The Dark Parts of Books/Movies

As a mom I often hear the discussion about how books and movies meant for kids are too scary. Meaning there is always some horrifying part in the story that so disturbs the child they are never the same.

My two cents is, it is not the storyteller’s fault if a child is introduced to a story before they can handle it, that is the fault of the parents. We as parents should be in tune with our children enough to know what they can and can’t handle. (note: slip ups will happen that doesn’t make you a bad parent!)

When I was a child, I watched Ghostbusters when I was 7 and Tremors when I was 10. They scared me but I loved the feeling and I never experienced nightmares or trauma from them. I was entertained. As I grew, still in my teen years, I always challenged statements about how movies were too scary or dark for kids.

Now as a Mom of a sensitive 2 year old, who has a hard time with anything that is of high emotion or intensity, I still don’t believe stories with dark sections shouldn’t be available to kids. I as the parent am responsible to know my child isn’t ready. I don’t show him those films or press upon him the books that unnerve him, but boy do I eagerly await the day he is ready for them. I know he will love the movies and books that currently scare him. They are good stories worth publication and wide audience viewing.

I have never agreed with people that say dark stories shouldn’t be available to kids/teens. I do not agree with any statement that says said publishing house or movie studio terrorizes children. Life is hard and it holds troubling situations for children to handle. I prefer that my child get a first glimpse at them in fiction where he has some time to process those circumstances and think what he would do in the situation.

“Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there’s no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.” -Cher (Alicia Silverstone), Clueless (1995)

These thoughts are sparked by the recent article in the WSJ and the enormous outcry from the publishing world.
This is a great rebuttal article and it lists others.
My blog post is my response. I also wanted to add a bit about movies because of a recent experience I had while watching a new animated film.

I watch a lot of animated movies so there are few that I have seen for the first time as a parent. Since becoming a Mom I notice that on most new-to-me movies that deal with parent-child relationships where something bad happens, I feel very strong emotions. Sometimes to the point that I want to stop watching the movie. I do not in anyway believe this means the movie is bad or should not be seen by others, it just means it is not for me. To bring this around, I recently had very strong pain while watching a movie for children that had to do with a parent-child relationship that dealt with loss. I think this was a fabulous movie but I won’t watch it again until my son wants to watch it. It hurt too much. However, I am sure that my child will have no problem with it once he gets past being afraid of everything. I do not believe he will have such a strong reaction to what I felt.

This is where I think parents get confused. They themselves are so hurt or troubled by the conflict of the story they believe their child must be experiencing the same emotions. Therefore, the child shouldn’t be exposed. We are grown ups we understand life differently than a child does and we feel differently than a child does. I feel as the parent it is my job to help my son find what he does and doesn’t like, not press upon him my choices.

And in a wider reach it is not my job to say any book isn’t right for teens or kids. Everyone is different and capable of handling different kinds of books. Let’s keep our world free enough that each person can make their own choice of what to read or watch from a vast selection of stories.

(in a frivolous note in comparison to above, this is taking the place of Matt’s Choice this week)

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