movies

Living our Values in 2017 – Media Edition

This was originally going to be an article about a bunch of ways you can involve your kids in your politics and beliefs, but I got a little carried away with my media suggestions, so we’re going to start there, and I’ll be back soon with the other things the Parenting Geekly Family is doing to live our values in 2017 – including writing a Family Mission Statement!  I kept these suggestions as mainstream as possible to keep the barrier to entry low. You should be able to borrow or find most of these things on Amazon, streaming, or your local library.  (Note: Post conatians Amazon affiliate links).

Media

It can be intimidating to think about “resisting” or “revolution” or protesting when you have children. The good news is that you can teach your kids about justice, inclusion, diversity, activism and social justice without ever leaving your house. The easiest way to incorporate the ideals of equality, social justice, representation, and action is to make sure the media your family consumes showcases those topics.

Here is a very brief list of some of the media we’ve consumed recently:

Books
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Kitty received this as a Christmas gift from her Aunt Karen. It features an intersectional (white, black, Asian, trans, cis, young and old are all represented) selection of women who did what they felt was right, all delivered in short one-page stories with beautiful illustrations. This beautiful hardback book is currently on back order until February 2017 – but if you just can’t wait Amazon has a Kindle version.

Kitty’s Rad American Women Lantern

Rad Women series – I was introduced to the Rad American Women and Rad Women Worldwide books by my daughter’s fourth-grade teacher. Every year their school holds a lantern festival before winter break. Each child designs and creates a lantern. Some years the classes make punched-tin lanterns or lanterns from clay or decoupaged milk cartons. This year every fourth grader picked a woman from one of these books and decorated a vellum lantern with her portrait. It was a super cool project, and these are super cool books. Kitty’s Rad Woman was Bessie Coleman, the first African-American Woman and first Native American woman to become a licensed US pilot!

Ms. Marvel – Kamala Khan is a teenage Pakistani-American, and Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. The team of creators is diverse, and according to writer G. Willow Wilson: “A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a ‘second string hero’ in the ‘second string city’ and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person.” It’s appealing to wide range of ages. My husband and I enjoy it as much as 9-year-old Kitty does. This trade paperback collects the first issues into a single volume.

Movies
Star Wars – Not only do the Star Wars movies feature strong women and (at least in the two most recent films) racially diverse casts, they show a group of people fighting against evil. When you watch these beloved classics, make sure you point that out!

Captain America Civil War and Civil War comic books – Marvel showed two sides fighting for their strong opinions about social justice in this comic book series (which you can buy as a collection). The film is a condensed version but shows the same message of friends fighting on opposites sides for what they think is right. This could be a great entry point for conversation if you have close friends or relatives with opposing political opinions.

TV

The cast of Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries – This period police procedural from Canada was my big surprise love this year. Available on Netflix, it premiered in 2008 and take place in the 1890s. While the main cast isn’t diverse, it deals with issues of racism, women’s suffrage, social justice and progressive politics on a regular basis. There’s even an episode about abortion. I watch it with 9-year-old Kitty, but it does have some mild violence, mild gore (realistic dead bodies), and touches on adult themes (murder, sex, religion) – so maybe pre-watch it before you get the under 12s involved.

MUSIC
The Hamilton Soundtrack – If you can’t find something to talk about after listening to this race-bent take on our Founding Fathers you’re not trying. The creators and the racially diverse cast has talked about not feeling ownership of the story of the founding of our nation because it was done by a bunch of white guys. By casting people of color as the Founding Fathers, and using hip-hop in the soundtrack, they hope to make the story of the American Revolution accessible to all.
More easy ways to incorporate inclusive media? Listen to music from genres and cultures you don’t normally include. The recent inclusion of jazz to our repertoire has introduced our kids to Nina Simone, and her “Young, Gifted, Black” performance on Sesame Street. Seek out movies with racially diverse casts, or films that feature minority casts. Watch international films and TV (streaming has made this super easy!) Avoid films and TV that whitewash. Talk to your kids about diversity in their media and why it’s important. Don’t understand why it’s important? Here, let me Google that for you.

Can I Take My Kid to Ghostbusters? A Parents’ Guide

Ghostbusters 2016 Parent's Guide

The original 1984 Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies of all time. So I was pretty excited to hear that an all-female reboot was happening, and I knew that I would be there opening night. Since both of my kids (Nate, 16 and Kitty, 9) loved the original we went as a family.

Kitty isn’t easily freaked out. She loves action and adventure movies and counts Terminator 2 as one of her favorites. She’s seen the original Ghostbusters on multiple occasions – this new Ghostbusters was too scary for her. Even teenager Nate found it to be a bit anxiety-provoking. Here’s why:

-The ghosts are different. While most of the 1984 ghosts were relatively cartoony and seemed to delight in malicious mischief, the 2016 ghosts were scary and wanted to kill.
– Special effects have come a long way in 32 years. While the practical effects in the original were cool, they have not aged well. That’s not super scary for a kid in 2016. While the ghosts in the new movie were made to match the feel of the original, they were scarier just because they looked more “realistic”
-There were a lot of jump scares. They were pretty easy to see coming, so we were able to brace ourselves, but there were a lot.
-We saw it in 3D. It made some of the gags pretty cool, but being in a dark theater with 3D made it that much more intense.

This movie is rated PG-13, and I think that’s a pretty good guideline. it’s not gory and the horror is definitely tempered by humor -but it will scare younger kids and even sensitive older ones. It’s unlikely that your kid is going to be traumatized by the movie; Kitty didn’t have nightmares and is planning on being a Ghostbuster for Halloween, but it made for some intense moments in the theater. I think that viewing it at home in the day on a smaller screen once it comes to home video is going to be much easier for many kids.

Some other things to look out for:

-There is some swearing (including damn, shit, and bitches)
-There a few sly references to the internet controversy surrounding rebooting the franchise with women.
-There is a character that is terribly stupid. It’s pretty funny, and none of it is mean, but he is really, really over-the-top stupid.

My review? I liked it. I wanted to love it, but I liked it. It seems to rely heavily on the ad-libbing of the stars, which made a lot of the jokes one-liners that could have been in any movie. That made it feel a little disjointed to me. It lacked the charm of the original, and I think much of that had to do with the huge level of fan-service cameos and in-jokes. I loved all of the actors in the film, Kate McKinnon really stole the show as the super-quirky Holtzmann, and Melissa McCarthy proved once again that she’s a great action-comedy star. I wish the whole team had been scientists, or they at least hadn’t thrown the immensely talented Leslie Jones into the same role that Ernie Hudson filled as “blue-collar minority who joins the team for some reason”. Some of the fan service stuff was totally hokey and took me out of the film, but some of the gags were appreciated. I loved seeing a team of women Ghostbusters, and I was so excited that Kit got to see it, too – though I wished I would have waited to show her at home.

Can I Take My 5 Year Old to Finding Dory? A Parent’s Guide

DoryFinding Dory is the much anticipated sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo.  This time around instead of a parent searching for their child, we have an (adult) child – Dory, the sidekick Blue Tang from Finding Nemo – searching for her parents.Dory Title

There isn’t much that’s objectionable in this film. There are no bad words, and no one is especially mean.  There are some daring escapes, and moments of peril, but they are resolved quickly and without too much scariness.  One scene that may be hard for viewers is a first-person shot of Dory as she is trying to make her way somewhere and gets lost when she forgets the directions. It was gut-wrenching, though it’s resolved quickly and rather triumphantly.

Like most Pixar films, you can expect some very emotional moments. Through a series of flashbacks, we see that Dory has dealt with her memory loss from a young age. We see the fear her parents experience as they wonder how their child will navigate in the world without them. As the parent of a special needs child, there were some moments that hit so close to home, it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. The filmmakers handled this sensitive subject with tact and care. While Dory’s disability is rightly a huge part of her story, it’s not the only part. She is surrounded by people who love her and care for her because of her optimism and ingenuity.  It’s a refreshing take on people/fish with  cognitive differences.
Kids of all ages will enjoy Finding Dory, which opens June 17th.

 

For a behind the scenes look at the making of Finding Dory, check out the Parenting Geekly interview with Supervising Animator Michael Stocker here.