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June 2, 2017

Movies || On Inappropriate Moments in Kids' Films

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As a movie lover, watching animated or meant-for-kids movies was always a joy for me. I didn't even mind it when I rewatched films from my childhood and gasped at the realisation that something was more than it seemed. But lately puns and innuendos in children's films are becoming vastly inappropriate. Or is it just me?

My pet peeve at the moment are the live-action reboots of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'. In the first film, in the first second the turtles meet April O' Neal, Michaelangelo makes a wildly tasteless - and nonsensical - comment about his shell tightening, then tells her that even though they're teenagers they can still have 'adult conversations', adding they should be friends with her because her friends may be hot. Ugh. Throughout both films, his constant pestering, hitting on, under-the-breath commentary is simply too much. Michaelangelo's sexual objectification of April is just slimy and uncomfortable and it ruins the entire movie (Not that it needed that much to ruin it, though). And don't even get me started on the fact that the screenwriters took a strong-minded and independent character like April O'Neal and practically turned her into nothing other than eye candy.

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Facebook/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.ZA
It is true that many, if not all, children's films contain some kind of innuendo - the parents need something to entertain them, too - but I really feel like these jokes are no longer about clever puns and hidden meanings: they're about shock value. I'm not saying that a little sexual innuendo is a bad thing; all I'm saying is that it's no longer cleverly done to avoid young people from making the connection. Take 'Who Framed Roger Rabbitt' for example: Jessica Rabbit and Marvin Acme play 'patty-cake' together and we know from Roger's reaction that this was quite a betrayal. But even the photographs Eddie takes are of them literally playing patty-cake. This is clever. Not clever, for example? In 'Shrek', Lord Farquaad is sitting naked in bed reviewing Fiona's image in the mirror. It's obvious what he's doing, and some say there's even movement under the covers.

Rude adult jokes are the order of the day, as many YouTube videos can attest to. Many obvious moments abound: from Buzz Lightyear's wingpop in 'Toy Story 2' and Mr Potatohead's quip that 'no one takes his wife's mouth but him' in 'Toy Story 3' to Miguel and Chel's alone time in 'The Road to El Dorado', Humpty Dumpty referring to prison rape in 'Puss in Boots' and Alex the lion charging at Melman's bottom with a long tree trunk in 'Madagascar' to Anna and Kristoff talking about Hans' foot size in 'Frozen', some innuendo is harmless, but the references have become more blatant. Or is it just me?

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Facebook/DisneyZootopia
Our society has certainly become more sexual, with very young children becoming sexually active and concerned with their sexual attractiveness. But isn't the insertion of such references contributing to this? Sex sells, I suppose, but I think I take issue with the fact that these films do not know who it is they wish to target. Actually, that statement is incorrect: they wish to target everyone, as many as possible, and for some reason the idea is that adults will only enjoy a film if there are shocking sexual references. And this is not true. Take 'Zootopia' for example: it's appeal to children is obvious, but its appeal to adults is spot-on as it's using the platform to question stereotypes and prejudice while making sophisticated jokes that do not hinge on blatant sex references. Indeed, I think the only sexual reference anywhere is when Judy says 'rabbits are good at multiplying'. The film is, in fact, the top film of 2016 according to Rotten Tomatoes. 'Shrek', replete with sexual innuendo, only makes it to number 24 for the rankings in 2001. It is beaten by Monsters, Inc. at top place, which, as far as I remember, has no blatant sexual jokes.

I feel as though movie makers are really underestimating the adults and children who watch these films. Adults are entertained by much more than sex and 'bewbs'. It may be a large drawcard to television series like 'Game of Thrones', 'Black Sails', and 'Westworld', but when it comes to kids' films we are mainly looking for either some innocent entertainment to give us a breather with clever 'inside' jokes that we don't have to explain to our children or at how the film teaches our children about life. That is why parents mostly allow their children to watch movies: as opportunities for learning.

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' is certainly still a story about leadership and family and helping others, but while trying to be funny to entertain us poor dumbed-down parents in a film, a mediocre storyline won't be improved by lewd jokes.

{Image credit: By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}