Given my fierce opposition to anything violent in my kids’ entertainment and my critique of Pixar’s apparent move away from child-appropriate films (not to mention commenter Tim’s disappointed commentary on their latest film), you would not be out of line to assume that there is no way I would take my kids to see Cars 2. And so you would likely be rather surprised to hear that my kids did indeed go with their Nana to see Cars 2 yesterday. What, you might ask, was I thinking? Why would I allow such a violation of my principles?
Cars 2 is rated “G” — suitable for children of all ages — and that does carry a lot of weight with many parents. But if Cars 2 is so violent, why isn’t it rated “PG” or even “PG-13”? I suspect the MPAA is less concerned with the effects of movie violence on children than I am. I also suspect that the MPAA doesn’t see Cars 2 as a violent movie since no humans are involved. I imagine a committee from the MPAA sat in a conference room, thought “oh, they’re just blowing up cars and such, that doesn’t count as violence, right?” and then gave the movie its “G” rating. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.
What the MPAA has perhaps failed to consider is that John Lasseter and his team at Pixar are known for their ability to bring life and personality to inanimate objects and the Cars characters are no exception. Once you anthropomorphize an object, however, you can’t blow that object up and claim that isn’t violence. Those cars are every bit as much “people” to little kids as you and I are. Remember, these are kids that believe a 6-foot talking yellow bird is real and that the Tooth Fairy does magically appear in their bedrooms at night to trade cash for lost teeth.
So clearly, I should not have let my impressionable young children see this film — and yet I did. Parenting is never easy and it’s certainly never simple. While I definitely feel that Cars 2 is a movie best suited for teenagers, I also know that my children have been well-prepared to handle exposure to movie violence. We’ve discussed violence at length and they have had training in stage combat from their work in the theatre, so they can understand that what they see on the screen is not necessarily real. It was also an outing with their Nana and cousin, an important experience in my book.
Most of all, however, was the pressure exerted by the advertising, by their peers, and, to some extent, by society at large. You see, in the United States, a nine-year-old (or even a seven-year-old) who hasn’t seen Harry Potter is a social outcast. At that age, to never have tasted soda pop and thus be hesitant about something likened to soda is seen as odd. There is much that is expected of kids (and adults) in order for them to fit in and, while I hope they know better than to want to be just like everyone else, I think that being able to fit in with their peers is important as well.
And then there is the advertising — everywhere we turn, it seems, there are the Cars characters and a push to see the film. By the time Kids-in-Mind had their review posted and I knew anything about the film, my kids had it set in their minds that they were going to see it. To disappoint them at that point seemed like it would be a hollow victory at best. As parents, we must always choose which battles to fight and make the rest into learning experiences. And the latter, for better or for worse, is what I chose to do here.