Bambi vs. Saw

It was wet and cold in Melbourne all weekend. Perfect movie-going weather. I flicked open the newspaper on Saturday morning, full of good intention to call up two young friends who are aged 5 and 7 and take them to the cinema. Except I couldn’t find anything – and I mean ANYTHING – to take them to. There was nothing showing with a PG rating, let alone a G rating, anywhere within an hour’s drive of our side of town. I know it’s not school holidays but it struck me as pretty sad that nothing even vaguely suitable for young kids was showing at any cinemas in the city centre or suburban cinemas. When I was a kid, the local cinema always showed movies suitable for kids on Saturday afternoons. The Saturday afternoon matinee was a ritual in our suburb – complete with the tribe of bad boys who sat up the back and threw Jaffas at each other (and everyone else if the movie was boring).

Lately, in writing workshops with kids, I’ve started to notice the number of students who reference very gory films in their stories. Last week, a nine year old boy told me he wanted to write a story based on his favourite movie ‘Saw‘, complete with all the gruesome violence that film portrays. Saw is rated ‘R’ and I presume the boy watched it at home. We talked about making a good character for the story, rather than just focusing on the action but I felt depressed by the conversation, mostly because it wasn’t the first time I’d had that sort of discussion. I’ve read a lot of student writing in the last few months that feature psychopaths. I’ve also had many children cheerfully discuss their favourite films as inspiration for their stories and it’s depressing how many of them are extremely violent ‘R’ or ‘MA’ rated films which I’d have trouble stomaching. My family sometimes bag me as having a ‘Bambi’ attitude to film as I hate watching screen violence. Though I know a few people who say they were scarred for life by watching the scene where Bambi’s mother died, I don’t think it’s a patch on what kids’ must be going through in watching ‘Saw’. When primary school aged kids are starting to believe that violence is the key to good story-telling technique, I think it’s time for a Bambi led film revival.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never disappears.”

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