear bad language in a movie, doesn’t mean they will repeat it if you give them proper guidance. And just because they see a scene that is bloody, doesn’t mean they will have nightmares. Sometimes the storyline will take precedence in their minds, and if there is adult humor, it will go right over their heads, but they will be able to enjoy the movie anyway.
“May the odds be ever in your favor” – The Hunger Games