I don’t generally like to suggest movies for other people’s children. Everyone has different standards for entertainment and I have no desire to set the standards for your family. But so many of y’all have asked what I thought of “War Horse” that I wanted to first tell you how we choose movies.
We believe that as parents it is our job to protect our children’s purity. While they need to be prepared for the world, they don’t need that at a young age. When they are young they need to use their incredible minds to soak up wisdom and godliness, goodness and fruits of the Spirit. Then, when they are ready, this is the foundation upon which they will build their lives. So we are careful what we put into their hearts and minds. It is with that in mind that we preview every movie before we allow any of the children to watch it.
Also, we do not try to teach fairness or equality. There are some movies that one child can see but their brother cannot. Each child has different needs, strengths and weaknesses. We make decisions about who can see a movie based on each individual child and not the group as a whole. Also, each movie is handled differently. Sometimes we will allow some of the kids to see it once, but we don’t buy it or bring it into our home. Sometimes we’ll Netflix it, which means they might watch it a couple of times then out it goes. Sometimes we’ll decide it’s OK to see once at home but not in the theater on the big screen. It just depends on the movie.
These are some of the things we look for….
1. Violence. Is it necessary? Is it too intense? Is it sending a message?
Of course, more sensitive children react differently than others and you have to know your own child. An example would be “Prince Caspian.” It had sword fighting and danger so we were careful which children got to see it. Our boys react much less sensitively to war than our girls. We are careful to respect their God given differences. In this case, the boys and the older girls got to see it (not the little boys, just the ones over the age of 8).
2. Witchcraft/sorcery/magic. What is its source and what is its purpose?
We don’t mind some magic in movies as long as it has a positive message. We like the “Narnia” movies because their source of magic is very defined and the whole story is an allegory of Christ. Another example, we never, ever would watch nor allow our children to watch the “Harry Potter” movies. They are, in our opinion, about evil.
3. Sensuality and romance. This includes flirting, intimacy (even kissing between unmarried people) and immodest dress.
If a movie has any cleavage or tight clothing on women, we will not watch it. Even Disney characters tend to be immodestly dressed. If there is any intimacy, we do not watch it. Last year 2 movies came out that were centered around swimming, “Dolphin Tale” and “Soul Surfer.” “Dolphin Tale” had no immodesty in it and the kids were generally respectful to their parents so we did let our kids see it. “Soul Surfer” on the other hand had too many bikinis in it so we didn’t let the boys see it and the girls only saw it once.
We do allow the older kids (as in, 17 and up) to see movies with some swearing in it. They are grounded enough by then to keep from using foul language even though they hear it occasionally. We will not, however, purchase a movie with swearing in it. Seeing it once on Netflix or at the theater might be OK, but we don’t want it playing in our home over and over. One example where swearing kept us from allowing our children to see a movie is “The King’s Speech.” It was a great movie in every other way but the swearing was horrible so we didn’t let them see it….not even once.
5. Drunkenness or drug use.
We want to avoid any film that makes drunkenness look appealing or fun. I’m not talking about a single drink, but getting drunk or high. Yuck.
6. Family relationships. How do the children talk to their parents? Is the father absent or treated like the family idiot? How do the siblings treat one another?
This is one of our BIG requirements. A film must have either positive family relationships or be leading to that in the end. We don’t watch a movie that shows the kinds of children that hate their brothers and sisters and slam their door with a “Keep Out” sign on it. Parental disrespect is something we are careful to avoid. “How to Train Your Dragon” for example, is the classic story…the parent is uncaring, selfish and dumb so the child takes matters into his own hands and saves the day. This is not the message we want beaten into our children’s minds. We did allow the children to see it, but not over and over.
7. Message. What is the overall message of the film?
Even if #1-6 are fine, we still want to be careful of the message a movie is sending. For example, “Secretariat” seemed like it filled all of the requirements, but when you step back and look you realize that the whole movie was about a woman that left her family without the blessing of her husband and did whatever she wanted. She spent large amounts of time with another man (even though it was a strictly business relationship) and she only served her own desires. The overall message is not one that we could support, so we didn’t let our children see it.
With those things in mind we preview every movie before our children see it. We never assume it is good no matter how innocent it seems on the surface. I have previewed three movies recently. Here’s what I thought of them.
“War Horse” was very violent. The love of a boy and his horse, the determination and strength was uplifting, but it was way too violent, intense and upsetting for young children. We won’t let any of our kids under 13 see it.
“The Adventures of Tin Tin” was interesting. The animation was incredible and the story was an old fashioned Nancy Drew style adventure/mystery. The problem I had with it was that one of the main characters was either drunk or seeking alcohol for the entire movie. He gets so desperate at one point that he drinks rubbing alcohol from a first aid kit. We will let the kids over the age of 10 see the movie once, but we won’t buy it.
“We Bought a Zoo” was a simple family movie. It was nice how the family did something different, but the son is extremely disrespectful and there is a swear word that will keep me from allowing our children to see it. There is also a kiss, which might not have stopped me from letting the older kids see it, but it adds to the negative column. Two thumbs down for that one.
If you have any movies that you are wondering about feel free to ask me. It can be hard to decide sometimes, but the main point to remember is that it is just entertainment and we don’t need it. If in doubt, skip it. A bad experience cannot be undone.