Posted by: Heather A. | January 11, 2010

Of Avatar and Astro Boy

My boys and I joke that when a woman becomes a Mom, God gives her magic powers — eyes in the back of her head, GPS for lost toys and blankets…Well, all of that is true, but other things changed for me when I became a Mom.  One of the biggest: How I react to language in movies.

Disclaimer before we start: I have been known to use bad language. *GASP* I’m not proud of it, but I do, probably too frequently.  However, I don’t do it in front of my kids.  Before I became a mom, language in movies barely registered.  Now, I flinch if my kids are anywhere remotely within earshot.  Actually, I flinch for OTHER people’s kids, even if mine are miles away, which brings me to today’s story.

Andy and I finally saw Avatar this weekend.  I didn’t know much about it, but I never got the impression that this was going to be a “kid’s movie.”  So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the theater to see a family with a 3- and 4-year-old walk into Avatar ahead of me.  And they weren’t the only ones….as it grew closer to showtime, I was surprised by the number of 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds seated around me.

So, here I am, sitting in this theater where at least 1/4 of the audience is under 13, and the movie starts.  And for the first hour of the film, I  flinch…and flinch…and flinch.  I felt as if  I was about to have a seizure, and it wasn’t from the 3-D glasses (which did induce a migraine, but that’s another story).  After the first hour, the language didn’t get any better, but I reached saturation and couldn’t care anymore.  If the other parents didn’t remove their kids from the theater, there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

But here’s the thing….this post isn’t about the parents who made a choice different than the one Andy and I made. They can raise their kids, and I’ll raise mine, thanks, so don’t flame me on that count.  And we could debate whether I should have even reacted to Avatar that way since a) my kids weren’t there, and b) it wasn’t necessarily marketed to kids (although the line of Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s says otherwise).  But it’s not about any of those things, because I could have easily replaced Avatar with any number of other movies that ARE explicitly marketed to kids.  Avatar just happens to be my most recent example.  The point is my frustration with Hollywood and their apparent belief that cussing in every other sentence makes a movie better.  It’s about why I’m shocked when a movie DOESN’T have language in it, instead of being shocked that it does.  It’s about being tired that I have to check before every movie my kids see so that I don’t feel compelled to remove them from the theater or the DVD from the player.  “Oops, honey, sorry about that. Apparently the Spider-Man CARTOON is broken…”

I realize I’ve now outed myself as a hopeless old-before-my-time-fogey, but that’s what becoming a mom did to me.  It ruins the whole first hour of Avatar for me (not that the next 2 were any better — I disliked that movie for so many reasons, language being the least of them), and makes me absurdly grateful for movies like Astro Boy and National Treasure: Book of Secrets which prove you can make a fun, family-friendly movie that doesn’t send Mom into an epileptic frenzy.  I just wish The Powers That Be in Movie Land realized that too.



  1. Well put, H!! I don’t even consider going to a movie w/out checking pluggedin since the Ice Age 2 disaster that we took our boys to a couple of years ago. I grew up around a lot of profanity (Daddy was a college baseball coach), so I too was pretty immune to it until I had kids. I get sick of it’s overuse in movies. I’m also frustrated by KIDS movies that are filled with “stupid,” “shut up” and name-calling/bullying in general. It does nothing to promote a story line to throw in derogatory words (not to mention sexual innuendo) in a movie aimed at kids under 10.

    Another recent family movie that we enjoyed was UP. I thought it was very clean with a positive message. IMO.

  2. I agree that Avatar is NOT for kids – or for anyone who goes to movies for a good story. 😉

    And I also agree about Astro Boy. That was a wonderful movie – I loved it as much as my kids did, and they’re 7 and 15, by the way. I too wish Hollywood would make more films like it. Going to the movies is a family tradition with us, but I’m finding it harder and harder to find anything worth the time and expense. Most of the time we just stay home and fire up the DVD player…

  3. I haven’t seen Avatar, but from the ads, I knew it wasn’t aimed at kids, so I can only shake my head at the decisions some parents make.

    Language is definitely an issue, but at least V is at an age where I can help her understand what’s appropriate and not. We describe it as a lack of vocabulary 🙂

    What I find disturbing is the number of so called “kids shows” that feature kids smart-mouthing the adults and the adults portrayed as morons… and this is the DISNEY channel!

  4. I find holding our ground as parents in a PG-13 world is all the more difficult as the kids get closer to 13…and then hit it. My kids are 14, 10 and 8, and if it isn’t the language that makes me cringe it’s subject matter and innuendo.

    I’m glad to know we are not alone in wishing there were more options from Hollywood, but that is the nature of the beast. Avatar and the millions it has raked in only makes it more likely that movies like it will continue to be made and marketed to the younger audience. Ugh.

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