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Essay: Taking Little Kids to “The Dark Knight Rises”

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In real life, he doesn't only come out at midnight

Amid the shock of last Friday’s movie theater shooting in Colorado, one of the minor sidebars was the news that several attendees had small children with them at the movie. A six-year-old girl was killed, a four-month-old baby was treated for minor wounds and numerous kids in the theater, while not injured were witness to a particularly traumatic scene.

I first want to say that because I saw the baby’s mother and her undoubtedly sincere tears on the news, and because I have a baby the same age, I’m not particularly interested in snarking about this.  I also want to make perfectly clear that if people brought their kids to that particular midnight movie, it does NOT mean they somehow “deserved” to get shot.

Obviously, the crime is the fault of the shooter, and any other “blame” is secondary; the shooter could just as easily have opened fire at a shopping mall or school, or even at a movie that wasn’t shown late at night. And it should go without saying that not a single person in that theater deserved to find themselves in the path of bullets while watching a movie.

That said, I can’t think of any defense for taking a baby or other small child to a midnight showing of a 164-minute movie, much less this one. 

“The Dark Knight Rises,” like the other two Christopher Nolan Batman movies, is both very violent and very, very dark. It deals heavily in dark, disturbing themes about the nature of heroism and evil, and puts the beloved Batman in peril numerous times. And on top of that, between the action and Hans Zimmer’s aggressive, pulsating score, “The Dark Knight Rises” is probably the loudest movie I’ve seen this year.

There’s a lot of entertainment that aims to work for both adults and small kids. The Nolan Batman films are very much not part of that tradition. My two-and-a-half-year-old son loves Batman, but the Dark Knight trilogy is so adult-oriented that I don’t plan to show it to him for many years.

Kim Voynar, a writer for Movie City News and a mother of seven (!), disagrees: 

There’s this sidebar discussion about the Aurora theater shootings that I’ve seen crop up a few times with people questioning why there were young kids, including a three-or-four-month-old infant, at a midnight screening. And they mostly tend to have this disapproving tone with regard to the babe-in-arms in particular, and I find that disturbing. Because really, how is the whole, “Why did these irresponsible parents have kids at a midnight screening anyhow?” thing different than a woman being raped and then being grilled on the witness stand by the perp’s defense attorney as to what exactly she expected if she was out late at night in a skirt that short?

I think she’s right if people are arguing that the kids in Aurora “deserved” to get shot. But once again, I’ve only rarely heard that argument, and in most cases facetiously. Voynar also points out that it’s hard to get a babysitter for a midnight movie, which I would say is why God invented 7 p.m. movies. TDKR, after all, is playing just about on the hour at most of the nation’s multiplexes and will be for several weeks.

In my years of going to the movies, I’ve seen all kinds of parents take small children to films that, whether due to violence, sexual content or generally disturbing themes, they were way too young to be seeing. I’m sorry that your sitter crapped out, but that doesn’t mean the best option for salvaging the evening is to bring your five-year-old to the 10 p.m. screening of “Zombie Apocalypse Six.”

Besides, don’t you care about your kids’ sleep schedule? I feel bad – and worried about how they’ll nap the next day- when my kids are still out of the house at 9 p.m., nevermind when the movie gets out at 2:40 a.m.

In the meantime, I still hope that that two-year-old I saw at “The Passion of the Christ” back in ’04 didn’t have too many nightmares that night.

And not only is bringing too-young children not great for the kids, but it can bother other moviegoers too. Babies, in case you weren’t aware, tend to cry. And even if you think you can trust your baby to sleep for a movie’s entire running time, if you’ve ever had one yourself, you know that that’s never guaranteed. And bringing a baby to a movie isn’t like taking one on an airplane, in which doing so may be necessary so he can see his grandparents or in some cases her mother or father. Going to the movies is always optional.

I haven’t taken either of my kids to a movie yet. Movies are a huge part of my life and I certainly expect to start taking them soon, first to kids’ movies and eventually to other stuff- inspirational sports movies and the like.

Obviously, a shooting at a movie is an extreme, probably once-in-a-lifetime example. But aside from the events in Aurora, there are numerous other reasons why parents should express good judgment when it comes to whether or not to take their kids to the movies.

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  • Michelle

    Well written and I agree that kids,especially under the age of 13 should never ever be at a midnight movie