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The other day I took my kids to see the Lego Movie. It was cute. Some catchy songs, a lesson in being special even if you’re not always told you’re special. It was no different from the usual fare of kid movies today. Simple. Corporate. Sometimes funny to adults. But mainly entertaining for kids.
But it got me thinking about WHY this is the case. Why is every kid’s movie the typical and formulaic type – like Frozen and Lego Movie - and then a huge skip and then The Hunger Games. My older kids are sick of little kid movies because they are that way. Why are all kids movies so bland? I’ll tell you why.
Because kids are bland.
Everyone knows that movies reflect real life in some way, shape or form. The point is to tell a story through situations, wardrobe, script writing etc. to relate to you, the viewer, so that you can be like, “I’m totally that Dad who would shoot the guy that kidnapped my children. I’d be all sassy about it too.”
But when it comes to kids, Hollywood is sticking with the singing cartoon for two reasons, one because of the parents. And two because our kids aren’t really doing anything to make movies about.
Let me explain where I’m coming from.
Remember Goonies? Remember E.T.? Stand by Me? Those were movies that my generation grew up with. Many of us can still quote directly from these movies because they were so impactful. We related to them because those kids were so much like us.
How were they like us?
1. They rode their bikes everywhere.
2. Swear words were used to sound grown up.
3. They had parents. But their parents weren’t the focus of their lives. They mostly went to work and trusted their kids to behave. BY THEMSELVES. AT HOME. ALONE.
4. Video games and televisions were there, but in the background.
5. They were fearless.
6. They knew all the short cuts to get places faster.
7. They knew how to fight/run/avoid the bad guy.
8. They relied on each other and themselves to figure things out on their own.
9. They rescued an alien and sent him back home.
The reason Hollywood is struggling is because there is no adolescence at age 11 or 12 anymore. Adolescence doesn’t start until a kid is like 16. And then it lasts until he’s 30. So prior to turning 16 (and quite possibly beyond), kids stay in this state of arrested development that is totally managed by their parents. School, sports/music/scouts/all three, television and video games. And in that priority order too.
It’s either The Lego Movie or the New Spiderman – now with added violence to keep our middle schoolers and high schoolers entertained. Our little ones see violence before they see movies like the Goonies? Ew.
E.T would have totally died with this generation of kids. They would never have been able to keep it a secret let alone ride their bikes that far.
And can you imagine, parents, what kind of drama would be afoot if Goonies was released TODAY? They say bad words! There’s brief kissing! One kid speaks Spanish, but only knows sexual phrases! They ride their bikes! Parents everywhere would be appalled and offended. I would NEVER let my 5th grader watch this movie! WHAT HAPPENED TO NEMO, they would cry. WE WANT NEMO!
And Hollywood knows this. So that’s what we get. But I know you parents – some of you have let your kids see that movie. And you watch it too. Good for you, Goonies was a classic.
But for the lot of you - please, let your kids out from under your thumb. Let them experience failure. Loneliness. Problem solving. Responsibility. Let them become interesting.
Because the world is more like Goonies than The Lego Movie. Let’s hope that this generation of kids has a shot at the adventure.