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Kids in Peril
by Mike Thomas

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Someone Will Die

Someone Will Die

High School Age Teenager: Mom, can you sign my permission slip?

Mom: Sure, Honey. What's it for?

High School Age Teenager: It's for a competition.

Mom: That's nice, dear. What kind of competition?

High School Age Teenager: Well, I have to rescue my friends who are trapped underwater, and I have to learn how to hold my breath underwater for an hour. Oh, and I have to battle a giant, fire-breathing dragon.

Wait - What?

With the opening of The HUNGER GAMES this weekend, my thoughts turn to the unbelievable danger we as adults expose our children to in the movies. Sure, there has always been some semblance of danger in all movies involving kids. Steven Spielberg made a cottage industry out of putting kids in danger (The GOONIES, EXPLORERS, The ADVENTURES of TINTIN - I could go on forever). But in all his movies, even when he puts his kids in the most dire of circumstances, you, as the audience know that everything will be just fine by the final reel.

But in HARRY POTTER and the GOBLET of FIRE (the entire HARRY POTTER series, for that matter), and yes, The HUNGER GAMES, there is a real possibility, no, a certainty, that some of these freshly-scrubbed kids will meet a horrible fate. There is the reality that some - children - will die, for the
Someone Will Die

Someone Will Die
entertainment of their peers and adults in the course of the movie. And in the case of The HUNGER GAMES, the kids must kill each other to survive.

In another scenario, A teen is in love with a vampire and a werewolf. Now I'm all for giving a kid a little space, but opening up your kid to a potential life of undead horror for all eternity or being ripped to pieces? (In truth, though, in those movies, the only real danger was being blinded by the "sparkliness," or by "bare-chestness," but I'm losing sight of the real problem.)


Putting kids in danger - mortal danger - has become such mainstream entertainment that even though parent groups have decried the intense violence of The HUNGER GAMES, it still only carries a "PG-13" rating. Yet another, more important movie, The BULLY PROJECT, a film every teenager should see, was given an "R" rating, prohibiting the audience who the material is geared for from ever seeing it. And to add insult to injury, the video game "Bully" has no such restriction.

(And please don't give me that nonsense (see George Carlin's definition of "nonsense") that the Restricted rating only means that anyone under 17 cannot see the movie unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian, because, when you were under 17, did you really want to go to the movies with your
No One Dies AND Has  Hollywood Ending

No One Dies AND Has Hollywood Ending

We as adults love to see Mortal Kombat (more on that later). We've gone to our theaters, sat in front of our large-screen TVs, cheered and booed at ROLLERBALL, The RUNNING MAN, DEATH RACE, and every competition-style death match movie where someone loses more than the game. It's accepted - WE accept it. We know that the guns are not real and the actors will get up and do the sequel.

But for kids, raised on "Mortal Kombat," "Doom," "Grand Theft Auto," and every other shoot 'em up in the name of harmless entertainment, reinforcing that reckless disregard for life by putting their peers on screen in lethal peril on a routine basis may be contributing to the ambiguity between shoot 'em ups at the arcade, and shoot 'em ups at the high school. For as sophisticated as the 13-18 group may think they are, they are still learning, processing the universe around them, and even though that learning process never really ends, we as adults are bound - by law - to accept the ramifications of the actions of our non-legal counterparts.

Even movies where parental supervision is not an option, the danger level for teeneagers is still more intense than anything the Our Gang crew ever had to endure.

In a recent movie I reviewed, TOMORROW, WHEN the WAR BEGAN, a bunch of high school kids, a farmer, her best friend, her boyfriend, a wild
What Will Be HER decisions?

What Will Be HER decisions?
child, a rich kid an intellectual, and a strict Christian, go off for their last weekend fling in the woods (out for a camping weekend, you perverts!), and return home to World War III, themselves being the only hope for the salvation of their community.

We can't go back to the Eighties. That genie is out of the bottle and there's no exit strategy. Even when Spielberg tried to go back to that simpler time with SUPER 8, it was still way more edgy than anything Short Round was subjected to. Like a junkie ever craving a bigger "high," teen lethal violence in the movies is a reality we will have to deal with from now on. We will have to process that data with our sons and daughters, hoping they don't get too weirded out, the way they did when you gave the substance abuse talk and the intimate relations talk.

It's up to the rational-thinking adults in Matchflickland (yeah, both of you) to help the tiny tots process the data they absorb in the movies they watch, not just give them empty platitudes, as in, "It's only a movie."


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Mar 25, 2012 3:26 PM
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I actually saw this headline somewhere: "Is The Hunger Games too Violent for Kids?" WTF? Read the frickin' plot, of course it's too violent for kids! Having read the books I thought the movies should be rated R, but I knew they'd be PG-13 so they can wring as much money out of as many people as possible.

And the fact that The Bully Project is rated R is just obscene. Another case of the ultra-secretive MPAA being so incredibly out of touch, in other words, doing what they do best.

Good column.
Mike Thomas
Mar 25, 2012 4:13 PM
[X] delete
Thanks, Tim!

This issue has been a bug in my craw for some time now, and the release of HUNGER GAMES was the push I needed to express it.

And looking at the projected numbers from this weekend, the $155 payout this was driven by teens and tweens, the target audience for the TWILIGHT demographic.
Mar 25, 2012 4:37 PM
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good news for my area...that sealed the already sealed deal for part 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games to be filmed in my area!
Mike Thomas
Mar 25, 2012 6:51 PM
[X] delete
See if you can get near the set or get some interviews! At the very least, you can report on the progress o the movie.

Good News All!

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Science Fiction, Double Feature
Every other Sunday

This column will explore my taste in film. I watch all kinds of movies - all kinds - but likes science fiction/fantasy - action, animated, funny, even stupid. He will speak of his experience and his encounters with science fiction and the way it colors his - and our - everyday life.

Other Columns
Other columns by Mike Thomas:

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Joker Smackdown

Twenty Questions with Michael Bonomo

Twenty Questions with Scott Wheeler

The Clip Show

All Columns

Mike Thomas
Mike Thomas was introduced to science fiction when he first watched 2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY, and was hooked ever since. But he doesn't just watch the gee-whiz, gollee-gee special effects. He watches the costumes quirks, evaluates the musical scores, even identifies favorite actors of directors. He collected comic book, but has moved on to weapons: he currently owns the Mj?llnir - the Hammer of Thor, Electra's Ninja Sai's, Mace Windu's Light Saber, and a couple of Batarangs.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Mike Thomas by clicking here.

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