Sunday, May 12, 2002

Ah, here it comes

Experts says 'Spider-Man' inappropriate for young children
To the dismay of child-psychology experts, parents in droves took young children to see "Spider-Man" over the weekend, even though the PG-13 movie contains intense fight scenes, explosions, a house fire and a scary-looking villain named Green Goblin.
...Experts said that in this post-Sept. 11 era, allowing children under 13 to watch a live-action movie about villains on the loose in New York City is not advisable.

Isn't that what PG-13 means?

Where were you when X-Men opened? Oh, yeah...

To be sure, plenty of violent PG-13 movies have been marketed to young children, from "Jurassic Park" to "X-Men." But experts said "Spider-Man" is different because the main character is a well-known superhero and therefore is more appealing to young children.

Look, just because you never heard of "X-Men" before they made a movie out of it...

The comic book industry is becoming aware that they don't publish much specifically for very young children. We can debate whether this is a self-fulfilling decision, but the age of the average comic book reader has been rising ever since "Smilin'" Stan Lee first wrote "Spider-Man" in the early sixties. Marvel Comics (publisher of "Spider-Man" and "X-Men"), in particular, deliberately targeted older children and college-age readers while Superman was still dealing with a child-pleasing array of rainbow kryptonite and a Legion of Super-Pets. Yes, you read that correctly.

Spider-Man, on the big screen, is what he has always been. He's not a babysitter. He's nobody's "super-friend".

Which is to say, I suppose, that the headline is right: "Spider-Man" is inappropriate for young children. My son is about to turn eleven, and he admitted that parts of it are "scary" (true enough).

"How could I tell him no? Spider-Man has been on billboards for months," said Patricia Gillen of Quincy, Mass., who took her 4-year-old son to see the film Saturday. "Daniel has seen the show on TV, and my boyfriend has the computer game. Daniel's been talking about this movie nonstop for two days."

(Your "boyfriend"? No, I'm not going to go there. I'm drawing no conclusions about where daddy is. It doesn't matter.)

Why do you suppose they rated it PG-13 ("Parents strongly cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13")? What good is a rating system if you don't pay attention to it? You're the mommy: You can say "no" and make it stick. When did it become "appropriate" to let a child see anything he wants to?

PG-13 places larger responsibilities on parents for their children's moviegoing. The voluntary rating system is not a surrogate parent, nor should it be. It cannot, and should not, insert itself in family decisions that only parents can, and should, make. Its purpose is to give prescreening advance informational warnings, so that parents can form their own judgments. PG-13 is designed to make these parental decisions easier for films between PG and R.

(From the MPAA guidelines.)

LATER: Anybody who has seen "Spider-Man" could have told you not to bring a four-year-old. And, if reports are accurate, a few people have seen it.

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