I took my wife & kids to see Finding Nemo yesterday (4.5-year-old boy, 7-year-old girl). I thought the movie was great and enjoyed it immensely. But my boy was often scared, I had him my lap most of the movie and had to take him out of the theater near the end. He was scared mostly at any part where the screen was filled with rows of teeth, the action got very dark and fast, someone was in imminent danger or actually got hurt, or there were very loud noises. These types of moments were far more frequent than I would have guessed from the reviews, which warned only of the first couple of minutes with an off-screen barracuda attack (which happened even before the titles).
My daughter was OK during the movie but afterwards said that she found a lot of the parts scary, too. This one won’t be in our home after it ends up on video (Shrek, OTOH, is a huge favorite).
Why would a movie so targeted for kids have such scary parts? Or are my kids particularly sensitive?
I wouldn’t say your kids are especially sensitive, just that different kids react different ways. My 5 and 2 1/2 year both enjoyed it (although the younger one was a bit squirmy so missed parts). My 5 year old, who would’ve been more likely to be sensitive, just leaned over and asked a couple of questions about Nemo’s mommy, which I answered as quietly as I could.
I would say it more like Bambi’s mother dying or Dumbo visiting his caged-for-being-mad mom - some kids really get affected by it and others don’t.
Our 3.5 y/o wasn’t scared by the sharks, but we did two things before going to the movie to prepare him.
We talked about the difference between pretend and real - he’s becoming fully aware that “scary” things on TV/movies are pretend and cannot really get to him. Also, we went to the Disney.com website and downloaded the a trailer so he could see the sharks in action, then he’d know what to expect at the movies and there wouldn’t be a shock. He did really well and wasn’t afraid whatsoever.
My 3 yr old wasn’t scared, but (I don’t know if it was quirky timing on his part, or if he realized what Nemo had said to his father was wrong) after Nemo said what he said, he turned to me and said, “Daddy? I love you.”
Not a parent, and haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve always been of the opinion that scary movies are good for kids, at least up to a point. I think Terry Pratchett said it best when he pointed out that children already know, instinctively, that there’s scary stuff out there, so trying to shield them from it is pointless. What kids need to learn is that you can face your fears and stand up to the scary things. Kids are born knowing about monsters, but you have to teach them about heros.
I think that some kids are pretty much scared by all movies. I know my daughter is. In just about every movie, there is a point when the protagonist is in some sort of danger (sometimes it’s physical danger, and sometimes it’s just danger of being caught doing something wrong or something like that.) Well, my daughter gets so into the movie that she gets very excited, and sometimes scared. She’s six now, and she still gets scared in just about every movie she sees. (We haven’t seen Nemo, though.)
She doesn’t ask to leave, though. I think it’s like a roller coaster to her now–since it’s not real, being scared is kind of fun!
A movie in which the protagonist was in no danger at all would probably be pretty boring to most kids–like a filmstrip at school. It does seem that most kids’ movies are made more for school-age kids rather than younger kids…something that merely excites older kids scares little kids.
I imagine that your kids are very empathetic, which is not a bad quality at all!
Interesting responses- I saw quite a few kids in our theater that were scared of the shark scenes and of the very dark scenes. I guess it does depend of the kid, but I thought there were some pretty heavy parts in it for a kids movie.
My 4 1/2 year old niece is really cautious and a lot like me when I was little. She was scared at some parts like when the screen went black. I was scared to death when the faces melted in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But her little nearly 3 year old sister loved it and is just like my little sister was. She took the whole movie in stride. And my sister loved the part where their faces melted.
My 6 year old really enjoyed it. She didn’t show any signs of being scared while we were at the movie, but I just asked her if she found any of it scary and she said “I guess the shark parts were sort of scary, but not to me.”
Couple of things. “Up to a point” maybe I could sort of agree with. But. IANACP (kid pysch) but young children have a difficult time dealing with input that is not part of their direct experience. I am very careful about exposing my children to two things: Extreme make-believe stress, and extreme real-world stress that is not part of their personal experience. I do not let my kids watch movies intended for adults that contain violence, and my wife is even more conservative about this than I am. She does not even like silly cartoon violence (coyote gets hit with frying pan, gets face in the shape of the frying pan). Second, we do not expose them to graphic images of violent world events (September 11, Iraq war) although we discuss those with them so they understand as well as they can at those ages what’s going on. (My daughter’s classmate’s father was killed on 9/11).
I agree with you to the extent that you cannot protect children from the real world, and they need to learn to deal with it. But neither do I see any need to expose them to extreme unreal events that carry no real lesson.
Spiders in the basement? Sure, take 'em down and show 'em. War? Terrorism? Tell them enough that relates to their own experience (people are fighting; someone wants to hurt people). But for some reason the memory of a frightening movie image can really be magnified in a child’s head. Maybe it was a coincidence but last night my son cried in his sleep and woke up on and off for an hour.
P.S. Write again after you have kids and they see the movie
Maybe I’m taking a typical non-parent way-too-overcautious approach, but I’m planning on preparing the three-and-half-year old I’m taking to see Finding Nemo this week, (her first ever movie in a theatre,) with a long prepared talk about how movies aren’t real, complete with visual aids including a reel of 35mm motion-picture film that she can handle and examine, cut up and load in a slide projector, combined with an introduction to flip-book animation.
I know that sounds way over a kid that age’s head, but she’s a real smart one, and I think she’ll get it. Maybe totally uneccesary-- she takes “scary” movies like Monsters, Inc in stride on the TV – but I remember nearly peeing my pants in fear at my first movie – The Wizard of Oz, which I’d seen on TV before. It’s a lot different when it’s so much bigger and louder. I’m hoping that if she knows on an intellectual level that it’s really just a whole lot of pictures that are each small enough to hold in her little fist, it’ll make a difference.
I already get the feeling she’s not as much of a wimp as I was at four, though.
I should also say that, although I don’t have any experience as a parent, I’ve got twenty-seven years and counting as a child (;)). I loved scary movies when I was a kid. My parents took me to see the first Alien movie in the theater. Alien came out in '79, so I must’ve been four or five at the time. It gave me nightmares, sure, but it didn’t permanently unhinge me, and it made hugely popular when I was a kid in school, 'cause I’d seen all the cool movies no one else’s parents would let them go to.
A lot of children’s literature is really dark, too. Look at almost anything by Roald Dahl. Or the omnipresent theme in almost all media aimed at children: orphans. It seems like 90% of books and movies aimed at kids are predicated on the idea of one or more parent being killed, which is easily the scariest idea imaginable to a kid. And yet, name one Disney cartoon where a kid is raised by both his natural parents. And then there’s the whole idea of Halloween, every kid’s favorite holiday. When I was a little kid, I had a strong and active contempt for kids who didn’t dress up as something scary. You’re a clown? What the hell is the point of dressing up like a clown? That’s not a Halloween costume, unless you’ve got a bloody butcher’s knife to go with it. I usually went as a zombie. Nothing’s cooler than a zombie. One year I got a bunch of rope, dyed it red, and stuffed it under my shirt, so it looked like my intestines had come out.
Come to think of it, I was a pretty macabre little kid. Probably best if you take my opinion with a grain of salt. Or perhaps a clove of garlic and a silver bullet.
Larry: Thanks, but I’m pretty sure I lifted that quote, if not verbatim, at least as a very close paraphrase from Mr. Pratchett. Hogfather, I believe, which has some very interesting things to say about raising children and how they react to fantasy.
Well, the movie’s not targeted for kids, it’s targeted for families. It’s not a violent movie, and all of the scary parts are integral to the theme. The theme is that yes, there is a lot of scary stuff out there, and no, you can’t shield your kids from all of it. One of the coolest bits in the movie is when Marlin is saying “I said I’d never let anything happen to him.” Dory says that that doesn’t make any sense; if you never let anything happen to him, then nothing will ever happen to him. It’s about kids getting ready to face what’s waiting for them out in the world, as well as parents getting themselves ready to let their kids face it (with their help).
Now, be aware that I don’t (yet) have children. And based off your reaction to Miller’s post, I hope you’re not suggesting that the opinion of anyone without kids is invalid. I think of myself as a parent-in-training, and am always thinking of how I’d react to stuff or explain stuff to my own kids. Not to tell other people how to raise theirs, but to better prepare myself for raising my own.
That sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t see how spending time with a child could be considered “overkill.” To be able to see how this all works, and to know that it’s all because someone had enough imagination to come up with it, to me is even more “magical” than the idea that all of it is really happening. Have fun at the movie – I can still vividly remember the first movie I ever saw in a theater, the Disney movie Candleshoe with David Niven and Jodie Foster.
If you can find any commonality to this thread, it seems to be that all kids are different. I vividly remember being 6 and being horribly scared by something that I saw on “Fantasy Island.” A woman ran into a barn and closed the door, and the barn immediately exploded. Not that big a deal, especially compared to what’s shown regularly on TV nowadays, but it really really frightened me. I went to my parents immediately and told them what was wrong, and I could tell even then that it came at them completely from left-field; they never would’ve expected something like that to affect me as it did. So in short, you never know what’s going to do it for your kid, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to prepare.
What a great story. I don’t think I’d have been able to hold it if that had happened to me; I’d have been crying like an infant. (Unless, of course, your son isn’t pacing himself and says that to you all the time. Which wouldn’t be all bad, either.)