Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Ratings for Immature Audiences

"Did you check the rating?" asks my kid. We're at the movies to see Mr. Holmes (2015). "Yes," I assure him though I've only just checked a moment before. A few days prior I had been caught off guard when a parent sent me a link to all of the offensive moments in a film I planned to take three elementary students to see. It was a Science on Screen Athena Cinema event with a lecture from a naturalist and birder from the co-founder of the Ohio Bluebird Society and conservation education co-ordinator from the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District, followed by a film.

Summer brought hummingbirds and interest in identifying birds so a lecture and movie about bird watching seemed like a great transition for the first day of school. Ratings schmatings.

Yeah, I know about Common Sense Media. I just keep forgetting to check every single thing I expose my children to let alone what they expose themselves to when not even trying. Besides, my own childhood memories of horror scenes cured me of all desire to watch that genre and has saved me from countless hours of tedious movie watching. Profanity, sex, nudity, violence, and gore are not easily avoided whatever medium viewed. It generally does help to consider offensive things through the context of the story. Stories all about shlock and violence do nothing, but take a story that moves through them and goes somewhere else like The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and it becomes something powerful and worthwhile, but not for kiddos. Navigating ratings and stories with childrearing requires an appreciation for individual differences even at the same age.

One child hides their face during a kissing scene in practically every movie, the other watches. One child asks to read a book that another refuses. Kids know when they are ready, especially if you talk to them about what they are reading and what your concerns are. I may rely too much on trusting my children to talk about disturbing scenes and issues, but it hones the ability to talk about uncomfortable subjects.

"The movie may contain some profanity and nudity," I say to the three kiddos sitting around the kitchen table eating cheese rice. "What's profanity," asks the guest child. I look at their faces wondering if my own children will answer the question. Everyone is looking at me. No one appears to know the what profanity means. "Words you may know as cuss or curse words," I say. They all nod in understanding. They've learned a new vocabulary word, I think to myself. "Well, any questions," I ask. The kids are back to eating cheese rice. "You can always close your eyes if something makes you uncomfortable in the story or ask your parents if you have any questions. Remember things that are part of telling a story are there because they mean something to the storyteller," I rattle. The talk turns to other things. I extract myself from the conversation, feeling that enough has been said.

My fav example of the say less approach of parenthood happened years ago when from the rear car seats one child, out of the blue, says, "Aunt X is married to a girl." I look up and into the mirror to see the faces in the backseat. They are both looking out the windows. "Yes. Some women are married to women and some are married to men," I say with more nonchalance than I feel. I guess I expected some grilling that never came. I held my tongue in truth because I didn't know what else to say, but in holding my tongue I realized, they had all the information they wanted.  Kids will ask more questions when they want to know more. I've been a fan ever since.

One kiddo ducked, as usual, at the sight of an on screen kiss, but we all enjoyed the A Birder's Guide to Everything (2013) even with the offensive moments and PG-13 rating because the story worked and it made us laugh.