Generally Speaking: The Lion King


Bryan Davis is an amazing editor who lets this dinosaur grandmother rant about whatever strikes her fancy on any given week.

Well, I am fresh off a babysitting assignment in Birmingham for the past six days, and I do indeed have a rant. Kid movies are not for kids anymore. When did this happen?

Our mothers worried about polio and communism, but they had no fear of Walt Disney!

Of course there were movies that were not appropriate for children in the 1950’s, but evidently most parents did not need the motion picture academy to point that out to them.

Walt Disney movies were always delightful and filled with endearing animated creatures and an occasional wicked villain here or there. Good triumphed over evil in a happily ever after ending. I think it was all quite healthy for our hearts and minds. My mother and daddy never had to have a serious conversation with me about what I had just seen on the screen when I was six years old.

I also remember when the movie ratings were first invented. As a mom at the time, I quickly learned that PG-13 was not always acceptable for 13 year-olds, and I needed to pay a little more attention. I realized the world was changing.

Fifteen years later, I remember babysitting my Denver grandchildren one weekend. I parked them in front of what I thought was a very innocuous cartoon while I was getting dressed one morning. From the bathroom I overheard just enough dialogue to realize this plotline was a long way from Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety Bird. Cartoons, on my watch, were not an option any longer.

I searched for something else and discovered Lifeway had an assortment of DVD’s for children. We “veggie-taled” through countless videos that held their attention, and they were still favorites when the Birmingham babes came along.

But the world continued to turn…and change.

Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Amazon arrived. The technology “geniuses” (I use that term facetiously) add their suggestions to the profiles of each family member. An unsuspecting subscriber can click on even a Dr. Seuss title in their child’s queue and end up with something they would never mean to bring into their home. Let’s say I discovered that by trial and error.

I notice that in so many of today’s films advertised as kid movies, the parents are clueless, ridiculous, and quite stupid. The only smart characters are the children. Does this bother you? It bothers me…a lot.

My daughter and son-in-law had taken a deserved vacation alone last week. They left me with an agenda of activities for each day. We were to see The Lion King on Thursday afternoon. Betsy had bought our tickets and provided a babysitter for her three-year-old. The girls, ages six and four, and two grandmothers headed for the theatre.

There were 30 minutes of Disney previews of coming attractions. There was horror, coarse humor, profanity and the occult all presented as kid movies coming to a theatre near you between now and Christmas. Alert: the preview about the Christmas movie had nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to Christmas!

And finally, The Lion King, the feature we had almost forgotten we had come to see, began. Let me say, I was not a huge fan of the story anyway. I saw the play on Broadway in 2001 and loved the costumes and the music, but I thought the message might be a little “off.” I seriously doubt the girls would have been scarred by the skewed theology. I missed the animated movie version in 1994, but a little research tells me it was lighter in tone than this realistic remake.

The new film is well done from a technical perspective. The animals seem to be completely human in their conversation and actions. The photography will probably win awards. But there is just a pervasive sense of darkness, a lot of violence and scenes that seem unnecessarily brutal for children. My grandchildren seemed completely unimpressed and even bored. I think I am thankful for that.

I cannot think of one good redeeming reason to have seen this movie.

Later that night we watched a 2008 animated film about a dog hero named Bolt. We laughed a lot and went to bed with light hearts.

All I could think about was, “Hey, Hollywood, make children smile again!” America — and children particularly — could use a good laugh about now.


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