Friday, January 8, 2010

The Best Old Movies for Families - Part Two

Last week I told you what I didn’t like about The Best Old Movies for Families. This time I’m taking a different view because I strongly agreed with two of Burr’s main points. On page seven he writes,
Entertainment for children is mostly awful. Where’s the antidote to the Disneyfied pap and computer generated overstimulation that passes for children’s entertainment these days? Wouldn’t it be pleasant to sit down and watch a movie with your kids that wasn’t presold on sequels and Happy Meals? Or take them to an action movie that didn’t either freak them out or weigh down their little bones with premature irony? I guess you could lock them in the attic. A better solution might be to vary their media diet, and one way to do that is with old movies.

Secondly, Classic films give children a broader understanding of what it means to be an adult:
Consider the ways that various types of human beings are portrayed in kiddie media. I’m talking about their staple diet, as purveyed by such keepers of the corporate castle as Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, etc. How are people presented? Parents are either yammering, well-intentioned fools or thin-lipped martinets who come around in the last act. And other grown-ups? They barely exist as two-dimensional objects of fear, ridicule, or blank incomprehension. A cranky next-door neighbor, a dithery old lady, a suspicious shop owner, a sexless teacher, a cretinous middle school janitor – that’s about it.

Why such paltry options? Why are kids’ movies and TV shows uninterested in adults who are interesting? Because they need to flatter the children who are watching the ads and buying the tie-in toys… The upshot is that your kids get a super-empowering media reality that revolves around them the way the ancients used to think the universe spun around the earth. (p. 30)

He then goes on to suggest a viewing of The African Queen where two adult caricatures (town drunk and prudish missionary) evolve into living, breathing human beings full of emotions, dignity and courage.

Burr may be somewhat out of touch with Christian values when it comes to film choices (as I mentioned last week). But he’s right on target when he encourages parents (1) to dig around for family-friendly films that portray men and women as thinking, feeling adults, and (2) to consider classic films as great alternatives to the overly scary, or overly child-centered present-day options.

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