Parental Guidance Not Needed
A local theater screens cult favorite movies every other Saturday night and recently played The Goonies. I got to talking with a friend of mine about it, and how it represents the movies of our youth that targeted us as viewers. Looking over the list of films that have played during this midnight series I see Beetlejuice (1988), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Gremlins (1984), The Princess Bride (1987), Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Return to Oz (1985), The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986). Every one of those movies was released in the 1980s and rated PG. Other films include both Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), the Back to the Future and Indiana Jones trilogies, most of which were released in the 1980s as PG films. I’ll grant you that some of these are “lesser” cinematic achievements (Return to Oz will scarcely be discussed in the same breath as The Wizard of Oz), but many are bona fide classics.
I think what made these films so special, and why my generation reveres them so much is that they took for granted that we, the youthful audience, would respond favorably to a film that was imaginative while not speaking to us as though we were toddlers. Despite the notoriety of the language in The Goonies and the violence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that precipitated the PG-13 rating, the actual levels of language, violence and sexuality in those films are relatively tame…particularly by today’s standards, when commercials airing during all hours of the day include language that was considered daring during a prime time TV show when these films were released.
Contrast that with films targeting the youth of today. Does anyone believe that today’s children will grow up and hold Beverly Hills Chihuahua in the same esteem that my generation views the assortment cited in the first paragraph? No. That film will be nothing more than a punch line for the kids who were taken to see it in 2008. The reason is simple: these films are not concerned with addressing the children in the audience.
Rather, they pander to the parents who want their carefully constructed bubble of naiveté preserved. The content that will ring true for their children makes them uncomfortable. These are the same parents who freak out over proper sex education because they’re convinced that their little darling will begin fornicating tomorrow if he or she isn’t told that abstinence is the only proper behavior. We’re supposed to believe that these parents and their classmates weren’t just as concerned with sex as every other generation since the dawn of time. Sure they weren’t. Except I’ve seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, R).
I’m not advocating that films should push explicit language, violence and sexuality before the eyes and ears of children. Outside of the Harry Potter and Pixar films, though, what movies of the last decade that were intended for younger viewers are likely to endure? Even if we expand our criteria to PG-13 films, there may be comic book superhero movies that will retain their popularity with these kids. But where is today’s Ernest Goes to Camp or The Princess Bride? There are none, because it’s hard to make toys out of those kinds of movies. Truly sad, because those films exemplify that imaginative stories can be told that will seem honest to a younger viewer without offending parents who only wish to live in a fantasy world of their own.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Travis as minlshaw on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.