parent’s guide

Can I take my kid to Black Panther? A Parents’ Guide

A Parents Guide to Black Panther

Black Panther: The Movie America Needs

The expectations for Marvel’s Black Panther film are high. The Black Panther comics have frequently touched on race relations, he fought the KKK in the mid-seventies, and the never-colonized Wakanda is seen as an allegory for real-world Ethiopia. The current run of the comics by journalist (The Atlantic, Time, The Village Voice) and best-selling author (Between the World and Me, We Were Eight Years in Power) Ta’ Nehisi Coates is highly acclaimed, and many have made comparisons of Coates’ T’Challa to Barack Obama. Lack of representation and whitewashing are finally becoming part of our public discourse, and our current political climate is not one that is friendly to black people (frankly, America, in general, is not friendly to black people). So in this world we’re in, how would Marvel – a company known for feel-good superhero romps, deal with a character that has been pretty political – he is the leader of a nation, after all – since his debut?

I think they did it really well. (The huge disclaimer here is that these are the opinions of a white lady.) Much of the film’s conflict revolves around how black people around the world are subjugated, denied resources, and kept down by their governments. The filmmakers did not shy away from calling out colonialism, the war on drugs, and other crimes committed against black populations. In Wakanda, the residents literally have to hide their culture to protect themselves. I imagine this is something that modern people of color feel that they have to do to be successful in a society that is dominated by white people and is frequently hostile to outward expressions of blackness.

In Black Panther, like in real-life America, Black Women Save the Day

via GIPHY

My favorite part of this movie is that Black Panther doesn’t conquer any of the conflicts in the movie alone. He relies heavily on the women of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje, the King of Wakanda/Black Panther’s Royal Guards have been part of the mythos of Black Panther for the past twenty years. In the comics, they are Wakandas best women, chosen to be potential Queens for the King, and also to serve as highly trained guards. In the Black Panther movie, we don’t get a lot of background on who the Dora Milaje are, or what their history is – but what we do get is some serious ass-kicking by head guard Okoye. Okoye, like all of the female leads, saves the day more than Black Panther actually does. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri is a super-genius-Tony-Stark-like inventor who uses the Vibranuium that is so plentiful on Wakanda to create everything from a Mag-Lev transportation system to Black Panther’s suit.  T’Challa’s former girlfriend Nakia is a Wakandian spy and forward-thinker who wants to push Wakanda onto the world stage so that it might use its plentiful resources to help refugees. Finally, Ramonda, Queen of Wakanda, T’Challa and Shiri’s mother navigates the space between grieving her fallen husband and advising/protecting her newly crowned son. This is an overtly feminist film, and I was so into it.

White Parents, This is Your Teachable Moment.

White parents: There’s a lot here to talk about socially with younger kids. If you are willing to have these conversations (and you should) by all means take them to see Black Panther. They will see a world where people of color are inventors, negotiators, loving family members, queens, and heroes, and that’s something all white kids need to be exposed to more of.

Things all parents will want to talk about include themes of integrity, of taking responsibility for your mistakes, loyalty, and choosing to do what’s right over what’s expected.

So, Can I Bring my Kid to See Black Panther?

The bad guys in Black Panther use guns – the real-life kind, not cartoony laser weapons. People get shot, sometimes in cold blood. There are bullet wounds. There is hand-to-hand combat during a large-scale fight. Characters we have come to care for die. A character chooses to die rather than be jailed.

So at what age can your kid see Black Panther?  I think that if they have seen the other Marvel Movies, they’ll be fine. The motives of the bad guys are a little less clear-cut (they are even sympathetic sometimes), but this plot point could be the jumping off point for a good age-appropriate conversation about social justice.  If you really need a hard-age limit, a mature 10 years old is probably about right.


Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, and Angela Bassett. It is rated PG-13 and is in theatres now.

Beauty and the Beast (2017): A Parents’ Guide

Beauty and the Beast (2017): A Parents’ Guide

 

The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast is pretty unnecessary.  It is a sometimes shot-for-shot remake of the beloved 1991 Disney Animated feature (fun fact: Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – Up and Toy Story 3 have been nominated since).  Does its redundancy make it any less fun or fabulous? No, it does not.

It was super-fun to see the world of this beloved Disney classic reinterpreted in a live-action setting. With this new update, we also get an extended look at the palace and its inhabitants before and after the transformation.  We also get a tiny bit more of a backstory for the Beast, my guess is that this was done to make him more sympathetic and to tone down the whole Stockholm Syndrome situation.  We get to see Belle as an inventor, and as a caring teacher to children in her village. I very much appreciated the fleshing out of one of my favorite Disney princesses. They even threw a few new songs in, while keeping all of the old favorites.

This new imagining of Beauty and the Beast also introduces Disney’s first obviously gay character. While Gaston’s sidekick Le Fou was definitely coded gay in the original animated film, there is no doubt about it in this film.  While it was acknowledged with a wink and nod throughout the film, there is a blink and you’ll miss it moment at the end that confirms Le Fou’s preferences in a totally lovely and kid-friendly way.  I’m so excited for all the gay kids out there who finally get to see themselves represented (however briefly) in a Disney film.

So what should parents be aware of? I thought it was interesting that although I knew the plot of the movie, I found that seeing real-live people in the same peril was much scarier.  Seeing a real man being chased by live wolves was pretty intense, as was seeing a real group of villagers attempting to raid the Beast’s castle. The frenzy caused by Gaston wanting to kill the Beast may be hard for younger viewers to understand and may make a good talking point for after the film. I had actually forgotten what a rough song “Kill the Beast” was until I saw this again, and it was another instance where I think the cartoon provided a nice buffer that is absent in the live-action version. There is also a few instances of gun violence and a moment where the Beast says that he is “damned”.  Gaston dies (look, it’s not a spoiler, this movie has been out for 25 years).

So what age is Beauty and the Beast good for? Beauty and the Beast is okay for ages 6 and up.  If you child is younger than 6 or is very sensitive, I’d wait to watch this one at home.  It also has a relatively long running time of 129 minutes, something to keep in mind before taking small bladders to the theater.

One last warning: Be Our Guest is just as much of an ear worm as it was in 1991.  I haven’t stopped singing it since I saw the film three days ago!

Lego Batman: A Parents’ Guide

I didn’t want to leave my house to go the press screening of Lego Batman that I was invited to. Kitty had spent the previous three days sick, so I hadn’t slept. Nate was at Robotics, so he couldn’t join me, and Rick couldn’t join me because Nate couldn’t babysit.  I was tired, I was cranky, and I was going to have to go alone.  I was really hesitant to go, but I knew that a bunch of you would want to know what ages this is appropriate for, and I didn’t want to let you, dear reader, down (plus it was free).  I’m so glad I went.  I forgot about all of my problems for 90 minutes. Lego Batman is the movie America needs right now.

Most of the time, when I start these movie reviews I consult the good folks at Common Sense Media.  They get to see the movies even sooner than I do, and since they tend to be more conservative on what they consider potentially objectionable, I sometimes reconsider my suggestions based on what they say.  Common Sense Media and I pretty much agreed on this one. It’s very silly, but clever  It manages to be heartwarming with tons of positive messages, and  still be really, really funny.

If your kid is extra sensitive, it might be hard to see the characters constantly in peril – but other than that it’s family-friendly flick. A friend reported that their three year old lost the plot and got bored about half-way through, but getting bored is a pretty common thing for a three year old. There’s no real bad language, though there is mild name calling and teasing (someone gets called a loser). There are a lot of explosions, injuries, and explosions, but since it’s all Lego, it all gets put back together pretty easily.  I really enjoyed that the filmmakers highlighted Batman as a “master builder” who uses his skills and creativity to solve his problems. I also really liked that Batman showed a lot of personal growth over the course of the movie.  Finally, as the sister of adoptees, and as a family that has close friends we call aunts and uncles, I loved the message that families are made of the people who love you.

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