Lacey Byrne, Yellowbrick Staff Writer
At the risk of offending die-hard fans out there, I admit that I couldn’t care less about the new “Star Wars” film. I can appreciate the excitement of returning heroes and epic stories; but for me, it doesn’t appeal. What I do find curious is the snippets of conversations I’ve had with parents about what movies are appropriate for their children. Certainly, when you have little babies and toddlers it’s a no brainer as to whether you should bring them to action movies. But when your child is in elementary or middle school, it can be less clear.
A friend of mine was talking about her husband taking their 9-year-old to see the new “Thor: Ragnarok” movie over Thanksgiving weekend. She was on the fence as to whether it was too violent or not. She commented that she was more comfortable with violence than if there was nudity or sexual innuendo. She paused and kind of laughed, considering that this logic might be flawed.
I was helping a woman at Barnes & Noble shop for her 13-year old who likes graphic novels and super heroes. She admitted she’s OK with violent imagery, but not with nudity.
I find it intriguing that parents are less comfortable with nudity and sexuality than they are with violence. I wonder if the discomfort has to do with the connotation of sexual objectification of women, or if they are uncomfortable with sexual relationships between characters? And is the discomfort the anticipation that their child might ask questions about sex? I don’t imagine a 10-year old would ask why one character was violent towards another; it’s ostensibly explained in the plot. But he or she might ask, “what were they doing?” after a romantic scene.
I would argue that sexuality is more normal than violence. Everyone experiences sexual desire once puberty hits. Most people do not feel the desire to destroy a village, a person, or an entire nation, ever. But, the world we live in today is more violent and scary than when I was a child. If there are plenty of real stories of people opening fire at schools, concerts, and open spaces, then how can action movies appear as an anomaly? Certainly, teenagers and adults know the difference and can sit back and get lost in the fantasy. But how does an elementary aged child know the difference between the big screen and the cover of a People magazine with victims of a shooting incident?
In an article from The Guardian, one mother asks whether it’s OK to take her 3-year old son, Sam, to see “Star Wars” and continue the family love of the story handed down from generations. She seems intent on taking him and dismisses the British Board of Film Classification that describes violent intent and words like ‘hell’ and ‘damn.’ My question is why does Sam need to see this movie right NOW?
Certainly, parents want to bring their childhood memories to their children and create bonding experiences. This seems to have more to do with the parent’s desire than their child’s. I love the movie “Grease,” but will hold off on sharing it with my daughter due to the unwanted pregnancy topic, make-out scenes and Danny’s inability to accept “No” from Sandy during the scene at the drive-in. The difference is that “Star Wars” imagery and merchandise is EVERYWHERE to entice little ones. There are no Barbie dolls of Sandy in her leather outfit for my daughter to see and then beg to watch the movie.
Jeff Vrabel, father and contributor to the website Fatherly, shares his decision making process as to whether or not he should take his 6-year old to see “Star Wars.” Ultimately, despite his desire to share this bonding experience with his child he decides against it.
“It may be a little more intense than he’s ready for. I take that back: He’s ready for anything, but it’ll be more intense than I’m prepared to talk about.”
When it comes to sex and violence, perhaps parents are uncomfortable talking about either. But if they know their child will sit and watch an action packed, somewhat violent film, and not ask questions, they are ready to buy their ticket.
I think Vrabel said it quite succinctly. If you are exposing your child to something which you aren’t prepared to discuss; save it for later when you are ready. There are dozens of films, plays, shows, museums, parks, activities and experiences for your child and you to experience together. After all, the only thing kids care about when it comes to bonding with you is one ingredient: you.
– Lacey Byrne, Yellowbrick Staff Writer