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CANYON COUNTRY, Calif. — I failed at parenting yesterday.
At the end of the day, the scorecard read, Mom: 0, Hollywood: 3. It was a low-scoring game, like soccer or women’s basketball. I'm sure a better mother would have looked up reviews on "ParaNorman" before taking her child to the theater.
A more prepared mother would have known that the film advertised and geared toward kids has actually been deemed inappropriate for most kids. But I hadn't been warned and when "ParaNorman" popped up in the previews before "The Lorax," I was duped into believing it was just another animated film we could look forward to seeing as a family.
I hate being duped.
Hollywood: 1, Mom: 0
So, to beat the 110-degree heat, we high-tailed it to our local theater and joined the audience full of children and parents. We paid more than $30 for tickets and $30 for food. I felt particularly old and crotchety when handing over my ATM card and complaining that, "When I was young, movie tickets were only $3!" I left out the part about walking to the theater uphill, both ways, on glass.
Hollywood: 2, Mom: 0
The lights dimmed and that familiar feeling of anticipation and excitement set in across the theater. I looked over at my daughter who has inherited my love of movies and passed her the popcorn.
It's bad enough when you have to pay an arm and a leg for a lame movie, but it's twice as bad when your child picks up bad habits from it as well.
From the makers of "Coraline," "ParaNorman" is a visually beautiful, stop-motion animation film that starts off decent enough. But about 30 minutes into the film, the story took a dive. My husband leaned over and whispered, "Isn't this the same plot as 'The Sixth Sense'?"
It became obvious that our family was suckered into seeing another disappointing film. The plot was weak and no matter how much I wanted to care about the main character, I didn't. More importantly, my daughter didn't. And judging from the whispers in the audience, not too many kids in the theater understood what was going on.
Disgruntled parents could be heard complaining when a character in the movie yelled out a few obscenities. It's bad enough when you have to pay an arm and a leg for a lame movie, but it's twice as bad when your child picks up bad habits from it as well. One of the main characters, a child, grabs the backside of a teenage girl in the final scene. But the icing on the cake was when a male character mentions having a boyfriend.
Immediately, my daughter leaned over and asked, "Can boys have boyfriends?"
Hollywood fooled me with snazzy previews into sitting through a terrible movie, and irresponsibly introduced an important topic to my child that they have no business introducing. Maybe the writers were trying to make parents like me uncomfortable. After all, the theme of the movie is that those who can't accept diverse individuals are the true villains.
Homosexuality, and sex in general, are incredibly important topics I plan on discussing with my kids someday. But I didn't plan on having that conversation while watching an animated film over popcorn and gummy bears.
But my problem isn't with homosexuality. Homosexuality, and sex in general, are incredibly important topics I plan on discussing with my kids someday. But I didn't plan on having that conversation while watching an animated film over popcorn and gummy bears. It wasn't the right time or place to address the topic. I felt ambushed and I was angry.
Hollywood: 3, Mom: 0
This mom is fed up. There are a few gems among animated films for children, but there are far more duds. Hollywood needs to get to know their young audience better.
My advice for Hollywood is as follows:
- Kids have short attention spans. Films made for younger audiences should be shorter in length. Most kids can't sit still 90 minutes or longer.
- Movies should be simple and easy to follow, and their subplots shouldn't have additional subplots. This doesn't mean it should be boring; but when an adult in the audience can't break down what's going on for the child sitting next to them, it's safe to say your film has too much going on.
- You can create an amazing film without resorting to jokes about bodily functions and crude humor. It's been done before. "Up,""The Incredibles" and "Nightmare Before Christmas" are fantastic examples of how not to do this.
- As parents, we assume that a film is appropriate for young viewers if it's been advertised during children's programming on television or through movie previews before other animated films. You know that. Don't take advantage of that trust and pull a “bait and switch” on us — presenting one thing and delivering another. If the movie isn't intended for young audiences, don't market it as though it is.
- Please don't scare the pants off of my kids. If your movie has a G-rating, leave terrifying imagery out. Kids like to be excited without being traumatized.
- Kids don't care about computer graphics, so put as much time into the story and characters as you do into the visuals.
- And last but not least, don't sneak political agenda into films made for children. They want to be entertained, not brainwashed. We all know that homosexuality is a hot topic, and many parents are doing their best to educate and raise loving and accepting children. Any mention of relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual, should be presented with the utmost care and not just as jokes. I hope the next time I spend $60 on a movie, I leave uplifted rather than livid.
Nicole Pollard is currently the CEO of her family, and enjoys living in sunny California. She's a stay-at-home mom of two children, as well as a certified sign language interpreter who also enjoys writing.