We get to the theater and while J goes to get popcorn, M and I settle in for the previews that were already starting. Back up a second, I let her pick out her seat and she choose the seats in the last row...near the door. Not a good sign. Luckily the preview they were showing was the last one, because already M was having some problems. It was a preview for Nutcracker (I think) and had quite a few action scenes. Granted this preview went on for only a couple minutes, but in that time M had her fingers firmly plugged into her ears and her face turned away from the screen. Too loud and too scary in her mind. And this was just the preview.
The movie then started and we settled in with our popcorn and special treat for M, root beer. In the beginning of the movie, the narrator starts off by saying this is the story of how he was killed. M heard those words and pretty much from then on all bets were off. She was very nervous that any scene was going to be the scene where the narrator dies. Any time that there was a chase scene or any sort of conflict going on, M put her fingers in her ears and hid her face in the seat. At one point, I held her on my lap so that I could help her cover her face. She told me she just didn't want to get any bad dreams.
We tried to lighten her mood by laughing extra hard at the silly scenes and showing her that it is not all bad. She did laugh at those points and thought they were fun and silly. Overall, she said she liked the movie, as did the rest of us. It was just difficult for her to see the violence (and the anticipation of it) on screen. This experience made me wonder, why does a cartoon have to be so tense? Why isn't there a movie for kids that is full of light hearted silly moments? Or are the movie makers so motivated by money that they want to make sure that they will get the greatest box office and the only way to achieve that is by making a movie that will entertain both kids and adults (with perhaps a greater focus/concentration on the adults)? Or is it something else? Does it not bother other kids? Is it just mine?
I am not saying that M's reaction is the most healthiest but I do think her reaction is normal for a 6 year old who is not exposed to anything on t.v. that does not come from PBS or cartoon shows. She loves the silly and doesn't like it when even Arthur gets into trouble. I worry about those kids that aren't bothered by the semi-violent/tense times in a movie. Are they desensitized by other things that they watch/see in every day life? What does this say about "kid-friendly" programs? What does this say about society? What kind of adults are these kids going to be if they don't find something wrong with people getting stabbed or people resolving conflicts with violence, etc.? Yes, it is a cartoon, but if they see it enough and no one tells them otherwise, are they going to know the difference? Are they going to care? Are they going to do nothing and turn away? That scares me. That bothers me.
I think the answer lies in awareness. Be aware of what your child is watching and help your child to understand what they are watching. Television and movies should not be a passive activity, make it an active one. The power is in our hands.