|A couple of years back, I went with my father to see the the movie “JFK”. My father is a great one for conspiracy theories, so he loved it. We arrived just after the movie had begun. As my eyes accustomed to the light, I suddenly noticed that in the seat beside me was a boy of about 8 years of age.
If you've seen it, you'll recall that “JFK” is not by any stretch a children's movie. Engrossing as the film was, I found myself glancing at this small boy during the film's more explicit scenes. What was he making of the multiple replaying of the actual footage of President Kennedy's head being ripped into by bullets? The unsettling autopsy scenes? Or Oliver Stone's version of a homosexual orgy thankfully more suggested than displayed? The boy's face seemed almost blank and impassive, he stared fixedly, mechanically feeding in popcorn and coke.
I couldn't help wondering “;What kind of deadhead parent would send an 8 year old to this movie?” Perhaps they didn't even know. Perhaps they just drop him off at the Theatre Complex with $25 every day of the school holidays, and let him choose for himself cheap child care!
Some serious concern has been emerging recently from parents, about movies that are even INTENDED for kids. I first noticed this when I saw the Batman movie - it had been promoted very much to children, and youngsters of 4 or 5 years of age collected the heavily marketed toys, t-shirts, and lunchboxes. Fast food chains tied in their marketing with the film's release. Yet the movie was actually quite adult dark, violent, macabre, sexual, and scarey, especially on a huge screen in loud stereo. It was pitched to a mid-teens audience, suited only to adults, yet marketed to children down to toddlerhood. I've no doubt that millions of parents took their youngsters along, then felt a dim unease as they sat in the theatre seats watching the movie unfold.
“Jurassic Park” was another disappointment hugely hyped, expensively made it was beautiful in one or two scenes, technically masterful, and yet as far as plot, characterization, or message, it was a cheap horror flick. A scream movie, not a little kids film at all. You came out feeling like your spirit had been stomped on by a T-Rex.
But back to the present. A new Disney movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” will soon have kids pressuring their parents to go along - and parents agreeing. After all Disney equals wholesome, right? And Notre Dame that's culture, ain't it? Educational! Not according to parents who have seen the movie in the U.S., and have been besieging Disney executives, and sending angry letters to the editor and parenting chat lines.
Hunchback fits the new money spinning formula sex for the teenagers, murk and violence to add spice, and cutesiness to get the littlies in. It's called a crossover market but the problem is, it sends messages you wouldn't want your kids to have. One scene combines seduction, violent lust and a character who declares “If I can't have her then I'll kill her!” It's a movie Ivan Milat would enjoy!
Parents Soup magazine recently reported that,
The MPAA ratings board also had some misgivings about that scene. In order to win a G rating, Disney studio chairman Joe Roth had to make two minor adjustments. But some child-development experts are distressed by the rating. “I'd hope preschoolers wouldn't go to this because they would feel very helpless,” says Nancy Boyd Webb, director of Fordham University's Child and Adolescent Therapy program. “Parents think if it's Disney, they can take little kids. It's not appropriate.” Other experts note that children under 7, who can't distinguish between fantasy and reality, might find the more violent scenes distressing.
Sex is a powerful and positive part of life, and like every teenager I was acutely aware of it and its associated messages. I remember Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.” with particular affection! Yet it's remarkable how sex gets linked in the media with unhealthy associations with hurting people, dehumanizing them, debasing them. A boy with poor social skills, low self esteem, and little chance to relate in healthy ways to real live girls, doesn't really need this kind of linkage.
You care about your kids or you wouldn't be reading this. Your kids could probably WITHSTAND seeing films like this. But that's about all. However, boys with little or no fathering or proactive teaching would take a message about what life is like, what women are like, what love is all about, and hooked onto the power of their pelvises slip gradually into being the kind of men we don't need more of.
I wouldn't take a kid under 8 to see this movie. In fact, I'd rather go fishing.