(Note: I was interviewed by the Associated Press a couple of weeks ago for a story on Cars merchandise. The story was carried in many places, but you can check out an ABC News post here.)
Cars 2 was released last week and I still haven’t decided if I’ll let my four year old son E see it yet.
This is tough, because he LOVES the first Cars movie. We’ve seen it a billion times, he has tons of Cars toys, Cars shirts, Cars bedding.
My biggest concerns, as I said in a post in November, is the use of guns, missiles, and explosions in a cartoon aimed at young children. According to the website Kids In Mind, Cars 2 features ranks 4 out of 10 in the violence category.
Four out of 10 in a G-rated movie?
Clearly Cars 2 is too violent for young children.
Here’s just one of the several entries describing the violence:
A car hanging onto zip-lines above the deck of an oil rig fires two guns at several other cars that fire back and cut the zip-line: the car on the zip-line falls, still attached to one cable, landing safely, several cars chase the car and we see a spray of bullets; the car fires a gun at a stack of oil cans that tumble toward the other cars, and the oil cans explode and flames wrap around a ramp where the other cars are (the cars appear later, unharmed). A truck is cornered by cars with guns, and the truck fires two large Gatling guns at the cars; the cars drive for cover and the truck escapes unharmed.
And there’s plenty of more scenes just like it.
I’m sure there’s plenty of kids out there who see this stuff all the time and maybe it has no effect on them. Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s and 80s (when I was a kid) were full of violent content and I didn’t wind up in a clock tower with a rifle.
If my son were a few years older, this wouldn’t even be an issue. In fact, I’m looking forward to the day we can watch Spider-Man cartoons.
The Cars franchise however, is not aimed at older children.
Need proof? Check out the Cars-related merchandise aimed at toddlers – sippy cups, toddler clothing, toys, and even diapers! Why would they target toddlers if they aren’t the target demographic?
I love Pixar and think they should be able to make any movie they want. But I’m disappointed in this change of direction in the franchise. It’s tantamount to bait and switch. Start off with a simple, family-friendly movie. Follow up with a spy movie where the characters you know and love are suddenly thrust into danger and being shot at.
It’s as if I turned on Sesame Street to see Bert and Ernie in a gang war, popping caps in Big Bird while an explosion just took out Oscar’s newsstand.
Are guns and missiles and mortal peril things that a four, or even five year old should be exposed to? Are they old enough to even understand such things? Or are scenes like this too intense and scary for them? When my son saw the advertisements, he asked me if the Cars got hurt? If the movie was scary. If so, he didn’t think he wanted to see it. He still doesn’t care for the last Toy Story movie because of all the intense scenes of danger.
It’s a shame that Pixar, a company so good at recapturing the magic of childhood is also so intent on destroying the magic for its smallest fans.
As a parent, you know you can’t protect your children from the world forever. But you try, for a little while, anyway, to let them live in a world of innocence, optimism, and safety.
A world where people (and Cars) aren’t trying to kill one another for unknown reasons.
Where people still play together despite their differences.
A world where love and family can change even the most hardened of hearts.
You know, a world like Radiator Springs.
Did you see Cars 2? What did YOU think?
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