You Got Some 'Splainin' to Do!

I'm on a rant. It's not pretty.

Against my better judgement, we took the Human Cannonball to see Cars 2.  The movie is very heavy on the James Bond theme.  While I usually appreciate Pixar's ability to weave in adult jokes to their kids movies, the inside jokes were a little too outside for my taste.  There was a LOT of shooting, chasing, torturing, and using the phrase, "KILL HIM" (especially in reference to the beloved Lightening McQueen).  I'd heard the reviews (spoiler alert: The reviews are bad), I'd had friends tell me how disappointed (and downright angry) they were after taking their children to see the movie, I'd even thought long and hard about my personal beliefs as a parent (despite the fact that the Human Cannonball was all geared up for the movie - which we got him excited about before the movie was released, we are a family who does not promote pretending to shoot or kill). I'm here to tell you now, I should have listened to my gut and not taken him to the movie.  That's not what I'm all revved up about. Having taken him to see the movie was MY mistake.  I own that.

We are huge fans of the Pixar movie UP.   We have watched it on DVD umptifoo times, and the Human Cannonball will quickly list it in his top five favorites (likely behind all three Toy Story movies). I love the story of Up. I love the relationship between the curmudgeon Carl Fredricksen and the "boy scout" Russell (the Human Cannonball does, too. We have had a series of goldfish named Carl and Russell). I adore the theme of animal rights that weaves through the movie.  I am head over heels for the way the movie defines the big idea of adventure. I am even abundantly satisfied with the themes of death and grief that the film portrays.  I have very, very few gripes about this movie.  And yet, if you check the rating, it is rated PG in response mostly to the aforementioned themes of death and grief (as noted by the Motion Picture Association of America as Some Peril and Action).

Then there's Cars 2. The bulk of the movie is fast moving, shooting, bombing, torturing, action with dialogue about destroying and killing characters.  Yet, the movie carries a G rating. Whether the G rating came as a result of the fact that the cars in the movie are "imaginary characters" vs. "depictions of real people" in my opinion is a moot point. To my child, these cars are as real as I am. I have to agree. I attach myself the characters and their personalities because THE CARS TALK! They don't just need gas every too few miles, or pester you for an oil change every three months. They talk. They have friendships, they fall in love, they have self esteem, they are more than just cars.

Here's where I'm really mad: What is with our culture that we are so jammed up about talking to children about real death? Part of the cycle of life.  People die.  Babies die, Elderly people die, and people of every age in between die. Yet, it appears as though we are perfectly able to reconcile conversations about intent to kill and shooting. Are you with me here?  I was watching the faces of other parents in the theater and wondering if they were as disturbed and aggravated as I was at the theme of the movie and I was surprised that there was no reaction at all on their faces.  I can't tell you how many of my friends (whom I have always, and still do consider really good parents) have thought nothing of the violent themes in the movie. I have sat on countless panels on the topic of how to talk to children about death, and yet I have no idea how to talk to my children about violence and intent to kill.  While I know someday that conversation should and will come, I don't think it's appropriate to have now. I do, however, think that the conversation about death and dying as a part of the life cycle is a vital and appropriate conversation to have at every age and stage.

I'm not mad a Pixar (although, I can't believe that they failed so miserably with Cars 2), and I'm not really mad at the Motion Picture Association of America, after all, they were just responding to our culture.  That's who I'm mad at, our culture. A culture that seems to promote violence and intent to kill as entertainment, but views natural death as too difficult or (dare I say it) REAL to expose people too.

Where are you with this? Are you with me? Or do you think I'm so far off base I should send it an email and get GPS directions to find my way back? Or anywhere in between... I'm up for a civilized discussion...


  1. Nope, I'm with you. I love that the movie Up shows true love and devotion but Cars 2, not really what I want my child to be watching.
    You hit the nail on the head with your review.

  2. I'm with you. And it was really boring.

    The only good part was that Mater got a hot girl. See? I think of her as a girl.

  3. If you have some spare time, check out This Film Is Not Yet Rated (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/). It talks about the MPAA and the screwed-up way ratings are decided and how that has shaped American culture into this bizarro thing that it is today. I still don't understand how ultraviolence is A-OK but nudity is not.

  4. I am so with you on this. My 2 year old LOVES the original Cars. My husband was planning to take him to see Cars 2 as his first 'at-the-theater' movie, and then I heard some bad reviews. My 6 year old came home from watching it and said, "Do NOT take Davis to this movie - it was way too violent!" If my young child can see that it shouldn't be rated G, there's something wrong there.

    I don't get why culture says violence is more a more appropriate topic than dealing with death and grief. Then again, my beliefs are often not aligned with what the world in general thinks is cool.

  5. Well, we haven't seen the movie - and because of the many many many reviews like yours I have seen - we don't intend to anytime soon either. We also do not pretend play 'killing' or 'hurting' of any kind in our home, be it cars or otherwise. We don't ever 'hurt' anyone or anything intentionally.

  6. Well said. I've heard similar reactions to the movie and your review seals it for me. We won't go see it. Now, having said that, my girls watch a lot of movies that I think are over the top in terms of violence or intent to kill or heck, just plan adult themes. The new Disney TV Show "My babysitter is a vampire" is the latest. It's horrible and graphic and completely geared towards an older audience, but its sandwhiched between Phineus and Ferb and Good Luck Charlie and others. I am furious. I think our culture is screwed up.

  7. Colleen, I warned you!! I don't consider myself a prude by any stretch of the imagination and I'm not naive enough to think that my 5 yr old girl won't be exposed to violence at some point, but give me a break. C2 was out of control.

    As well, I'm not one to blog or rant and rave, but this is one time where I'm taking a stand. You're spot on in everything you said. Keep up the fight!

  8. With you all the way. Have you sent copies of your well-written response to the various higher ups at Disney, Pixar, MPAA, etc? You should.

  9. Ditto to it all. We were so appalled. The only thing we could figure is that Pixar was trying to cater to the little boys who loved the original and are now older, more aggressive boys. Which, of course, would be a totally stupid strategy...but just can't think of any other reason Pixar would make the movie so violent and over the top. Such a disappointment.

  10. well I have to say that the boy was intently listening to our conversation on Saturday and said the second we got in the car "Colleen really made me want to see the movie"....direct hit on the 11 yr old for Pixar!!!! boo

  11. I really enjoyed watching the movie UP with my son; it was funny and sentimental but not overly serious. Did you know Blockbuster has it? I love Blockbuster and use it to rent movies and games all the time. In fact, DISH is offering Blockbuster free for three months to customers who switch over. I work for DISH so I know all of their special offers, check out http://goo.gl/wuMrN to find out how.


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