My family doesn’t make it to the movie theater often. Let me rephrase that: We don’t make it to the movie theater AS a family often. My son and daughter are lucky enough to have a grandmother who loves taking them to see the latest animated, family flicks. And my wife and I, on occasion, will use a date-night to catch a new drama or comedy.
It’s not that we don’t enjoy going to the theater as a family. We do. It’s just something we don’t prioritize. One of the reasons is that there just aren’t many movies that all four of us find ourselves getting excited about. Cost is also a factor. Even a matinee viewing for four people is pretty expensive these days – and that’s before you add on the ridiculously pricy concessions. So when we do find an opportunity to go out and see a movie together, we’re pretty selective about which one we choose.
While my children were on Christmas break, we were considering “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” because the trailer looked interesting to me and my wife, and its PG rating suggested that the content would be age-appropriate for our kids who are both of the elementary school age.
Just to make sure, however, I did a Google search on the movie’s subject matter and found some detailed, parental information on Fandango.com, a popular film website. The content was very useful. The webpage’s description included a section entitled “What Parents Need to Know” that listed the five gauges Fandango uses to measure the family-friendliness of all films. A detailed scene-breakdown of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was listed under each criteria.
It was good to see that “violence” was one of the gauges used. After all, no one wants a family-day at the movies to include images of people getting beaten to bloody pulps or tossed in front of moving cars. The same goes for “sexual content” – especially considering that Ben Stiller was the star of the film. Neither children nor adults should be subjected to that. The information on “language” and “drinking, drugs, and smoking” was quite beneficial as well.
The last criteria, however, caught me off-guard and left me completely dumbfounded: “Consumerism.”
Consumerism? I wasn’t even sure what that meant until I read the scene-descriptions listed beneath it. Here is what was stated:
“The film is set in the Time and Life Building in NYC, which are the headquarters of Life Magazine, so there are plenty of mentions of the publication. Also: Dell, Papa John’s, Sony, Cinnabon, Careerbuilder.com, Facebook, Instagram, Heinekin, Zero attache case. It’s also practically an ad for e-Harmony, which is mentioned numerous times.”
I didn’t get it. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how “consumerism” could possibly be a parental concern. What exactly about a slice of Papa John’s pizza or the mention of a Cinnabon cinnamon roll is so offensive that it would prompt a parent to cover their child’s eyes or place a pair of hands over their ears?
I tried to rationalize this concern. I really did. But the only explanations I could come up with left me wincing over what they suggested about today’s society as a whole.
I considered that the unease over consumerism had something to do with the perceived evils of Corporate America. After all, we’re living in an era of class warfare sensibilities, thanks in large part to today’s Democratic Party who has spent the last few years shaming financial success and presenting it to the public as an inequitable outcome in a capitalistic society. I obviously don’t subscribe to that viewpoint, but unfortunately a lot of people now do. It’s been mainstreamed. And I fear that the threat of this “consumerism” concept stems from that shallow form of political activism or today’s sense of political correctness. I hope I’m wrong.
I considered that the concern was over children seeing appealing products featured in movies, and then nagging their parents relentlessly to buy those products for them. I’ve heard this argument vocalized on television before by unaccountable parents who blame the irresistible toys inside McDonald’s happy-meal boxes for making their children obese. I hope that’s not the explanation for the “consumerism” warning, because if an adult honestly can’t take some parental responsibility and stand up to their child’s whining over a simple case of product placement, they have far more serious problems on their hands than what’s being projected onto a large screen in a dark theater.
Could it be about false advertising? If there’s a scene in a movie where some kid develops super-powers after gulping down a bottle of Gatorade, is there an honest concern that the false perception left behind could have an inverse affect on our impressionable youth? Do parents really need to be warned about this kind of thing in advance? Would such a scene factor into a parent’s decision to let their child watch the movie? I can’t imagine.
I thought that maybe the list of companies was provided for consumers who don’t want to patronize a specific company whose practices they find objectionable. For example, someone might not want to see a movie that accepted marketing money from a corporation that engages in animal testing for their products. This, I could understand. But I don’t think that’s the rationale. If it were, consumerism wouldn’t be presented specifically as a parental concern under the category of “What Parents Need to Know.” It would be presented as a general concern for any type of movie, whether its target-audience included children or not.
So I’m at a loss. If I guessed correctly in any of the explanations above, it’s hard not to be saddened by the state of a society that would essentially liken commercialism to profanity. If I still haven’t accurately identified what the threat of consumerism is to our youth – or anyone for that matter, I’d love for someone to help me out by explaining it to me.
The only thing I’m certain of is that “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was a darned good movie – one that my entire family enjoyed. And the experience was in no way tainted by Papa John’s, Cinnabon, or e-Harmony.com.
Copyright © 2014 BernardGoldberg.com