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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!

Hidden Figures: A Parents’ Guide

Hidden Figures tells the story of Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) all three women were Computers (people who did computations before electronic computers were used) at Langley NASA.  It is based on a true story – all three of the women were brilliant mathematicians who made great advancements for NASA in mathematics, engineering, and computer programming.

If your kid (especially your daughter!) can pay attention during a dialogue-heavy movie, I highly recommend taking them.  I consider myself a space enthusiast, and I had no idea that the “West Computers” (NASA’s term for the women-of-color Computers who were segregated and worked on the west side of Langley’s campus) existed, let alone their amazing contributions to space and aeronautics science.

To fully appreciate many of the plot points, your child should be familiar with the United States Civil Rights Movements, segregation, and Jim Crow laws. Our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination is an important conversation to have anyway, and this film shows a little of what it was like to be a person of color in a segregated state in the early 1960s.

It’s rare to see a film where the heroes are women, even rarer to see a film those women are geniuses, and rarer still where those women geniuses are black women. Nine-year-old Kitty left the theater inspired to learn more about computer programming and women’s contribution to the American Space Program.

This is a big Hollywood take on true events, so there were some liberties taken with the timeline, with names and places (most of the supporting characters are composites of people who worked at NASA rolled up to represent sentiments on women and race at the time), but according to those in the know – including the real-life Katherine Johnson – the movie is true to the main characters and the general events in the movie.  According to NASA Historian Bill Barry:

“Like anything based on real-life events, there are some temporal things that, as a historian, are like, ‘eh, that didn’t really happen like that,’ but I think that the movie is true to the stories of the main characters,” he said. “On the whole I was very happy with the outcome.”

This article at History vs. Hollywood has a good breakdown of what/who was real and what was fluffed up for entertainment value is a good place to start after watching the movie with your kids.

So…

Can I bring my nine year old to Hidden Figures?

I would say yes!  As long as your child can sit through a character driven movie, I think you should ABSOLUTELY take your kids to see Hidden Figures. Just make sure that your kids are aware of the basic ideas of segregation and misogyny in the 1960s and you should be fine. Besides the racism and misogyny, there is little questionable here.  There’s a mild romantic subplot, a little drinking, and some mild swearing. Kitty had a bit of a hard time paying attention during some of the scenes that were not based in NASA, but she absorbed all of the important plot points.

It’s inspiring to see the perseverance the three main characters showed while facing some really despicable discrimination. And if your child is like Kitty, she may even come away inspired to investigate a new career path!