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An Open Letter to Parents from Jen

Dear fellow parents,

It is my intention, when I review children's movies, to arm you with knowledge. In each review, I will include warnings to any content that I found questionable. However, I realize that what I may deem appropriate or objectionable for my 8-year-old girl may not coincide with your views. Please do not take any positive review I write as an endorsement.

I hope that you will take your own knowledge of your child's personality, and your own personal values into consideration before you watch any movie. I know it's not always possible to screen movies by yourself before your children watch them, but at the very least, I urge you to watch them together.

With that said, I'd like to express how difficult I've found rating kiddie-films to be. I may feel inclined to give a movie an A, simply because I loved it myself and would watch it even if my daughter, Michele, weren't around. But, if she gives the same movie an F, because she found it scary, or even just boring, I feel like I have to take that into consideration. After all, these movies are directed at kids, and if my kid doesn't like them, they fail on that level. In such cases, I may grade them slightly lower than I really want to, but not too much lower. My daughter may not like a movie that appeals strongly to boys, or she may think she has out-grown it. Similarly, she may, one day when she's older, change her mind and view it more favorably. So, I'd like to encourage you to read the reviews in their entirety, and not rely only on the grades.

In my reviews of both children's and teen movies, I've included some warnings about subject matter. In general, I think parents would like to be informed ahead of time about foul language, violence, death, sex, nudity, and the depiction of alcohol and drug use. Simply because I've included a warning, however, does not mean that I found it offensive, or even inappropriate, to view with my child. All a warning means is that I noticed such subject matter. Similarly, I may sometimes forget to add a warning about something, because I never even noticed it. Take foul language, for example. Michele's father, my husband, is a soldier who spends his day around other soldiers. Therefore, he has a pretty foul mouth. Both Michele and I have become immune to F-words and barely even notice them. If I forget to warn you about foul language in a movie, please forgive me. However, a movie's MPAA rating is usually a good indicator of language. Movies often get a "PG" rating only because the word "ass" is used in place of the word "butt."

Although we put considerable thought into any movie we allow Michele to see, her father and I are actually rather liberal in our choices. She has been allowed to watch certain PG-13 and R-rated movies, but we've always watched those ahead of time, without her being present. Then, we watch them with her. The first thing we take into consideration is whether or not a movie will give her nightmares. In our case, we've discovered that our child really likes scary movies, and doesn't suffer any late-night after-effects. The second thing we have to ask ourselves is, "Are we personally ready to discuss this subject matter with her?" Although she may be ready to learn about sex or drugs, that doesn't mean we're prepared to talk about it ourselves.

But that's a great thing about movies. They can often instigate discussion on a great many topics. It's much easier to educate a kid about sex when you can use fictional characters as an example. Even movies that glorify drug use or violence can be great teaching tools. They give you an opportunity to tell your child, "In a make-believe world like the movies, that may seem okay, but in the real world, it's harmful and destructive."

So, simply because I've included a warning in my review of a children's or teen movie, doesn't necessarily mean that I found that subject matter objectionable, nor that I think it's completely inappropriate for juvenile viewing. All I mean is, "This is a movie that you should probably watch with your kids, so that you may give them your own slant on it." On the other hand, some movies are just plain bad. Bad filmmaking, bad writing, and bad acting make a movie unsuitable for viewing by anyone, including children.

I'm sorry to say that many movies aimed at kids and teens fall into that latter catagory. In my opinion, most of the fare being offered to young people is (quite frankly) crap. My reviews will reflect that. That's why I get so excited when I come by a movie that doesn't talk down to children and treat them like little morons. That's why I want to spread the word about movies that give girls positive role models. That's why I want boys to see movies that show real consequences to violent actions. I want children to grow up with an appreciation for really good movies, and not just blindly accept anything that Hollywood throws at them. That's what I'm trying to do with my little girl, and since you've come to this site to read reviews, I'm assuming that you've got the same goal. I wish for you all to have many great movie experiences with your children.