Last week, I spent some time sorting movies and putting them away. Frankly, part of the issue is that I’m the only one in my household who understands the concept of “put the movie back in its box when you’re done watching it.” Some days, I feel like the only one who has a concept of “this thing has an away.” Everyone else seems content to just put them, you know, somewhere. But anyway, this meant that movies that had been in a box since we moved in, disc and box separated, are now away. In our household, that means they’ve been put into one of three categories—stuff the kids can watch, stuff the kids can’t watch, and stuff the kids can watch only if we’re with them.
To continue the honesty, all my subtitled movies are in “stuff the kids can’t watch” simply because I don’t feel like reading them movies. (All except the Cocteau Beauty and the Beast, which is in stuff they can watch because seriously, it’s Beauty and the Beast, and not even the only version of that story we own.) Other things in that category that might surprise people are Frost/Nixon, because the kids would be bored by it and I don’t want to listen to the whining. Unlike Joe Breen, I understand that not all movies are for all audiences, simply by their very nature.
However, some of the movies we own that were made in the days of the Production Code are in the middle category because there’s content I’d want to talk to the kids about. From where I sit, His Girl Friday is distinctly visible; the whole “man on death row” plot is something I’d want to really talk to the kids about if I thought they were paying enough attention to notice it. I can see It Happened One Night, which has a lot about class issues of the ’30s. And, of course, why exactly Claudette Colbert is so hesitant about sharing a motel room with Clark Gable.
But also in that category, pretty well the only classic Disney that is, is my Davy Crockett box set. Because wow, there’s some stuff in there that hasn’t aged well that I really want to explain to the kids if they watch it. Not quite classic but still Disney is Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN, which has unfortunate sexual and racial issues. My seven-year-old is old enough to have the conversation about why Dick Van Dyke doesn’t end up with the character you’d expect him to.
Oh, there’s definitely an argument for purging some of the stuff from my collection. But there’s things like How the West Was Won, which is progressive to point out that, yeah, the railroad sure did violate a lot of treaties, and that is itself a conversation I’d want to have while watching the movie. Even if the movie itself weren’t the slightest problematic, the history there is, and I don’t expect my son to already know about it. There are a couple of historical movies in the category because I want to be on hand to talk about the history.
And yeah, okay, there are also movies where I want to be able to decide that the kids aren’t handling the scariness very well. Or because I’m not sure how much swearing or sex there is in the movie, either because it’s their dad’s or because it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I don’t remember the movie too clearly. A lot of the movies we watch with them that other people might eye me askance for letting a seven-year-old and a three-year-old watch them are on that shelf. But also Houseboat, a movie I’ve thought about getting rid of because it’s both Not Great and not great.