Thursday, November 10, 2011

With Kids In Mind

Okay. If you have been paying attention to this for long enough, you know I have had a couple of failures in the "monitoring what my child sees in movies" department. Not cataclysmic failures, just regular old failures, but they were horrifying enough at the time. Let me tell you about a couple of the biggies, and the solution I've discovered.
For those of you who care about these things, I am about to throw out spoilers for the films The Neverending Story and Bridge to Terabithia. They are older movies, so I don't think anyone will care, but I felt obligated to warn you. If you don't want to know anything about these movies because you intend to see them in the near future, then cut and run now, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Still with me?
Okay! On we go!
The Neverending Story. We saw it when Handsome was, oh I don't know, three or four. It was in the 'children' section of the video store, and I believe it even had an additional sticker on the box saying it was a 'Family Movie'. It was definitely rated G. It's a fantastic adventure story with all these really neat magical and made up creatures. One of the main characters, someone you follow for a while, is a boy riding a horse. Eventually the boy is riding this horse through a swamp. So far, so good.

And then the horse gets sucked down into the swamp and dies.

Yup. Surprise!
Wife and I were staring at each other over Handsome's head as he watched this boy on the screen of maybe 11 or so scream and cry and pull on the bridle, trying in vain to save his horse. The horse thrashes and whinnies, going down hard. But for all their concerted effort, eventually there is a blop sound, and the swamp swallows up the horse.
I was horrified, and I was in my late 30s at the time! We stared at Handsome, wondering what he was going to make of this. We were amazed.
In a stupendous effort of self-denial, 15 minutes later in the flick, when the boy (now horseless) finds a giant turtle that rises up from the swamp to talk to him, Handsome made his move.
"That's where the horse went," he said, pointing at the screen. "He went under and turned into a turtle!"

Oh. My. God. I love that boy.

It was a near thing. He came to his own rescue on that one, saving himself from some sort of emotional scarring right there. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite that way with The Bridge to Terabithia.
In this heartwarming little film a young boy and girl become friends and have fantastic imaginary adventures in the woods near their homes. The boy is the point-of-view character and he pretty much falls in love with the sprightly, spunky, extremely cute little blonde girl who becomes his best friend in the world.

And then the girl dies.

Yup. Again. No warning, no nothing. Dead. We don't actually see her fall in the river and drown, but we hear all about it. The protagonist cries his heart out over it. He goes to the funeral. He cries. He talks to her parents. He cries. He talks to his parents. He cries. He figures out how to deal with it and come to grips with her death, but what is he doing while he is doing all this? You guessed it.
He cries.
Handsome was traumatized by this. He cried. he Forbade his mother from watching it, because he said it would make her cry. He sat down and (I love this part) re-wrote the movie, with a different ending. I think he was just 5, so it was more that he drew the pictures and told me exactly what to write beneath the illustrations.
In his version, the girl lives.

Both of these movies wound up being unexpected messes for me. If I could I'd go back and make it so that Handsome had never seen that damn sad movie, but I can't. Instead, I found this:
Go ahead, click on it. It will bring you to a site called "With Kids in Mind: Movie Ratings That Actually Work". If you are a parent with young children, this site is a must for you. Add it to your Favorites right now. Forget ratings like G, and PG, this rates each movie on a scale of 1-10 in three categories: Sex, Violence, and Language. And that's not all - they have scene descriptions of whatever anyone has had a complaint about in each category! Their Terabithia entry they actually say " We hear that a girl drowned and we see her parents and friends grieving. "
See, I'd call that right there a clue...
Seriously, I go to this site all the time now. If you are a parent and your child wants to see a movie that looks just awesome in the commercial, but you haven't had time to check the movie out yourself, do yourself a favor and check this site out. Don't be like me. I found out the hard way that people just aren't going to name their movie "That Film Where Someone Dies Halfway Through and Scars Your Child For Life!"
Though it would be fantastic if they would .. and you know that title alone would make all the kids want to see it simply because they're not supposed to...

Okay, got to go. Check out the site. 
Talk to you later!

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