Parental Guidance Recommended –Reflections on determining what’s suitable for my son

I went to the movies recently to see Marvels latest outing; Ant Man. I was thoroughly impressed with the film, but as I was watching it I noticed that a new thought process was taking place in the back of my mind. Not only was I suspending disbelief, and trying to keep track of plot lines, or character arcs (or as this was a Marvel film; keeping an eye out for Stan Lee); but I was also evaluating the films suitability for my son.

It was strange, as this wasn’t as intentional as it had been when my wife and I had gone to see Jurassic World recently. Being true to the 50% of his genome that I contributed toward, my son is a massive dinosaur nut, so when the latest addition to the Jurassic Park franchise was announced, he was naturally interested to go. I wasn’t so sure however, as though he is 9 years old now, he can still be sensitive to the content of movies.

So  knowing this, when recently he wanted to watch the original Spielberg Jurassic films I was sure to watch them along with him, and made sure he was aware of any possibly disturbing upcoming scenes. Yes we may be sheltering him a bit, but it seems preferential to be involved in his viewings of such things, rather than let them go into the wilderness alone and possibly see something potentially disturbing (as I did when an aunty hired Watership Down for me, thinking it was a kids film, and left me unattended to bear witness to the horrors within).

Indeed a lot of my thoughts on this stem from my own childhood. When I was a lad and attended the premier showing of Jurassic Park at the cinema, I was unduly terrified of what I might see, as I had read the book beforehand to prepare me. The thought of seeing Nedry’s intestines spilled into his hands, or Henry Wu’s ripped out of his body, kept my hands firmly placed over my eyes for all of the famous death scenes. No surprise then that years later when I rewatched it I was surprised at how tame the scenes were, and how much worse I had imagined them. But I still wanted to make sure that my son was properly prepared for what he was going to see. It is after all a PG movie, and I am the P, so might as well do the G.

So for instance when Nedry was going to be killed, I let him know; when a lawyer was going to have a bad time on the toilet, he was fully informed. He handled it all well enough; was amused at the demise of Genaro as so many are, and generally wasn’t fazed by the experienced (in a negative sense anyhow; he loved the film. Next stop: The Lost World.

Again I was cautious, because though you don’t see that much direct carnage in Jurassic Park, the fate of Eddie Carr in The Lost World seems far more graphic. Again I prepared my son, told him what would happen and so forth, he was willing and excited to see it, and after the Rexs had had their meal, he was relieved and all was well. So I figured, hey that’s good; worst part of the movie over.

I was wrong.

I gave cursory warnings for what was going to come. Raptors killing people in a field; all good. T-Rex chomping a guy through the waterfall; he can handle it. However I was a bit surprised when the lead up to Dieter’s death was interrupted by a distraught look on my sons face (my wife on the other hand was more on the ball). At first I thought he was reacting to the frightening visuals of a man being swarmed by a flock of tiny dinos, but it turns out he didn’t like the bit where Dieter grabbed one of the compys by the neck and appeared to be strangling it!

We had a similar start many years before when a strangulation scene in Journey To the Centre of the Earth affected Harry more than anything else had (he had even been fine with Donovan disintegrating into dust in The Last Crusade, and the Nazis heads exploding and such in Raiders of the Lost Arc). So after this movie experience was over, we started to get a better idea of the things that bothered him (the repeated stomping of Carter was likewise not well received).

Women getting strangled, animals getting hurt, and protracted death scenes seemed to be the main causes of concern.

So armed with this knowledge, and aware of his excitement at the release of Jurassic World, my wife and I decided to evaluate its suitability for him when we went to see it.

*Spoiler Alert*

It didn’t take us long to come to a conclusion; this was not for Harry!

Women getting strangled/protracted death scene; the demise of Gray and Zach’s minder seemed very excessive, and not the best thing for a young kid to enjoy (you are almost relieved when she is put out of her misery!). But more to the point; the heartbreaking scene of the Apatosaurus death was definitely something we didn’t want our son to get upset about.

He is a caring boy, and he gets emotional as a result; it is a quality that I admire in my son, though it can be hard to deal with some times (like for instance when he questioned the right that my wife and I had to kill a plant that was entangling our fence, and grieved its loss).

Harrison was not very pleased when we informed him that Jurassic World was not a movie he would be seeing at the cinema, but he has accepted our reasoning, and we are glad that he is able to understand the motivation behind it. Furthermore my wife found a junior novelisation of the film for him to read, and he tore through it with vigour.

In previous times when we had warned him at the graphic nature of some movies and shows he would seek to allay our fears us by saying stuff like ‘Nah I’m fine with that. I have watched a bunch of murder shows with Pops; it doesn’t bother me’.

First of all, by ‘murder shows’, he means stuff like Foyle’s War and Poirot. Secondly we explained to him that we don’t want him to be ok with stuff like murder, rather we want him to be able to process it appropriately. Again he generally understands our views with stuff like this and begrudgingly accepts our parental censorship.

Now then, before this post gets too out of hand; back to the initiator of this post: Ant Man.

Sitting in the cinema, I became aware of how much I was evaluating scenes in terms of whether it was suitable for Harrison. It wasn’t at the front of my mind; I wasn’t doing it on purpose, or spending the majority of my focus on it. But I did notice that after a scene had taken place, be it a fight, or a death, or a adultish joke; I would think to myself ‘Yeah I think that’s ok for Harrison’.

It is interesting to note how little mental processes like this begin to form when you become a parent.

For example, I like to swear a bit in my casual voice. I don’t think I am an overly explicit person, but I like the emphasis afforded to English’s most versatile word, and if someone like Stephen Fry can extol the virtues of using the odd swear word now and then, I think I am in good company.

“Swearing is a really important part of one’s life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing… There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary -such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves… The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest or -is just a fucking lunatic” – Stephen Fry on the joys of swearing

Nevertheless once my son got to an age where he would comprehend, and repeat words; it was clearly something that had to change. However I wouldn’t say that this change was an overly conscious decision; rather it just took place, and I noticed it at a later date. Suddenly I was like ‘Shit; you know what? I don’t swear that much at home anymore.’ Perhaps this is an easy switch to make, because I had already cultivated a mind that at a younger ages ensured that I didn’t swear around my parent, but still had sufficient four letter words when amongst friends.

At any rate, this was just a bunch of thoughts that entered my head recently, and I thought it might be interesting for anyone that has kids, or watches movies, or simply likes to read words online.

Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments; that’s why they are there.



*Spoiler Alert*

Oh, and for those wondering, the worst things you will see in Ant Man involve people, and in one case an animal, being shrunk down unsuccessfully to that all that remains is a small blob of flesh and blood coloured gloop.

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