I watched ParaNorman last night. I’d heard it was a funny movie so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
For those of you who don’t know, the animated movie follows the story of Norman Babcock, a misunderstood boy who is able to speak with the dead. Because of this strange gift, he is treated like a freak by his family and peers. One day, he meets a boy at school, Neil, who is also bullied due to his weight. One day in a bathroom stall at school, Norman gets a message from a ghost that he must use his gift and read from a book in order to save the town from the ghost of a powerful witch. The movie takes him on the journey of finding his true purpose, acceptance of others and forgiveness and learning his own self-worth. So why do I have reservations about younger kids seeing the film?
To start with, there is a lot of bullying. I understand it is prevalent in our society today and it gives kids something to relate to, but I think it was overdone.
The next thing that bothered me was Norman’s dad. His reaction to Norman’s abilities was very insensitive, and several of his words were sharp and cut deep. I understand what the writers were going for, but for a movie aimed at the 7 – 12 year old crowd, I think the writers could have come up with another way to portray Dad’s fears without losing the integrity of the story. The explanation Norman’s mom gives Norman is simply not enough. On top of that, I didn’t feel Norman’s dad sufficiently apologized for being a jerk to his son. I think it’s important to show 7 – 12 year olds that parents aren’t perfect, but they recognize their mistakes and apologize accordingly. At least they should in the movies.
The last thing that really bothered me was Neil’s older brother. When we are introduced to the character we see he’s a big dude, lots of muscles. He’s also about as sharp as a bowling ball. Of course, Norman’s teen sister gets all googley eyed over him and her antics have some laughable moments. My problem came at the end of the film when Neil’s brother pretty much announced he was gay. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against gay people. I have gay friends. I do have an issue with this topic being thrown into a children’s movie. I felt it was completely inappropriate and tasteless. Aside from the fact that I have an issue with media outlets exposing young people to alternative lifestyles instead of the kids learning about them from their parents and immediate surroundings, the writers made this gay kid muscle-bound and dumb as an ox. I have problems with that.
Was I offended by the film? No. Would I say don’t let your kids watch the film? No. I’m not into telling parents what to do or not to do with their kids. I do feel parents should be armed when they sit down with their children to watch a film. Had I had a child 7, 8 or 9 years old and I knew the film had a lot of bullying, angry mobs shooting zombies and a big, dumb lug professing that his boyfriend likes chick flicks, I don’t think I would have let my kids watch the film. It’s not because I have a phobia. It’s because I don’t think it’s right for media to promote hidden agendas to unsuspecting parents disguised as animated films for young people.
There are lots of good films for kids and young adults. Be informed. Know what your kids are watching. And don’t be afraid to be a parent and say “No.” They’ll thank you someday for watching out for them.