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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

question of the day: Is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ too dangerous for children?

I wondered in my review of Where the Wild Things Are whether the film wasn’t the beginnings of a shift away from overprotecting children from themselves and the world. After all, it offers a very dark portrait of the most secret workings of a child’s imagination, and it fully embraces of the fact that children are people and that they can be angry, resentful, and bitter.

Maybe I was wrong, however, that grownups were loosening up a bit, because the other day USA Today ran a story with this headline:

‘Things’ too wild and dangerous for a child to see?

Now, the rest of the piece is the usual catalog of bitching from some parents who chose to ignore the PG rating and bring their small children with them to the film anyway without vetting it themselves first:

O’Brien, 37, of Phoenix, took 7-year-old Eileen to Where the Wild Things Are on Sunday, hoping the girl would enjoy the movie as much as O’Brien loved the 1963 picture book.

Mom was wrong. “She was pretty scared,” O’Brien says at the AMC Century City in Los Angeles. “We spent most of the time in the lobby playing video games. This isn’t a children’s movie.”

And the parents who assume that because their kid didn’t cry through the whole damn movie, it’s fine for everyone else’s kids, too:

“Parents who complain the movie isn’t for kids didn’t do their homework,” says Joseph Vargas, 41, of Fresno, who brought his 9-year-old son, Antonio. “He wasn’t bothered by anything in it,” including the kid being in danger. “If anything, he wanted more danger.”

It’s all “balanced” out by a sorta precious disclaimer from Warner Bros.:

Warner Bros., which released Wild, says the studio never misrepresented the tone of the movie, which has earned positive reviews. “We were very clear what this movie is,” says Dan Fellman, distribution chief for Warner Bros. “We were careful not to market it to young people. This is a choice parents should look into and make for themselves.”

I don’t see how a movie based on a beloved children’s book can possible escape the connection in anyone’s head that, you know, the movie is for kids, too. Still, we aren’t getting bombarded with ads for Where the Wild Things Are Happy Meal toys or sugary breakfast cereal, so perhaps we’ll give Warner Bros. the benefit of the doubt here.

That said, Is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ too dangerous for children? Are we still so overprotecting children that there’s no fair answer to that? Or is the only fair answer, “It depends on the kid”?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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