This morning I had the chance to babysit my sister for a few hours, and because of the weather outside and the fact that it was early in the morning, we decided to watch a movie on Netflix. I had spent a few minutes perusing the options under the Children and Families tab, and had come up with a few that I thought sounded appealing for her. It wasn’t until we were looking at them together that I realized all the options involved princesses. Unsurprisingly, my sister chose a movie with, you guessed it, princesses.
While we were watching, my sister made comments about the princess’s beautiful dress and crown. “You know,” I said, trying to sound casual, “she would be pretty even without the pretty dress.” My sister ignored me in favor of the mermaid on screen. As a kid, I was really into playing with dollhouses and Barbies and all sorts of imaginative games. As an adult, I’ve prided myself on being a strong, independent woman. How are grown-ups supposed to reconcile the lessons they’ve learned growing up with the fantasy world of children, a world that is often full of sexism and unrealistic scenarios?
I’m still not sure. At the end of the movie, when the prince saved the princess with true love’s first kiss, I kept my mouth shut. What I wanted to say was “you know, love is great and all but getting kissed by a boy doesn’t make the world perfect,” but I didn’t. How do you allow kids to enjoy childhood fantasies while still preparing them for the real world?
Oh, so you thought that this blog would miss out on the cultural phenomenon that is The Hunger Games?
Not a chance.
The trilogy first came on my radar seriously about four months ago. Touted as a great young adult book series with similarities to Harry Potter, I was intrigued. It wasn’t until my spring break from school and a bout of illness that finally got me to read the books. I purchased the first book in the series on my Nook, and it was the first book I read using my e-reader. While I could spend another post extolling the virtues of the e-reader technology, for this post I’ll only focus on my immediate love for the narrative Suzanne Collins created.
I was hooked. I finished the first book in record time and immediately bought the two final books. I read straight through, from sunup to sundown, and when I reached the end of the third book I had to resist starting from the beginning of the series again. The Hunger Games have everything I love in books. Collins crafts an intricate universe through a compelling narrative. The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is a strong and resourceful female who doesn’t rely on others to survive. The books are as politically aware as George Orwell’s 1984 and as wonderful to read as Harry Potter. Collins caters to both young and old alike, and the movie does the same.
I’ve made no secret of my love for books that are turned into films, and The Hunger Games gets it right. The film doesn’t shy away from the violence, but it is brutal and revolting rather than attractive. This may not be a film you want to take the youngest members of your family to see, but certainly children over the age of ten should have no problem viewing the highly stylized, fast-cut shots of violence the film portrays. Everything is phenomenally done. I would argue that this trilogy has the potential to be as successful, moving, and enjoyable as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Even if you or your child hasn’t read the film, go see the movie. Hopefully, it will inspire you to give Collins’s amazing book a chance.
What did you think of The Hunger Games? Did it live up to your expectations?
Watching movies with your children is a rare pleasure you can enjoy with them at any age. As our society becomes more computer-centric, the importance of visual literacy increases exponentially. Watching and discussing movies with your children can help to expand their visual vocabulary and make them think critically about the things they see not only in movies, but in the media too.
Movies don’t only teach children about visual components, they also teach them how to become effective story tellers. Children learn to communicate their own stories by watching and listening to the stories of others. There are many ways for you to have fun watching movies with your children while teaching them too.
· Pick movies that are age appropriate and interesting for your children to watch. This activity should be a fun family affair. Involve your children in the selection of the movie or take turns watching each other’s favourite picks. You can also choose the movie versions of books they have read so that they are familiar with the story line. There are many great classic movies to choose from. You can find the top 100 movies here or here.
· Watch the movie from beginning to end and then discuss the story. Ask your children to retell the story, or recount their favourite scenes. Ask them to justify their selections. You can keep a movie book and rate the movies on a scale from 1 to 5. Children can re-enact their favourite scenes for you.
· Discuss themes, symbolism and messages that the film conveys. Ask your children if they agree with the film’s message. Discuss the morality of the principal characters and what their strengths and flaws are. You can ask your children what mistakes the characters made and what they would have done differently.
· Discuss lighting and color schemes. Nothing in film is accidental and it’s important for children to be able to deconstruct a scene. Ask them how the choice of lighting affected the mood or how the color scheme was used to convey emotions.
· Talk about the soundtrack and how the music created an atmosphere or tension during the film.
· Worksheets for various movies are available here.
Dissecting films helps children to start thinking critically about things which they see on TV and in films. It also teaches them to think about the underlying messages. Introducing them to classic movies is a great way to teach them the wonderful history of cinema. Learning to tell their own stories will make them effective and colorful communicators.
(Note: This post was originally posted on the Tutor Doctor corporate blog on Jan. 2, 2012.)