Friday, January 11, 2008

Age Appropriate?

A. O. Scott has an interesting piece in the NY Times today about taking kids to films that may not be "age appropriate." You can read it for yourself:

Take the Kids, and Don’t Feel Guilty

My husband and I have only taken our three-year-old daughter to see three movies in the theater: Enchanted, Ratatouille, and Mr. Bean's Holiday, all of them proper for her age group. At home, however, she has seen many things that might not be considered children's fare. She and my husband have watched The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly multiple times, and she loved Sleeper when she and I watched it together, although I had to draw the line at her request for a picture of Woody Allen in her room. What would people say?

Monster movies are standard father-daughter fare in our household, which made me nervous at first, but which doesn't seem to affect her adversely at all, except that she enjoys pretending to be a monster. She also makes up some pretty amazing monster stories. She might just be a weird kid, though. About a year and a half ago, I took her to Bugaboo Creek. The talking moose made her cry, but the minute he stopped talking she'd say "Please, more!" Like her father, she seems to enjoy the adrenaline rush of being scared.

In our home, then, we are fairly liberal with what we'll let her watch. I am more censoring than her father, but we generally agree. Where I part ways with A. O. Scott is on the promotion of taking children to age-inappropriate movies in the theater, and this is for purely selfish, grow-up reasons.

I saw Amistad in a theater. Directly behind me was a rather upscale family; in my memory's eye the father was dressed in a tux, although I think I'm exaggerating in retrospect. At any rate, they were extremely well turned out. Between the mother and father sat two little girls, probably around 6 and 8. The girls asked a million questions, and the parents answered them all, in great detail. Intricate explanations of the Atlantic slave trade and racism and the American Revolution were given in patient and thoughtful tones. Perhaps this is what they did when they were home in their media room, sharing an edifying family experience while cook tidied up from supper. I did not find the experience edifying. When I would turn to glare, the father would give me a little shrug with a "Gosh, I'm sorry my adorable children have so many precocious questions" smile. In the end, I moved forward several rows, but spent the rest of the movie seething.

Perhaps A. O. Scott's children have been properly trained in movie theater etiquette, but why on earth is he encouraging the narcissistic parents of gifted children to spoil my future viewing of Persepolis?

My adorable, gifted and precocious child not be attending the new Woody Allen film with me. She will attend matinee showings of children's movies where her whispered questions and my whispered responses blend into the general cacophony of temper tantrums and sugar meltdowns. Grown-up movies can wait until she can sit straight though to the credits before turning to me in the lobby to say "It just wasn't as funny as his earlier work."

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