This entry is part [part not set] of 7 in the series Question of the Week

So, my oldest daughter is rapidly approaching the age of 10. Which movie would you recommend she watch? (I know many of you would say she should watch neither and try to say that films are a waste of time…nice try, I am wise to your antics.)

Should she watch a movie that is laden with pretty foul language, and a marginal amount of implied violence, but that also has a powerful and unmistakable theme of redemption and the redemptive power of meaningful relationships?


Should she watch a film which is intended for children that has no foul language, but is ultimately a story of an adolescent girl rebelling against her father, bartering her soul to evil, seducing a man, and ultimately getting what she wants?

Which is more appropriate? Have at it….

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  1. Well, if you’re saying she has to watch a movie (which I don’t think is a waste of time all of the time), then she should definitely watch Good Will Hunting (GWH). The Little Mermaid (TLM) is a fairy tale that offers no edifying message to its viewers. Instead, it suggests (and subtly encourages) that rebellion against authority, lying about who you are, and combing your hair with a fork will get you whatever you want in life. Wishful thinking.

    GWH, on the other hand, is a vivid picture of reality. Violence is a reality. Foul language is a reality. People who don’t know what they are living for is a reality. GWH is a motion picture of what every one of us faces at some point in our lives–broken/dysfunctional relationships, lack of purpose, abandonment, betrayal. We will see this over and over, either in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. Barring one from watching GWH because of its content is a vain attempt at protecting one from the way things are. It’s vain because sooner or later, each of us faces something reminiscent of the plot in GWH.

    But GWH also provides a picture of redemption, a picture that, though not in any way perfect or Christ-centered, proves to be truer than the redemption of selling your soul to the devil (*cough* “Ariel”). If anything, TLM points to self-sufficient independence as a means of getting through life, while GWH points to the need for someone else to help you through your trials. I think we know which one hints better at the gospel.

    And besides, it seems like every girl goes through a “Matt Damon crush” stage. Might as well get it over with sooner rather than later.

  2. I agree with Lance that if she’s going to watch a movie, it might as well be Good Will Hunting. As much as I love movies, I think much of a film’s value is lost if it doesn’t provoke discussion in some way, and while GWH may have vulgar language it does indeed have a much more powerful message. Frankly, I was already hearing language like that from my peers in 5th grade; so if this movie opens up a chance for discussion on redemption and change, as well as the realities of how the world acts, I say go for it.

    As long as it leads to discussion, rather than just watching for fun and then it’s over. That would be a different issue, as she could take the wrong aspects from the movie and be negatively impacted by either of them.

  3. I think that, by the age of ten, she’s been exposed to the negative (or more mature, I guess) aspects of Good Will Hunting enough to where the good of the movie would outweigh the exposure to the negative. But you know your daughter better than I do, so it would ultimately be your call. I wouldn’t show Good Will Hunting in my junior high group, but I would show it to my junior high child (if I had one).

  4. That’s a tough call. On the one hand, I agree with everything Lance said. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much of the good or evil being promoted would transfer to my child. That is, if my daughter watches GWH, she’s going to start swearing like a sailor. That’s pretty much a given. But she has sen TLM a bunch of times and I really dont think that the evil promoted in the movie has stuck to her in any way. So I think we have to consider not only the values being promoted, how they may or may not influence.

  5. I would actually rather that she watch TLM, but not because of it offers the better message. Rather, I agree that to understand the redemptive dimension of GWH requires a degree of emotional maturity/complexity that she is probably not developmentally capable of taking in. But TLM conveys its message in a way that can be translated, made explicit and discussed in terms she can assimilate. So I would watch it wih her and then have a conversation. Aside from the negative themes you have raised, I am surprised that no one has mentioned how subtly pernicious it is to tell a “fairy tale” about a female protagonist– an idealized version of the kind of life your daughter should want — as one where the prospect of depending completely on the attention of a man should make her willing to betray her family and her most intimate social bonds, to radically alter her very physical constitution, to drive her to the desperation of seeking out what she knows is an unwise association with an vicious person, etc. The “happily ever after” message of the fairy tale isn’t her realization that her very personhood, value, or potential contribution to her world has been located in the wrong place– in radical subservience to a virtuous and powerful man to produce meaning in all the above categories of her life that she is impotent to provide herself. No, it assumes throuout that these social expectations that shape what women want for themselves are good and right — the “fairy tale” is just that they can be fulfilled in a virtuous way, without depending on evil (and of course, female) people to achieve it (compare the witch in snow white, etc.). So I’d watch it with her and then ask her what she wanted to do and be when she grows up, and why.

  6. Well, as one with older kids I will weigh in. I am not sure why these two movies are being presented as if either of them are a good choice. I think you are presenting us with a false dilemma. If I had a gun to my head I would agree with Sameer. But TLM is too young for a ten year old who has probably seen it a hundred times and is bored to tears by it. For the same reason I would not watch GWH with a ten-year-old. It’s not age appropriate. A ten-year-old does not have the maturity or life experience to make sense of it. (At least one growing up in a middle class suburb.) It would prematurely expose her to parts of adult life a ten-year-old frankly does not need to deal with. Why rob her of her innocence as well as the experience of watching it for the first time at say, 16 or 17?

    GWH happens to be one of my 18-year-old daughter’s and my favorite films. And we share a favorite quote, “You dropped 150 grand on a f-cking education you could have gotten for $1.50 in late charges at the public library.” It’s not about the language being inappropriate (like Ian said, she probably hears that word on the playground). I just don’t think a ten-year-old would even begin to understand or appreciate that sort of dialogue.

    There are movies I would recommend for a ten year old. Bridge to Terebithia, for example, deals with bullying, social ostracism, friendship, and death. It actually carries many of the same themes as GWH, but at a child’s level and frame of reference. It’s a beautiful film, and offers plenty of topics to discuss.

    Then of course, for films with the “unmistakable theme of redemption and the redemptive power of meaningful relationships” are the Harry Potter series, but we already have a blog entry on that one.

  7. I think each of these movies provide a great teaching opportunity for me to walk with my daughter. Each movie will give great opportunity to address different issues, and frankly I would consider watching either movie with my daughter as an active viewer. I think both movies are incredibly dangerous if I allow her to watch them passively.