Sunday, 26 February 2017

DUMB movies make your kid stupid, selfish, sexist and boring

You can feel a rant coming on, can't you?

I recently began watching The Shanara Chronicles  on netflix. Terry Pratchett's story has so much potential, interesting premise and characters, even good actors, but what made me press 'stop' and never go back was the skinny, under-dressed, big-eyed, pathetic lead character - Amberle. A princess warrior (apparently) who wears skin-tight leather trousers and a bustier when supposedly wielding a sword and only manage to get a few cuts on her bare arms.

I'm sick and tired of these flat chested, anorexic bimbos telling my young daughter what to be!

Over time we've seen the portrayal of women in adventure movies shift from impossibly big-breasted/narrow-waisted/wide-hipped sex symbols to 'warriors' clad in scanty leather armour, to wearing nothing more than body paint and now to looking like teenage boys. (So who's casting that look?) It makes me seriously worried about the future for my young daughter. Let alone what boys actually think of these portrayals of their friends as they grow up. What are the expectations of girls in relationships? If girls can't even dress seriously for a job, how can they expect equal pay? Why should a man be more appropriately (and safely) dressed than a woman? Why do we need to see her 'sexy bits' anyway? Isn't it her skill and intelligence that will get her out of trouble?

Add to this the yawning chasm of decent material in kids films generally, modelling a narrow field of career suggestions such as:
  1. princess
  2. dancer
  3. singer
  4. model
Where are the engineers, the scientists, the writers, the mechanics, the biologists, the veterinaries, the animal wranglers, the hair dressers, the occupational therapists, the physios,  the speech therapists, the martial arts professionals, the teachers, the horticulturalists, the editors, the plumbers, the electricians, the soldiers, the pilots, the captains, architects, the garden designers, the skippers, the racing car drivers, the police officers, the doctors and nurses, the chefs, the surgeons, the waiters... I could go on and on and on....

Real Lives, Real Excitement
So I decided I would put aside a few minutes and come up with scenarios for books/films that are actually interesting and give kids a wider view of the sorts of careers they could have. Exciting lives they could lead, interesting situations they could find themselves, which don't involve a high school musical/dance/singing competition.

Here they are:

The Apprentice Zookeeper
David's dad has been taken prisoner by the gorillas in their enclosure. Does David know enough about these magnificent, dangerous creatures to get Dad back alive?

Five Steps
Jordan lives on Mars, where five steps outside can kill you. When his little brother goes outside in a sandstorm, can he find him?

Ride Like the Wind
In Mongolia the horse is king and growing up is dangerous. Can Sika prove herself worthy to ride with her father?

Training with the enemy
 Allie's parents hate football. They hate the Hampton Howlers even more. Allie wants to go to the Olympics but how can she get there without the right coach?

Freak Island
Working with his biologist father, Alex has discovered a ferocious new species. Can he capture it?

Children of the Dust
In Africa friendship can be dangerous, especially if your friend is a child soldier.

The Moon Pool
Sallie lives at the bottom of the ocean in a research lab where the pets are rather unusual.

Big Feet
Charlie has a new pet that no one wants to cuddle.

School and other Pains
Cassie lives in the outback where her classmates meet only once a year.

Silver Shoes
Re-training abused horses takes patience and skill, but Sarah's choice is un-trainable.

The Colour of Love
Sometimes all you have left is the will to survive. Julie's parents are struggling to protect the last pride of lions on Earth.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Movies and books which won't send your kid off the deep end

I don't know if you've noticed, but a LOT of kids' movies these days are very loud and obnoxious, resulting in similar behaviours in my child. Immediately after watching she's hyperactive, irritable and eventually (after arguing about everything) explodes into tears and has to be sent to her room for some quiet time to recuperate. Sassy American TV shows are particularly galling. We're trying to instill in my daughter respect for others, especially the adults who are charged with protecting and educating her. It doesn't matter how you cut it, adults and children are not equal. As adults we have experience and wisdom that only comes with age and making lots of mistakes. There is no fast track to knowledge. Kids must learn in stages, and listen to their elders. Some movies and TV shows do nothing to teach kids respect for themselves or anyone else.

So, in our house we've gone back to 'the good old days'. She loves The Sound of Music, and classic TV show Little House on the Prairie and a more recent offering based upon Flora Thompson's autobiography of life in the late 1800's Lark Rise to Candleford.  I know what you're thinking - these are so OLD FASHIONED! But not only are the stories interesting and exciting, she is learning a  lot about history and culturally relevant information that helps her make sense of who she is and who we are as a family.

In addition, I have just ordered a whole bunch of DVDs which I will put in the birthday and christmas box, to be given during the year, (not all at once!) Perhaps on a really rainy day when all craft/storynory/reading/board game options have been exhausted, I can whip out one of these DVDs.

Nostaglic? Of course I am! I was brought up in the seventies. In Australia we had a lot of TV shows from the fifties that did me no harm. This list of movies involves some (wait for it) old fashioned values. So if you're a wildly enthusiastic bra burning feminist, click away now before you get angry at my choices. I make NO APOLOGY for being a traditionalist. I believe very strongly in the traditional family and traditional values. If you don't agree, that's fine. But it's my choice and I have very good reasons for upholding these values.

Most of these movies are based on classic children's books by the best writers in the world. A couple are for sheer fun and silliness.

Anyway, enough of that. Here is the list!

We've read the books, (Heidi, Heidi grows up and Heidi's children). This is the story of a little girl without close family who goes to live in a totally different world and finds herself very much attached to her fierce looking grandfather. The lifestyle is completely different to what she is used to (milking goats, homemade cheese and bread, living high up in the alps) but she makes friends and is cherished by all who come to know her. A story of resilience, if ever there was one.

Little Women
We're reading this at the moment. The book does take some skill to read out, as the language is antiquated, but she is nevertheless enjoying getting to know the characters.

The Secret of Moonacre
We loved the book. Can't wait to see what the movie adaptation will be like.

A Little Princess
Don't know this story. Should be fun to find out!

The Secret Garden
What an amazing story of children's courage! We loved the book.

Huck Finn.
I read this at school many years ago. Its a strange and sometimes scary book, but kids love it because Huck is so plucky and somehow manages to get out of trouble. Historically speaking it is interesting too, with issues such as slavery and friendship between people of different ages and races.

Tom's Midnight Garden
A classic timeslip book with an unusual relationship at the heart of it.

The Shaggy Dog
I remember this well! A bit of silliness, magic and mistaken identity.

The Swiss Family Robsinson
I read this as a child. So thrilling! Made me think what it would be like to believing on an island with nothing but your wits and ability to make what you needed. A terrific family saga.

Davy Crockett
There is a harshness about pioneer America that needs to be told. Heroes weren't always so clear cut and people led quite hard lives. Davy tries to do the right thing. I know its glamorised him a bit (the man who boasted he'd shot 100 bears). But that gives us room to chat about such things and the historical context.

The Parent Trap
Always a favourite, no matter which version you see. I'm hoping this one is fun!

The Railway Children
This lovely story about WWII and how children perceived it is brilliant.

Swallows and Amazons
Reminds me of my own childhood, when we roamed the neighbourhood and played in the bush. Our made-up games gave us hours of fun and taught us so much about getting along with others and the importance of creativity and problem solving.

The Absent-minded Professor
Another bit of silliness. Lots of fun. Stokes the imagination!

So there's my current list. You may have other ideas which are just as good or better. The important thing is that these stories are told simply, not with huge, loud amazing special effects. I would add a couple more - The Neverending Story and Fly Away Home.