Parental Guidance

Astro Boy I’m watching the recent movie adaptation of Astro Boy, a year or so after my daughter watched it. There are so many emotional upheavals and elements I probably didn’t want my daughter to see without some conversation. She’s a smart kid, but this movie is all about rejection. There’s tons and tons of situations of emotional discomfort that I don’t consider to be appropriate for an 8-year-old.

How did I miss this? First, the trailer. There’s nothing in the trailer that shows that the entire movie will be about a robot imbued with a child’s emotions forced to deal with rejection over and over. There’s nothing in the trailer that says it’s a giant movie about fitting in clad with robots.

Second, there’s the series. The series wasn’t like this. We (who grew up watching it) know it to be fun and peppy and full of great little adventures. The filmmakers took elements to make the new movie, but opted to imbue it with huge emotional conflicts and make a real adult-scale film.

Parental Guidance

Growing up, I did everything I could to get around ratings. I convinced my folks to let me see Jaws at a very young age. I did that kind of thing a lot. I pushed the boundaries of what was okay to see. I also got them desensitized to letting me see violent films. I want to talk about that for a moment.

Parents seem to worry about violence in movies more than any other element. Well, okay, sex comes first. If you see a topless woman, this is somehow far worse than bullets in the brainpan. But is that really the most scarring thing a child is going to absorb? I say no. I say that heavy emotional issues are far worse than a few guns or boobies.

As parents, it’s up to us to decide what is going to be okay for our child. It’s up to us to watch first, to know what we’re getting them into. And I missed it with this movie. I made assumptions based on the trailer, and I’m really sorry that I did.

Aftermath

My daughter never said much about the movie. She didn’t say that she disliked it. She didn’t say that she found it disturbing. She just didn’t have much use for it.

In fact, the movie’s pretty interesting from an adult perspective. The visuals are great. The acting is good. There are some really salient points and some emotional moments. But it’s not right for my kid.

Parental guidance is a lot trickier these days. The storyteller rules have changed. What we think kids want in a kid’s movie has changed. And animation, as you probably know, rarely means “children’s movie” these days.

Keep your eyes open, and dig deep. It’s amazing what one can find.

  • http://www.penmachine.com Derek K. Miller

    After your daughter didn’t have much reaction to the movie one way or another, why do you still think it wasn’t right for her? I don’t think there’s any need for us parents to protect our kids from movies they simply don’t like all that much.

    Yes, there may be emotional upheavals and things you weren’t expecting in it, but aren’t many of the greatest stories — whether for kids or adults — the ones that stick with us because of those emotional, perhaps disturbing elements? Aren’t most fairy tales that way? Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, even Spider-Man?

    I agree with you that it’s best if we can watch movies with our children, or screen them beforehand to see if they’re appropriate for our particular child, and talk about them in case they raise anything worth talking about. But eventually kids will develop their own tastes, and once in awhile they’ll see something inappropriate, whether by choice or by accident. I’ve come to believe, with my own daughters (now 10 and 12), that it’s good for them to learn how to handle such a situation on occasion, rather than trying to prevent them from ever encountering one.

  • http://www.pamelahazelton.com Pamela Hazelton

    Do you use Netflix? They have a feature there that discusses movies based on kid-friendliness.

  • http://www.thelaunchcoach.com Dave Navarro

    I hear you.

    I always google “(movie name) family review” and it pulls up a few websites (some religious, some not) that talk about how intense or jarring some parts of the movie can be.

    I don’t think kids should be 100% insulated from reality, but it’s really nice to have a heads up of what to expect out of a movie before you go in.

  • http://www.twitter.com/faithinfashion Dena A. Lorenzi

    Good morning Chris!

    Our family uses Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn [www.pluggedin.com] for online movie, video, music, tv and game reviews. I appreciate how the reviews include positive elements, spiritual elements, sexual content, violent content, profane language, drug and alcohol content etc. I’ve found the reviewers to be fair and thorough in their conclusions. I find PluggedIn to be an excellent starting point; it helps me discern appropriateness.

    Here’s what PluggedIn thinks about The Social Network: http://bit.ly/colrtk

    Have a great weekend!

    Best,

    Dena

    Dena A Lorenzi
    @FaithInFashion

  • http://www.twitter.com/faithinfashion Dena A. Lorenzi

    Oops … that url shortener didn’t work sorry … Simply go to http://www.pluggedin.com.

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  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    Great post! I remember my parents going to see Empire Strikes Back before it could be approved for us kids to see it.

    Sometimes the movie is ‘ok’ but parents still need to know what is going on- the stupid movie Barnyard (my husband took the kids to the cheap theater- I took a nap) has bulls with udders. This mistake or whatever has led to many discussions- over media heads believing their audience is stupid- a little bit of birds and bees, etc. Being a parent is tough today!

  • tuxgirl

    I use kids-in-mind.com. It rates all movies on a scale from 1 to 10 on sex/nudity, violence/gore and profanity, then discusses what elements of each are in the movies (it randomizes the order of appearance, so that you can’t get the plot from it). It also has a section at the bottom of “discussion topics”, including anything they can think of that might be concerning to parents.

  • carlo

    i don’t think there should be “PARENTAL ADVISORY” OR “PARENT GUIDIANCE”, BECAUSE PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE NO RATINGS AND BE FREE TO WATCH ANYTHING THEY WANT.