Kids' movies are typically supposed to promote wholesome values. Perhaps more importantly, movies are also supposed to make lots and lots of money. In their pursuit of cash, filmmakers sometimes don't spend much time on the wholesome values, and they inadvertently release family movies with the wrong messages. So a film seemingly about friendship or family might also feature problematic themes like misogyny or racism.
At the time, it probably didn't seem like a big deal. Kids watching movies like Mrs. Doubtfire or The Mask likely don't think twice about how creepy and messed-up the male protagonists are in those films. They just seem like wacky - but ultimately endearing - characters. Go back and watch your favorites again, though, and you'll notice you took in tons of movies that messed kids up.
- Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
There's a lot wrong with Blank Check. For one thing, it glorifies extreme spending and the pursuit of money at all costs, even when it's unethical. It also encourages inappropriate relationships between children and adults.
The agent assigned to the case of "Mr. Macintosh" is an adult woman in her late 20s or early 30s. She spends most of the film with a preteen boy in middle school. Not just spending time, either - the two go on dates, run through water fountains, and ultimately share a kiss on the mouth. That's not something kids should watch, lest they think it's okay for strange adults to show them affection in that way.Is this a bad lesson?
- Photo: Warner Bros.
Dennis the Menace really wants viewers to be okay with a horrible child. Dennis is incredibly energetic, and his boundless enthusiasm leads him to do things like break into other people's homes and shoot pills into their mouths with a slingshot. That's not normal behavior, but somehow Dennis is the protagonist of the film, while all the adults who'd prefer not to be abused by a child are the bad guys.
The movie encourages destructive and annoying behavior because that's what kids are evidently supposed to do. George tells Dennis's parents, "Kids are kids. You have to play by their rules. If you can't do that, you're in trouble. You must roll with the punches. You must expect the unexpected." Kids watching the movie probably realized they could get away with anything if they acted crazy enough.Is this a bad lesson?
What do Ariel and Prince Eric have in common in The Little Mermaid? Hard to remember, right? Well, that's because the two never have a conversation - Ariel cannot speak. Their entire relationship centers on physical attractiveness. Ariel attempts to seduce Eric into kissing and marrying her based solely on her ability to look cute. Kids watching could conclude that's all that matters in a romantic relationship.Is this a bad lesson?
- Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
The Parent Trap is about two long-lost twins scheming to get their divorced parents to fall back in love. To do this, they not only have to convince their parents of their feelings for each other, but they also have to break up their father's engagement. That's more than a little messed up. Who are these two kids to mess with their father's love life?
Their plans work in the film, but it could set unrealistic expectations for other kids with divorced parents. If they only try hard enough, they can get their parents back together, and everything will be fine. The Parent Trap teaches children not to accept that their parents have moved on, and instead to hate any new stepparents and refuse to let them into their lives.Is this a bad lesson?