The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

How to share movies with your children

with 16 comments

Have we got an obligation as movie lovers to make sure that our kids watch certain films as a part of their education?

Are our reasons for using our parental privilege, more or less forcing them to watch our old favourites pure, innocent and altogether altruistic?

Or could there something else at play here – an urge to try to make our children into copies of ourselves or a longing for the power to not only recommend movies to others, but also have them actually watch it?

I came to think of this after listening to the extra material of a recent episode of Filmspotting, where the hosts had a discussion about suitable “father-daughter movies”, movies that they’d like to share with their present or future daughters.

Gender differences?
At first I got a bit worked up as I listened to their take. They started out suggesting some old Audrey Hepburn movies to be particularly suitable for this purpose? And I wanted to cry out: why? Would you suggest the same movies to your sons, or would you rather pick a Sylvester Stallone movie for them? It sounded like a view on genders that was outdated already in the 60s and I raged, oh, I raged.

I thought of the move preferences of my own girls. The 18 year old, with her love for action and thrillers and her contempt for anything that breathes of drama, emotions, feel-good or God-forbid – romance. There’s no way I could convince her to come with me to see a movie like Rabbit Hole. She even refused The King’s Speech, to my big dismay. I did persuade her to come and see Dogtooth with me, but Source Code will probably be more to her liking. Typical girlish is the last thing she is.

And then there’s the 17 year old She DOES like some movies that teenage girls are “expected” to like.  The Twilight series and that sort of thing. But she also is a huge fan of horror movies, the more blood and gore, the better. The kind of movies I just can’t bear the thought of watching. I remember when she came home and told me about her watching of The Human Centipede. I felt sick for days after it, only from her retelling the plot. But she’s way tougher than I am.

Thinking about all this, I was about to explode at what I thought was a very old-fashioned view on boys and girls. But then all of a sudden, the hosts changed their mind and said that they couldn’t see any difference and that there was no reason to assume that their daughters wouldn’t enjoy movies such as Life of Brian and The Godfather as much as a son would do.

And since this is exactly my point of view, I could finally stop fuming and raging.

Influence our children
But let’s ponder a bit further of the idea of giving your children a movie education. Does it always work out the way we hope? Can we have any kind of influence on their future preferences, or at least help them with some pointers, give the discoveries they might have missed out otherwise?

Perhaps. But my advice for aspiring parents, who plan to raise their future offspring in a spirit of cinephilia, is to have reasonable, realistic expectations. Believe it or not, but for the genetic connection there is, children sometimes come out very, very different from their parents. They deserve to be listened to and accepted for who they are. And movies age, not always with grace. The movie that you still think is excellent, thanks to a shimmer of nostalgia that is invisible to anyone who didn’t see it when it first was released, may in fact be pretty awful, slow and unbearably tedious for someone who is brought up with a completely different pace in their daily media consumption.

Have mercy with the little ones or you might put them off from watching movies altogether!  It’s more important that they maintain their lust and curiosity about movies, having an open mind for movies of all sorts, connecting the act of going to a cinema to something positive, than to ensure that they’ve seen all the “must-see” classics.

I was raised in a family of book readers, where the general idea was that it didn’t matter WHAT you read, as long as you read something. There was a place and a reason for all sorts of books. This open attitude was a soil where a genuine interest for literature could flourish. One day I read a light crime novel. The next day I dove into a Russian classic. And neither was ever considered “wrong”. I’d suggest that attitude when it comes to movies as well. Of course you can share recommendations – the enthusiasm my parents showed for Whisky Galore! was contageous. But thread carefully if you want to avoid backlashes.

Movie dictating
Nowadays our children are so old, that it’s rare that we get together as a family to see the same movie. But couple of years back we did it regularly.

As the kids grew older we found ourselves spending more and more time arguing about which movie to see next. There were often four different ideas and we never seemed to agree, spending more time arguing and sulking than actually watching the movie. This was until we came up with a solution, which meant that we took turns in the decision making.

One family member at a time was the movie dictator of the night, and the rule was that everyone had to agree to that choice, giving the movie a fair chance. No commenting, sulking, arguing was allowed. However, you only had to stay around for 30 minutes. After that time slot, you were free to leave, if you didn’t like the movie.

It worked as a charm. I think it was within the frames of this system that we introduced them to for instance Woddy Allen’s Match Point, which turned out to be a favourite they even wanted to see again, sharing it with their friends. Oh, the sweet taste of parental victory!

And you know what? In the end it wasn’t just the children who got some movie education thanks to the influence from their wise parents. We too got exposed to some movies we might not else have watched, thanks to our children.

Parent-child movie education goes both ways. It’s easy to forget.

A final word
But hey, Friday night is approaching quickly and I suppose you have plans of your own. You’re probably in a hurry and want to move on rather than listening to my ramblings. If you wonder what I’m up to, I’ll probably sneak out tonight to watch the Canadian movie Incendies, which looks eventful enough to keep me awake, even if it’s more serious than commercial so to say. That’s the plan at least.

If you want to stay for a while longer though, don’t be shy to order a cup of coffee or some stronger drink of your preference. It’s on the house. And yes, we have finally installed a fireplace, so take a seat in front of it if you feel frozen.

I hope you’ll have a wonderful weekend.


Written by Jessica

August 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. I’ve stopped categorizing movies and I’m watching pretty much everything that’s has good reviews.

    As such I find it annoying that my sister does not like Sci-fi or action movies. How can you tell if you haven’t watched Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, Dark City or any of the other classics?

    I personally don’t mind watching a dancing movie with her as long as it has some good reviews. And heck, I know quite a few great romantic movies or dramas.


    August 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    • Yeah, it’s sad when people deny themselves movie experiences just ruling out entire genres. There’s room for so many different sorts of movies within a genre so you just don’t know. This said, I’m a bit reluctant myself when it comes to pure horror movies…. Oh well. But again: it depends on the movie. There are always exceptions. As comes to reviews, yes, I read and take impressions from them I suppose, but I’ve also learned not to trust them blindly. My local newspaper for instance seems to have quite a different taste for movies than I have. We rarely agree.


      August 13, 2011 at 1:38 am

  2. I think that it is a shame how our children don’t have many classics in their canon. I had my two daughters watch a movie I chose, one a week all summer. It included classics they hadn’t seen like It’s A Wonderful Life and King Kong. There are films that they may not appreciate that much now (like To Kill A Mockingbird), but I think they will return to them fondly later.

    Steve Kimes

    August 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    • As long as it doesn’t make them hate movie watching, it sounds like a fine idea. I’m not opposed to stiumlating your children to watch classics. It’s just that some movie lovers who haven’t any children, or who have very young children, seem to have a somewhat naïve expectation about how easily you can turn your child into a copy of yourself in terms of film watching.


      August 13, 2011 at 1:40 am

  3. I used to be angry (well, not really, but kinda) at my parents for never making me listen to The Beatles. But, as I grew older and started to find my own way around music and discovered them for myself I feel like I got even more out of it. There’s certainly something to be said for trying to help your kids find their way through the pop-culture minefield, but I think I’m going to go the route of showing and not telling. Show them all kinds of things but not tell them what is the best. They’ll figure that out for themselves.

    Alex Thompson

    August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    • Show, not tell. Sounds like a very good approach if you ask me. It’s also a nice thing if you can turn movie watching it into a nice family activity that everyone enjoys. We don’t watch many movies together these days, but we have one DVD box with a TV-series going, like we’ve had before. Currently it’s Mad Men.


      August 13, 2011 at 1:43 am

  4. Love the “Movie Dictator” idea as a family night. Once I spawn some minions, will probably be using that one. 🙂


    August 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    • It worked fine for several years for us at least. It sprang out of frustration over our discussions, and it really took a bit of that away. A funny thing I noted was that even if we were dictators, we also made an effort to try to figure out a movie that should work for everyone in the party. The thing is that noone really likes to see the rest of the audience just walk away out of boredom. So while being able to pick whatever we wanted to, we also learned to be considerate thanks to this system.


      August 13, 2011 at 1:47 am

  5. It’s one part indoctrination, one part education. Parents want their children to grow up well, knowing what they need to know. Cultural education is part of that. Children are like immigrants: not part of the new culture, so they are gradually assimilated. In my case my parents didn’t want my brothers and me to watch violent movies, so R-rated films were off the list, except for a notable exception: The Blues Brothers. It’s a Chicago movie that we had to see, even if I was 10 or so and they probably swore more in that one movie than I would for the next few years.


    August 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    • Hehe, Blues Brother is not a bad movie to get dictated from your parents! And yes, of course, at some extent it IS education. Still it’s important to not let it overtake the feeling that watching movies is something you do for pleasure. At least when I grew up, there were some basic education about classical movies at school as well.


      August 13, 2011 at 1:49 am

  6. I have very fond memories of watching things with my parents, especially going to the movies with my mother. Both the watching together and the talking together after were good. I think the talking about cultural experiences is as important as what you see for the educational part of it. And you never know which movie will spark the good conversations, I recall vividly how, while I grew up knowing that my mother lost her own mother at the age of 10, the first time I saw her crying about it was while watching The Lion King (probably not your average “deep” movie).

    Some of your descriptions of ideas about teaching children remind me a little of literature in school though – it is amazing how great books can seem bad when you read them in the wrong context. I guess if you push your kid too hard on movies you might end up with a teenager preaching that books are more “worthy” culture than movies 😉


    August 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    • I definitely think that sharing movies with your children is about the same as sharing books, although I suppose that film still is a little bit “behind” in the perspective that the pressure for you to have seen a certain “canon” isn’t as big as it is when it comes to books, where reading certain classics is a part of your education. I love to share movie experiences and be able to talk about them, but aware of the risk for overdoing it, I try to take it easy with them.

      I can totally understand how LIon King can be an emotionally strong movie experience. It’s a lovely movie, not the least thanks to the wonderful music.


      August 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

  7. Looking back I can’t remember any films that my parents set me down to watch particularly. That said, it was not unusual for my parents to have something on and for my brother and I to end up watching it, which I think might be the best way. A sort of (nearly) always open invitation to join in watching the “grown-up” film rather than the cartoons.

    Certainly, I remember my father being delighted when my brother and I became engrossed in one of his all-time favourite films (Zulu).

    Lewis Maskell

    August 15, 2011 at 9:34 am

    • It sounds as a good idea. And especially if you watch it so late that you’ll go a little bit later than the usual “go-to-bed-time” (if the children are so young that they still ahve that), I think their interest to watch even “old, boring black-and-white-movies” will increase.


      August 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm

  8. In the case of my hypothetical future children, I’d be more interested in exposing them to various kinds of films to help broaden their horizons. I certainly wouldn’t force them to work through my personal favorites, although I’d probably make them watch the big ones and the ones that are a good representation of certain kinds of films.

    It’s about enabling them to explore, not crafting a curriculum.

    James Blake Ewing

    August 17, 2011 at 11:43 am

    • It sounds like a sensible attitude to me. Share your enthusiasm but don’t try to make them into copies of yourself.


      August 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

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