Monday, December 14, 2015

Star Wars, Harry Potter - How Old is Old Enough?

With the coming of the next installment of the Star Wars saga this Thursday/Friday (official is Friday but I see times on Thursday), the radio show, Here and Now, pulled the original NPR review by Tom Shales of the first Star Wars.  It's pretty fun to listen to with notable statements by Shales. 
  1. It’s a complete science fiction fantasy with absolutely no redeeming moral values or moralistic values either.”
  2. “It’s like ‘Flash Gordon’ with ‘2001: [A Space Odyssey]’ technology.”
  3. “The effects are fantastic and yet the story is nice and silly so that absolutely anyone can enjoy it.”
  4. “It’s wonderful. I think every kid in the country should take his parents to see it, cause it’s the best children’s picture for adults since the ‘Wizard of Oz.’”
  5. “The guy who made – George Lucas – is only 32, but he’s an absolute movie buff.”
  6. “I suppose the biggest star is Alec Guinness, but he has to share the bill with newcomers like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford and they’re all great, and they all have to share the bill further with computers and robots and hairy creatures that are afraid of their own growls and delightful fabrications like that.”
  7. “Gee, it’s kind of hard to describe the whole universe blowing up in your face.”
  8. “When I saw it in LA, the whole audience actually applauded. They were so excited, they really felt that they were off on a great adventure and they were.”
  9. “This is a combination of many genres including everything from Robin Hood pictures to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ to ‘Flash Gordon,’ but it really isn’t a musical. That’s the only thing it isn’t.”
The Here and Now host said he let his 6-year old see the trailer for the latest Star Wars film and that she was both scared and intrigued.

(Now me, I recall seeing the trailer, right before a late showing of Blazing Saddles, also a popular film back then, and thinking, "Boy that looks dumb."  I have been wracking my brain as to where I actually saw the first Star Wars and have no recollection of it.  I do recall all the others well.)

I also recall watching Star Wars when we lived in Italy and afterwards, my older son - about 8 - said to his father, "Papa, are you going to the dark side, too?" He was assured that was not happening.

But I did have a chance to talk to a friend's kids - about 6 and 8 - about Christmas.  One wanted Harry Potter stuff.

I asked the dad if maybe she wasn't a little young, given how violent HP is.  (I mean, Harry starts out with both parents murdered and the guy who did it wants to kill him as well.)  Nah, the dad said.

As well, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes.  That's a very long movie for a little person.  (And I recall at the last one, there was a set of parents who brought a baby and a 4-year old. They were great about taking the baby out when it fussed but their 4-year old kept saying, "What's happening?" Which is why I'm going to Sundance to see it.) 

So I ask you, when is too young for HP or SW?  Is it better to read them books rather than visual stimulation that may be too much at a young age?  Is it to hard to fight the tide with older siblings or more hip classmates?   


Anonymous said...

I'm responding to your question about Harry Potter (since it's a book, first, that was made into a movie). Good books often make good movies, but not always.

I'm a retired educator, parent of young adults, and literacy specialist. My personal and professional experience tells me kids can enjoy and get a lot out of reading books with loved ones that may be beyond them emotionally on their own. I'm a huge advocate of books before movies, including Harry Potter, because they can be mediated well with others who can explain what's going on. Then the movie may not be so scary (or can be watched later when the child is ready for it).


SPS Mom said...

My daughter reads anything that is a book before she watches the movie, which I think really helps. As for Harry Potter, she saw the first and second movies in second grade but I made her wait until 3rd grade for book 3 (since the dementors gave ME nightmares!). The rest of the books followed pretty quickly, but after she read each. I think reading the books ahead helps take some of the power away from the imagery.

Catherine said...

Depends on the kid. Can the child actively distinguish between fantasy/movies and reality? Grandpa without my knowledge, took my then almost 4yo to see Jurassic Park in the theater. Reportedly my son laughed through the movie. When I asked him why... the response I got told me volumes about our future "Mom. It was fake. The raptors were the wrong size. The skin on the ___ was the wrong color. And T-rex was just wrong." No nightmares, no fuss, no muss. The HP books were read repeatedly. The movies seen in the first week. Again, no fuss.

There are 16yos that I wouldn't suggest see Jurassic Park in daylight. Same for HP.

Each parent has to make their decision based on their kid.

Anonymous said...

As a rule of thumb, we let our kids only read books where the protagonist was no more than a year older than the kid reading the book so HP waited until they were 10. As a Waldorf parent, my kids didn't watch very much movies or TV. When they got older, we went with the movie ratings and reviews by certain sites.

I saw Star Wars for the first time around the time I was 12. I thought it was the best movie I had ever seen in my entire life. I ended up seeing it over 40 times. I wish George Lucas had respected the fans and left the original movies in the theater released versions. It makes me really sad what he did to those movies later.


Anonymous said...

I'll put a plug in for https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ . They also have an handy app. They rate books, films, and games.


Anonymous said...

The nice things with the Harry Potter books is that as Harry gets older and the content gets more mature, the reading level becomes more difficult. It sort of a built-in screening system - with the books at least, most kids that are able to read them will be old enough for anything in them. The movies, of course, don't have that. Also I think sometimes movies are scarier than books because things in books are somewhat limited by ones own imagination - kids can come up with pretty scary stuff by themselves, of course, but not in the same way as an adult whose job it is to create frightening special effects will. I know my older daughter had read the Chamber of Secrets several times with no problem, but the basilisk in the movie version scared her - that was not how she was picturing it when she read the book (she was about 9 at the time, I think). Movies also rely more on trying to shock, startle or horrify the audience, when in the books the same passages are often more action or excitement oriented rather than just frightening.

I have to agree with the previous poster though; what age is ok for some of these movies varies hugely from child to child depending on whether they can enjoy the movie & then put it out of their head as something that was entertaining but not real, or if they are going to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

This is a subject I've thought of often, especially since I've had my kid. For Harry Potter, I'll wait til he can read the books, then read them together. As for Star Wars, I was shown the original trilogy quite young, but I find Episodes I-III much darker, with better special effects, so I'd rate them as 'scarier.' I did buy R2-D2 sneakers for my kid, but he doesn't know who that is; he likes the fact that they light up.

With regards to reading, it's true that the Potter books get more difficult, but I don't trust that as a barrier because I was a precocious reader myself and often snuck off to read books belonging to teen siblings. And just because a ten-year-old can read Interview With a Vampire doesn't mean she should...

-New Mom

Jet City mom said...

I read Wrinkle in time in 3rd grade, oldest read Island of the Blue Dolphins in 1st at school( by which I mean she read it herself as I would not have chosen such a book for a 6yr old, it had always been one of my favorite books though, when I was 10.)
, and youngest is same age as Harry Potter kids( both in book and movie) first book she ever read was HP
We obviously like intense.
Its up to each family.