Parental Guidance on childhood film favorites

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (stljewishlight.com/laura).  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. Laura is married and the mother of two middle school age children.

By Laura K. Silver

For the past few years, my husband and I have been on a kick to show our kids some of the more popular movies of our youth. We’ve thought about it for hours, throwing out film names, consulting our friends, looking online.  Over the course of the last several years, we’ve watched a lot of really good PG-rated favorites with our kids.  We’ve also watched a number of PG-rated mistakes.

Let’s start with “Grease.”  “You’ll love the music,” I told my young children, remembering vaguely that there was a swear word in one of the songs.  They probably won’t even notice, I thought to myself.  They didn’t notice it and neither did I really.  How could they?  They were too caught up in the teen pregnancy scare, getting advice on how to smoke cigarettes, and watching Sandy change her entire persona to fit in with the bad kids so a boy would like her to worry about that.

“Mom, you really liked this?” they asked, suspiciously, “We liked Sandy better before.”  So did I.  Whoops.

What about “The Natural?” A baseball movie–perfect. Wrong. In addition to being about baseball, it’s also about a man and a woman who have a child out of wedlock and one that the man doesn’t know about until years later.  He also manages to get shot by a woman wearing lingerie in her bedroom. Try explaining all of that to an 8-year-old. 

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I remember when PG-13 came out in July 1984.  I was 13 at the time and excited that it didn’t apply to me.  What I have since learned, however, is that it does.  As a parent, PG ratings before 1984 are completely unreliable and useless.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my ignorance.  Commonsensemedia.org was created to help people like me stop cringing when watching movies with their kids.  It is a website with age ratings by parents and kids to help parents gauge if a movie, book, TV show or game is age appropriate for a child.  At this point, I don’t watch a movie before consulting it.  You might even say I’m “hopelessly devoted” to it.

But please don’t.