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Have Your Children Seen These Movies?

There are movies and then there are movies.

Movies have become an almost inescapable part of modern life, and, more importantly, of cultural significance especially in the US, and a vital part of modern Parenting.

It’s inescapable in part because it’s basically impossible that your kids aren’t going to see movies one way or another. Even if you try to establish a “no Hollywood” entertainment rule for your own household, that standard isn’t likely to hold at your kid’s friends' houses, or via their smartphone/tablet or those belonging to their friends, etc. Gone are the days when you could largely prevent your children from being inundated by Hollywood content by not letting them go to movie theaters.

Today, we have to simply understand and accept that one way or another, if our children are participating in modern social life and via modern technology, they are going to see movies, YouTube videos and TV shows whether we like it or not. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Even if most of what Hollywood and Silicon Valley produce is morally bankrupt tripe, it does at least allow for many opportunities for open conversations and discussions with our children about key social and human issues, from drug use to human morality to relationships. Maybe earlier than you’d have otherwise liked, but here we are.

It’s important to realize, however, that not everything that comes out of the Entertainment industry is necessarily bad, as much as the woke powerbrokers in Hollywood try to preach their progressive and often bizarre ideals. What I mean is, you can fight fire with fire. For every ‘bad’ movie your children end up exposed to where they are taught that humans are bad and deviant - you can help balance that by ensuring they also see good movies and TV shows…those that deliver a positive moral message about human beings.

My suggested starter list of films that every mom should ensure her kids see before they leave home is below…each mom must decide for herself the right time and place to show these, and all of us should come fully prepared to discuss the themes, issues and production with our children as well. This isn’t just fun, it’s work, too!

Without further ado, let’s jump in:

1. Fly Away Home – An Anna Paquin and Jeff Daniels classic about an estranged father/daughter forced to live together after the death of her mother, his ex-wife. They end up bonding over her goal of raising some wild Geese and teaching them to fly and migrate South for the Winter.

2. The Man From Snowy River – The best film to ever come out of Australia also happens to be one of the best “Western” movies ever made, about a young mountain man whose parents have both died, forced to earn his place in the world by going to the ‘low country’ for work. Deals with loss and love, and features the greatest horse-riding stunts in the history of Cinema.

3. To Kill a Mocking Bird – This is one that your kids may see in School anyway (at least when I was in Jr High we watched movies like this as part of History or Social Science classes), but this is one I think parents should watch with their kids as part of discussing racism, race relations and the history of racial bias in the US [including how much it has improved over the past 100+ years]. The movie also deals with Father/Daughter issues and opens a dialog around sibling rivalry and love as well. It’s a can’t miss opportunity.

4. Stand By Me – There are some people out there who think this is a ‘boys’ movie, considering it features young men going on a self-assigned mission together and battling another, older group of boys as well as their own fears and issues along the way. Of course, I couldn’t disagree more – the fact that the film doesn’t feature girls or women is all the more reason to watch this with your daughters or granddaughters, if for no other reason than to get to have a ‘boys vs girls’ discussion about behavior, thinking, approach and differences. It’s perfectly OK for movies that don’t feature females to be produced…Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants doesn’t have a lot of men in it, after all. That said, the themes of Stand By Me, about coming of age, being independent, dealing with parental and social issues, bullying…it’s a never-ending opportunity for dialog and discussion, in addition to being a very good film.

5. Brave/Mulan – Really your daughters/sons should probably watch both of these, but they’re very similar stories. Mulan has a live-action version that some people like more than the cartoon, but I think the animated version provides a better overall message about a young woman proving herself in a male-dominated culture without being too preachy about it. But both provide a pro-feminine heroine striving to demonstrate their value and capability without sacrificing being a woman, a good message for girls and for boys alike, though maybe for differing reasons.

6. The Goonies – Spielberg’s Classic kids' adventure movie, with 95% of the dialog featuring kids with no adults there to mess things up. While fun and full of edge-of-your-seat (kid’s style) moments right out of 70s era cliffhangers and comic books, the movie does also deal with mature themes including financial hardship and eviction, friendships and brotherhood and finding courage in the face of danger.

7. Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back – There are lots of reasons to include Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in this list, and to sneak them in together. First off, with as poor as some of the more recent Star Wars universe movies have been, it’s artistically important to show your kids where this thing started, help them understand the context of 1977 and 1981 and why these movies were such a cultural phenomenon, and how the truly universal themes were as important as the artistic achievement. The moral themes of these two films are timeless, and open themselves to discussions of Politics, Love, Sacrifice…believing in and being a part of something larger than yourself, the power of faith, all wrapped in an adventurous shell of laser swords and blasters. Coming of age writ-large, don’t let this one pass you by, and help your kids achieve proper nerdiness the right way!

8. Mean Girls – Probably won’t be showing this to your kids until they’re at least 8-10 years old (but your kids are yours, you decide when content is appropriate for them!), but at least as they’re about to enter Middle School/Jr High, might be a good object lesson here, with some fun humor to knock the edge of conversations…about bullying, about social cliques and the danger of ostracizing people who are different, and so on. Also probably a good chance to bring up the Lindsay Lohan Effect – that is, the challenges and dangers of too-soon and too-large success, especially for young people in Hollywood. I am not a huge fan of Mean Girls per se, but the reality is, particularly for your daughters, they are going to see this movie, probably earlier than you’d like, so be prepared to discuss it, watch it with them, and help them balance popularity and social acceptance with kindness, grace and inclusion.

9. The Legend of Billie Jean – Maybe this one seems like it is out of left-field, but hear me out: this movie is about two siblings forced to grow closer and rely on each other after they are accused of a crime they didn’t commit. It’s really got some powerful themes about family, as well as justice and standing up for yourself in the face of unfairness and lies. I found this movie to be empowering when I was a young woman, and having watched it recently, it really holds up in a way I hadn’t expected. Your daughter is probably 12 or so before you watch this with her, but years before she see’s Thelma and Louise, you can lay the foundation for standing up against “The Man” for the right reasons. As a plus, your kids will probably be the only kids in town who have seen this movie!

10. The Outsiders – Speaking of movies that hold up and carry universal human themes along with it even 40 years after it premiered, the rivalry between the Socs and Greasers delivers to this day. So many things to take away from this movie (and the book is even better, of course), but brotherhood, gang violence, social stratification and bias, the role of violence in America, from the 70s on through to the street violence we see today. And of course, a classic coming-of-age story where you kids get to meet the original Karate Kid before he was Daniel Laruso. Yes, West Side Story (and Romeo and Juliet) tell the same basic story, but The Outsiders tends to be a bit more approachable and relatable for most kids.

11. Stand and Deliver – If there was ever a movie that simultaneously delivered a message of perseverance in the face of prejudice while also finalizing on a theme of hard work and moral response in the face of hardship, this movie does it. Yes, there are elements of this movie that might have a leftist or even socialist bent to it, and those are things you will need to be prepared to discuss as well, but of course we’re focused on these kids and the level of effort they must put in to achieve their goal(s). You’ve got social bias, bullying, the importance of education, and the stratification of society – even themes like White/Affluent privilege if you decide to go there – all tied nicely together with some great acting and patient filmmaking.

12. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – OK, this one is more about helping your kids ‘embrace the silly’ than some vital moral message or discussion, but I think the ability to embrace goofy and even somewhat irreverent humor in the right context is very important. Grail is PG-13 officially, although there is a fair amount of foul language and sexual innuendo throughout the movie, so I’d watch this yourself first before you decide it’s OK for you kids. But in terms of being funny, and goofy and giving them access to a new Universe of comedy to explore (Monty Python and British humor in general), can’t go wrong here. If Holy Grail is a little too racy for your taste, you can sub in a Jerry Lewis or Jim Carey movie like Ace Ventura. Silly and fun, help your kids learn to giggle.

Not everything in parenting needs to be serious, and some parts of parenting can rely on a toolkit. For all the grumbling we do about what Hollywood gives us, even a broken clock is right twice a day, so use what works!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments other movies and TV shows you’ve found to be productive and useful as a part of your motherhood! What works for you?

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