movie memories: “age appropriate” only matters to adults

Young Frankenstein Young Frankenstein

I can’t actually remember the first time I watched Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ classic take on the Frankenstein story. I was probably not an “appropriate” age for the movie, but I think some of the movies we remember the most fondly are the ones we saw when we were technically too young but still understood enough to like the movie and as we got older, we went back to the film and we are able to appreciate it on a whole new level.

I think sometimes parents get hung up on the whole “age appropriate” thing. I mean, it is understandable. How many times have you sat down to watch a movie you think will be fluffy and suddenly there’s some really random sex/violence/harsh language that you just weren’t in the mood for. It’s not that it’s particularly offensive, but if it’s not what you set out to watch, then it can be jarring.

But when I think back on the movies from my childhood, the ones that have survived into my adulthood are titles that might not have been considered “appropriate” for me at the time. “Young Frankenstein” and “Spaceballs” are full of double entendre, innuendo, and one-liners that flew over my head as a child. But I understood enough of the parody to find the movie entertaining. Same with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (omg cartoon in the real world! What child has time to pay attention to the slit in Jessica’s dress when a CARTOON RABBIT IS TALKING TO A HUMAN?!) and every geek child’s classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

As a kid, these movies became friendship litmus tests for me. I know I dragged the neighborhood kids over to make them watch “Young Frankenstein”, rolling my eyes in dismay as they said “ew, this is in black & white!” and then going all film-snob on them (I started at a young age) explaining that it was part of the joke, duh. I couldn’t have been more than 10 when all of this was happening, and it’s amazing that my parents didn’t get phone calls.

Same with “Monty Python” which I know I also showed to every one I could possibly show it to. Most of the time we were laughing too hard at the Black Knight and the Knights who say NI to even process the whole Castle Anthrax sequence. One of my favorite childhood memories was taking “Holy Grail” up to my grandparents’ house when I knew my cousins were visiting from New Mexico. Trying to get my older cousin to think I was cool, I put the movie in and told him to watch it. During the sequence with the French taunting Arthur, my cousin guffaws and I’m like “Why are you laughing??” and he said “because that guy just said ‘throw over the cow’ in French?” and then the catapult sound effect and the cow went over the castle and my cousin just cracked up.

And we won’t even go into my weird love affair with “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”! “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was too scary for me because the ghosts at the end creeped me out, but for some reason my young mind was able to explain away the whole heart-being-ripped-out sequence in “Temple”. I was really into special effects books at the time so I think I made up some very elaborate practical effects process in my mind. Again, all the sexual content, the talk between Indy and Willy in the hallway hinting at them meeting up later just did a fly-by as I waited impatiently for the bug sequence.

I’m not saying you should let kids watch *everything*. Obviously, some movies are more overt in their content…but I think sometimes parents try to shield their children so much that…well, how are we going to grow the next generation of movie snobs if they are only exposed to really crappy “family friendly” movies that are so sanitized you want to scratch your eyes out? I mean, yeah, I watched “An American Tail” and “Land Before Time” as a kid, but those movies have not survived into my adulthood. The movies that are still in my DVD collection today are the stories that had a bit more meat to them.

This list could go on and on, but I’m gonna stop now and let you comment — what movie did you love as a child that would be labeled as “inappropriate” by others? Do you still love it now?

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2 thoughts on “movie memories: “age appropriate” only matters to adults

  1. I wasn’t allowed to watch anything, so I can’t really comment on what went over my head. But i can say that another kind of “adult” movie that I wish more kids were exposed to is the classics. The films aren’t adult because they are racy, they’re adult because they were made without the idea that they had to keep kids’ (and for that matter adult’s) attention with constant motion, quick cuts, exploding things etc. I knew some kids who weren’t allowed to watch much modern stuff but were allowed to watch classic movies, and contrary to what marketers will tell you, they had no problem sitting through long slow moving films, usually over and over. Of course, all 3 were girls– not sure how well Meet me in St Louis (one of their favorites) would have worked for the boys. But in general training kids to focus on more slowly developing films can’t be a bad thing.

    • I used to sit through “The King and I” which is very long and there is a LOT going on. I’m not even sure how much of it I understood the first time through but upon repeated viewings, I started to slowly understand that it was more than just musical numbers.

      Along those same lines, if you know a kid who demands “scary” movies, you can scare the tuna salad out of them with classic Hitchcock but not have to worry about the gore or sex the way you have to with modern films.

      I did read a blog the other day about a father showing “Jaws” to his 13-year old son for the first time. The kid is slightly unimpressed, but then again, he is 13 and it sounds like his father is probably a movie junkie so I’m sure the child had seen far more intense “horror” films. I remember the build up for watching that myself and I must have been the same age because my Spielberg obsession hit full swing after “Jurassic Park” came out. “Jaws” is about where I like my horror movies – just enough to make me jump but usually I’m entertained more than scared (probably why I love “Cabin in the Woods” so much)

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