Imagine this scene:
A five year old girl and her soon to be three year old little brother argue outside of a movie multiplex. The brother argues that Alice can’t be a ship Captain because she’s a girl. The sister asserts that he didn’t understand the message of the movie. “Alice can do anything… girls can do anything. There’s no such thing as impossible.” The sister then goes on to make a critical connection between Alice and Judy Hopps in Zootopia (who’s parents displaced her within a gender bias framework – my words – not hers). The conversation continues as we drive home and I moderate the ideas shared. Not only do we talk about Alice Through the Looking Glass and Zootopia but the importance of being respectful of people, to be aware of others’ feelings, to appreciate difference and to embrace and advocate for equality.
This is why I take my kids to the movies!
If you were to meet my kids, they will share reflections on many of their hobbies, retell family adventures and undoubtedly express their love of the movies. Now, this is a love like another other interest that began with a parent (I’m to blame in this case.) It’s a cinephile world that I selfishly integrated them into at a very young age. For each child, the exposure to the theatre experience was abnormally young. My daughter was nine-months old when she sat through her first theatrical film and my son equally the same age.
In there time going to movies, the experience has transitioned from “junk food buffet,” to cultural experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, we still indulge on the sweets, but their ability to watch with etiquette, understand visual literacy, decode meaning (at a very basic level) and ask many questions (I stress many), reinforces a growing maturity that speaks to their generation (Generation Z).
In fact, I assert that their growing understanding of media literacy is of great importance; comparable to my daughter learning how to read, write and work with numbers. For some people I know and passively interact with at the movie theatre itself, they are bewildered that my children can sit through an IMAX 3D movie like Alice Through the Looking Glass with very little fuss. In fact, upon the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I took my two year son to a matinee and other attendees commented on how surprised they were to see him calmly watching the film. The only time he became vocal was at visual and auditory cues of Kylo Ren; understanding the base value of his character being evil like Darth Vadar. Quietly, many questions were asked and I tried my best to give meaning that he would understand.
Considering Generation Z is the generation born into technology and who have lived in a time where the internet always existed (and is a human right under the United Nations), the need to appreciate the importance of visual literacy, digital storytelling and the constructive nature of media is urgent. Like working through Guided Readers, young people must interact with mediated stories in an active way and learn how to read them. The experience can only be active, if parents deeply engage their children in meaningful conversation. We as parents must appreciate that media artifacts are littered with privileged perspective. At a time when Donald Trump garners all eyes and ears with his cultural profane sensibilities (or lack thereof), real conversations must be had, even if only a very small seed of understanding is been planted and begins to root.
Our Next Movie:
Without shame – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 2: Out of the Shadows.
We’ve been watching the 2014 reboot recently and some interesting questions have emerged.
- How can the Ninja Turtles be good if they’re violent?
- Why does each Ninja Turtle look different?
- Why does Mikey smile while on the billboard at the end of the movie?
Now, I just have to come up with suitably age appropriate answers. Considering its a Michael Bay production, that may be a problem.