Should we ban cruelty in kids’ films?

Earlier this week, the new Peter Rabbit film got people talking. Not about how good or bad the remake of this Beatrix Potter classic is. Not about whether James Corden should play the cheeky little rabbit. Not every about why he walks around butt naked but wears a jacket. It was something more serious than that.

An allergy charity accused Sony pictures of being irresponsible by including a scene where Peter and his group of woodland friends intentionally throw blackberries at Mr McGregor in the knowledge that the farmer is allergic to them. The victim even had to use his epi-pen. This was, correctly, described as allergy bullying.

However the accusers said it could be harmful for allergy sufferers and also encourage youngsters to disrespect and disregard the potential severity of allergies. People even went as far as a calling for a boycott of the film (and yes it even got a hashtag…)

I’m not going to get into the detail of my thoughts on the impact of that particular scene, it did get me thinking about the number of popular children’s films that have scenes of bullying and mistreatment towards others.

Miss Trumchball locking pupils in the Chokey in ‘Matilda’

Lotso Lovin Bear/Prospector in ‘Toy Story’ movies – using age and seniority to gain respect and then mistreat others to fulfil their needs (Woody and the gang were nearly burned ALIVE!!)

Mufasa’s murder by his own brother, Scar, in ‘The Lion King’

I’m sure you can think of many more. Should we really ban such scenes even if they are in context? If they are ‘just for escapism and entertainment’? If there is a wider lesson to be learned?

Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to teach our children right from wrong? To help them understand the difference between make believe/entertainment and real life? So that when they see such things in a film they know not to copy, or are encouraged to at least ask questions?

Should we really rely on the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry to do this vital job for us?

I’m by no means a perfect parent, but I know that if my sons witness something questionable or inappropriate, we make a point of discussing it with them. We don’t need to make it a deep and philosophical conversation, but something appropriate to their level of maturity.

That’s not to say we should expose them to masses of gratuitous sex, violence, drug fuelled, foul mouthed, alcohol consumption, for the sake of a ‘good conversation’. But understand that the somewhat sanitised medium of film, can be one way to help understand right and wrong.

Am I being naive and potentially opening up my kids to being traumatised? Or is it a good way to make children think about some of negative things life will likely through at them?

I’d love to know your thoughts…

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