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Common Sense at the Movies

I don’t normally consider myself a prude.  But even still, there’s not much worse than being in a crowded movie theater with your little kids… and having something really inappropriate pop up on the screen.

Last year, I took my kids to see Coraline… a movie I was just as excited to see as the kids.

My favorite movie review site Rotten Tomatoes had given the movie an 89% fresh rating, which is awesome for a kid’s movie.

And the movie didn’t disappoint, it was wonderful… but then a scene came up, when Coraline was in her alter-world, that gave me a bit of a shock.  Coraline’s two older neighbor women came onto the stage wearing next to nothing.  I’m talkin, one had mostly bare breasts… with pasties only.

There I was, sitting with my then 8 and 7 year old kids.  What should I do?  Cover their eyes?  I don’t have three hands.  Tell them to close their eyes?  Not worry about it?  Was this really a big deal?

I decided on the spot not to make it a big deal.  It’s just breasts after all.  With any luck, they wouldn’t even notice…

And when we got out of the theater after the movie, I asked the kids what they thought of the movie.  They liked this part or that… (sigh of relief) no mention of breasts.  “It was great.” was the consensus…  See, they didn’t even notice.

We got home, just as Dad walked in from work.  “How was Coraline guys?” he says.  Ben was the first to pipe up.  “It was really good, Coraline has this other mother who seems really nice but she turns into a really mean witch…. and there was this old lady who showed her big, fat breasts!  Dad, they were ginormous!”

Huh.  I guess they did notice after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I still loved Coraline… It was amazingly well done, clever and even thought-provoking.  I still might have taken the kids to the movie, had I known… but I would rather have known what was coming before hand.  That way I could have talked about it with the kids… or at the very least thought about how I wanted to handle it.  In the end, it was the surprise I didn’t like.

So after the movie I looked around and found Common Sense Media.  It’s a wonderful resource for parents deciding what media is right for their kids.  The site provides reviews on everything media related from movies, video games, books, websites, and music.

I love that it tells me exactly what to expect… take Coraline, for instance, it says, “Nothing directly sexual, but the two very buxom elderly actresses wear barely-there costumes for their performance (one in a reference to Botticelli’s famous Birth of Venus painting).”

At least that would have given me enough of a heads up.

Common Sense Media also lets me know what age child they recommend the movie for, what product placement you’ll see, and what the themes of the movie are.  It also has parent reviews/age recommendations.  All really good stuff to know.

Does it mean I will follow their age recommendations to the letter?  No.  I have a pretty good idea what my kids can and can’t handle.  But it’s been a valuable tool for me ever since I found it.  Because let’s face, ratings don’t tell the whole story.  With the whole story, I can decide.

In the end, what works and does not for our families is a very personal decision.  But making an informed decision is very nice indeed.

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8 Responses to “Common Sense at the Movies”

  • Thank You! I totally agree. Coraline was a good movie, if a little too scary for younger kids. I was as shocked as you were at the breasts in question ;) and probably as uncomfortable considering one of my children is a 12 year old boy…
    I guess breasts are just breasts but connotation and insinuation can have a large impact on how they are presented and our kids know a lot more than we think they do…don’t they?
    I love your blog!

  • Calli: That Ben brought it right up to dad says volumes! I think that is awesome. Likely, he didn’t bring it up to you because he respects his mom! Thanks for the tip. I agree with you on all counts.

  • I totally agree. i loved the movie too but would have liked a heads up. thanks for the site info i am going to check it out.

  • Kim:

    My daughter actually found Common Sense Media a couple of years ago, and we consult it often. I am blessed and thankful that she is very careful to check books, movies, tv, etc. for appropriateness first.

    We’ve not seen Coraline, so I’m glad to know this bit of information first!

  • This is a great post and a great story. You really understand what we are trying to do at Common Sense — it’s all about giving families and kids the information you need to make good decisions about media. I love how some of the people leaving comments use our site as a tool for families to talk about what’s right and to make informed decisions together.

    Thanks for the call out!

    –Dave Steer, Common Sense Media

  • Hi, http://www.pluggedin.com/ is a great review site to find out if any movie is appropriate or not (even adult movies). My son wanted to see Coraline and I read about the pasties on Plugged In’s review and decided not to take him.

  • Amz:

    Another website I really like is http://www.kids-in-mind.com it has great movie reviews too!

  • We have a clearplay dvd player, which we love for situations just like that–especially for our teenagers, who sometimes have more sophisticated taste in movies. It silences bad words or cuts little clips (or bigger ones!) from inappropriate scenes. So my kids, for instance, never know that Iron Man sleeps with the reporter.

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