Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kids at the Movies

My husband and I finally went to see  'The Amazing Spider Man" at the second run theater last night.  We were running a little late so I ran and grabbed seats and sat through a few previews while he made a pit stop and followed a couple of minutes later.  When he joined me he mentioned that a family had come in with him that included a boy that looked about five.  So I looked a little more closely at the dark theater and was a little surprised to see a few more kids there that seemed to be about Alice's age or younger. 

I figured since it was a second run many of the parents may have already seen the movie and thought their kids could handle it, however, it did remind me of a few other experiences with movies not intended for kids. 

When "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" came out, a friend and I went and the family behind us made it clear they felt we shouldn't be there because we didn't have any kids in tow.  She said, "people who come to cartoons without kids, just make it harder for the kids to see".  Rolling our eyes, but being polite, my friend and I invited the family (that was annoyed about our height but had sat down after us) to trade seats so the kids could see.  but didn't let it get to us - the movie was rated PG after all (that memory made me chuckle.  The family left grumbling halfway through about a cartoon not needing to be so serious). 

I was also reminded of the mother at the Elementary/Middle School I worked at first that felt I should help the kids put on a school musical (I don't know why she thought the science teacher was the person for that particular job, maybe it was the dance background).  It wasn't a bad idea, what WAS crazy, was that the musical she recommended was "South Park, The Musical".  It was a cartoon ans without ever watching it, she allowed her son and his friends to watch it regularly from fourth grade on.  When I asked her about it, she started to realize she didn't really know what the show was about.  Her son was annoyed a year later when she was "on him for watching too many cartoons". 

The memory that left me annoyed in particular, I was that of the time when Alice was allowed to watch the OTHER "Spiderman" at a gym child care center (she was three as were many of the other children there - I was livid by the way).  She still asks why the green guy was so mad at Spiderman from time to time. 

Back in the present, the previews that were playing let me know I wouldn't think the movie was alright for Alice - there was a moment or two that were a little too intense for her in "Brave"- but you know, every kid is different.  Just as there are parents that would disagree with my stance on certain reading material for teenagers, there are also parents out there that are more lax about the movies their children see than my husband and I (and some that are stricter).  I also argued with another mother at our theater about showing puss 'n' boots multiple times back stage (I thought the movie was fine, but had themes and events (sucicide, sexual jokes, etc) that were too old for the younger kids that were playing the munchkins (four and older) including Alice.  Once was bad enough, but I thought showing it 3 nights in a row was a bit much.  Just because it was her seven-year-old daughter's favorite didn't mean it was appropriate for everyone else.  Maybe I'm too cautious or maybe mine is just extra sensitive - in fact I know mine can be at times, but I'd rather be too careful than not careful enough. 

It didn't take very long after the movie started before I could hear kids asking their parents questions and then the minute the villian showed up a few kids started crying.  The thing that was amazing to me? none of these children were taken from the theater!  Not that I think they deserved punishment, but I did think they deserved a respite from the scary and confusing visuals they were being given before they were ready for them.  The kids did calm down and the noise was minimal (and the movie loud enough) that my husband and I still enjoyed the movie and our date, but I really did feel for the kids.
Based on conversations I've had (and observations I've made), a lot of parents aren't putting a lot of thought into what their kids see these days.  I am referring here to the theater, rentals, DVD's AND Television.  If it isn't "R", at least where I live and in some of our circles, kids are allowed to see it.  Even at a market research meeting I was a part of about a movie meant to go straight to DVD, half the mothers reported they don't really pay attention to what their kids are watching.  If a DVD is marked as being for kid's within two years of their kids' age, the kids watch it regardless of what might be on the film.  Most of the mom's responded that sounded about accurate.

Now, lest you think I'm just being judgemental about allowing kids to see movies with certain ratings, my child has also seen some "R" films, but never before I've seen them.  I think parents know their kids and generally what they are ready for and can handle.  It is the parents that let their kids cry and whimper from fear during a movie in a theater rather than excusing themselves knowing a mistake was made that make me question whether those parents were thinking about their kids. 

It did make me think that I might share with my readers the resources we use for choosing movies for Alice to see and how we think that through.  That way, for those of you that would like to be careful, you have just a few more resources at your disposal (if you hadn't found these already) 

Here is a website all about the MPRatings System and what each rating means as well as the things considered when a rating is determined.  Based on these definitions, even in my Middle School Classrooms (which had a few kids under 13, PG and anything higher was off-limits unless kids had a signed document saying their parents knew about the movie we would be watching and were okay with it.  The rules are the same in my house for Alice's friends - Only G unless the parent has okayed other options prior to a child's stay.  I figure this is considerate toward other parents, not because I think the kids can't handle it.

This site gives you an idea about the content and message of each movie rated:  Kids in Mind.    The site distinguishes between the existence of high amounts of violence, profanity and sexual content for the parent so that if, say, you don't care about letting your kid see violence, but think she/he isn't ready for the sexual content, you can make your decision accordingly.

You can also subscribe to a newsletter at Fish.com.  We don't see movies often enough for me to wish to subscribe, so you'll have to tell us about the quality in the comments if you subscribe already or choose to do so.

Of course imDb.com also offers up the MPAA ratings AND if you look hard enough, there are descriptions about why movies have a certain rating.  My husband pulls it up on his phone if we are out and about and trying to choose something to go see (he has the more high-tech and up-to-date cel).  It seems accessing this on the phone is easy enough, but I admit I haven't pulled it up myself.

Now, if only there was such an easy way to get an idea of what is in a book you are considering letting your child read.


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