Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scary Movies

Tomorrow we are taking Noogs to her first theatrical movie, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. We spent some time debating over whether or not she was old enough, at 3 1/2, to go to the theater, but there were several factors that tipped us toward allowing it. First of all, she can sit through a feature-length movie at home, so her attention span is long enough now. Secondly, she loves the Wallace and Gromit shorts (and has in fact literally worn out our videos) so she's familiar with the characters and the style. If it weren't a movie about Wallace and Gromit I don't think we'd even consider taking her to the theater. And third, the monstrous were-rabbit reportedly wears a bow-tie, so there's a limit to its fright-value. I'm wary of scaring the pants off my small girl, but I think that Wallace and Gromit is gentle enough to thrill her without leading to nightmares.

This discussion led us to recall all the times that we have seen (or have had anecdotes told us about) small children taken to see a movie that is most obviously for adults. Darwin's uncle told us a bizarre tale about the time he went to see Pulp Fiction at a 10 pm showing. A family with five small children (who all looked to be under ten) filed in, sat through the first thirty minutes, and then left, the mother loudly berating the father in Spanish. Half an hour later they all returned and sat quietly through the rest of the movie. Perhaps there were no children's movies to sneak into at that time of night? But who in their right mind could think that Pulp Fiction was an appropriate movie to see with children in tow?

A few months ago, I hired a lad down the street to clear some rocks from my front yard. I sat out and chatted with him while he worked, and we got to talking about movies. I asked him what was his favorite movie, and he replied that he liked Freddy and Jason, and Alien vs. Predator. Ladies and gentlemen, this was a ten-year-old boy who had seen both of these slasher films in the theater with his father.

"I don't much care for those sorts of movies," I said.

"You mean killing movies?" he asked. "I love that stuff."

When I was six or seven, my parents went out with another couple and left myself and my younger brother at the couple's house in the care of their fourteen-year-old son. When the adults had gone, this fellow promptly called over a friend and they sat down in the living room to watch Poltergeist. I'll never forget how my brother and I cowered in terror in the dark kitchen for two hours, trying desperately to block all sound of the movie and fearing to pass by the doorway in case we should see any of it. This event was probably the catalyst for my abhorrence of horror movies to this day (and has fueled a resolve to be extremely cautious in my own choice of babysitter...).

Now I recall watching Masterpiece Theater with my mother when I was young, which probably has something to do with why I'm such a fan nowadays. But Masterpiece Theater is adult programming in the best sense of the phrase -- quiet, mature, and thoughtful (generally, I mean). I didn't understand what I was viewing, but it didn't alarm me or give me nightmares. Of course, if anything age-inappropriate did show up, my eyes were promptly covered (to my great indignation, and against all my protests). But I have pleasant memories of sitting watching television with my mother because I knew I was safe and that she would never let me watch anything scary. What a terrible thing it must be for a child, not to be able to trust that your parents will do all in their power to keep you from being frightened.

[I will note that I myself once took a nursing child to a movie (after consultation with Darwin, we believe the movie to have been Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, so we should have just waited until it came to the cheap theater) but I knew that she was new enough to eat and sleep through the show. I wouldn't do it again, however -- I was in agonies the whole time that she would let out a yell. That's why we left four-month-old Babs with the babysitter for the premiere of Return of the King -- she was such a feisty child that I doubt she would have noshed quietly through such a loud movie. But I would never take a small child to watch a movie that was inappropriate for her age and understanding.]


Anonymous said...

At approximately 1:30 a.m. 2 become 5 in one queen size bed. It's all because of Scooby Doo. Our little one's (3, 5, and 6) love Scooby Doo in the daytime.

I feel like such a bad mom for letting them watch it. I figured if they saw the mask being pulled off of whatever the "monster" was, they could handle it because it wasn't really a monster.

I think we opened a door that was closed to them and we introduced the idea of ghosts and monsters by allowing them to watch. I suppose kids eventually will start to have those kind of thoughts on their own; I don't know. But, I'm kicking myself for bringing it on prematurely.

I just want sleep!

Darwin said...

Hmmm. Better keep them away from that Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin's parents rip off their masks and reveal themselves to be slobbering aliens about to turn Calvin into stew...

We routinely have our two become four (I didn't take all that sacramental talk about marriage quite seriously enough!) in our queen bed, but it tends to be in around 5am, when the girls suddenly decide that it's time to go snuggle with Mommy and Daddy for the rest of the night. (I think the logic is that by then they've kicked off all their blankets, and joining the familial pile is a surer source of warmth for a sleepy toddler than just pulling the blanket back up.)

Speaking of which, I think they're in our bed now, which leaves me to wonder why we aren't there...

Anonymous said...

Dude, I was *terrified* of the Calvin & Hobbes strip when I was young.

Actually, I still don't read it.

Anonymous said...

So what were your thoughts on W&G being appropriate for preschoolers? My husband is sick to take our 4 1/2 year old. I'm nervous after reading this.

mrsdarwin said...

I'll post a review soon (promise!), but here it is in a large nutshell: although it didn't have quite the same quality of sweetness that the shorts have, and despite having a few slightly inappropriate adult gags -- jarring mainly to the adults; I honestly think they'd fly right over the heads of small ones -- I didn't find anything content-wise to worry me. In fact, the biggest problem that we had was that Noogs was terrified by the two transformations of the Were-Rabbit. I thought we would have to take her out of the theater... However, she didn't have any nightmares, and doesn't even seem to remember that part when she talks about it. All in all, it's mostly harmless family fare: generally charming though not quite as innocent as the shorts. I'd let her watch it again, though I don't know if I'd buy it when it comes out on video. Maybe.

Anyway, I think a 4 1/2 year-old would definitely enjoy it. The worst part was certainly the previews -- I HATE the look of that new Pride and Prejudice, and what they've done to Curious George beggars belief.