Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spiderman part 1

Once again I'm going to stray slightly from the theme of this blog and do a more serious post. It's not because Alex hasn't been funny lately, he's as funny as ever, but I have a couple of more pressing issues on my mind.

Lately he has been obsessed with Spiderman. I'm not exactly sure when this started or how, but judging from the number of kids I see with Spiderman paraphernalia I'm guessing Alex is not Robinson Crusoe on this.

The thing I find really weird is that there is this massive juggernaut of Spiderman stuff marketed clearly as specifically at small boys - towels, shoes, clothing, toys, lunchboxes, you name it - and yet the only Spiderman movie I've been able to find is M rated. So the dilemma is then whether to aid and abet his obsession, in the name of encouraging his curiousity and supporting his interests, or nip it in the bud with a war-cry of "no you won't overcommercialise my kid!" even though every other Tom Harry and Jaiden seems to be participating. Don't get me wrong, I'm as irritated as the next parent about the way our kids are bombarded by marketers. The thing is though, he appears to get real pleasure from this, and to exclude him at home while he's aware of it going on all over town seems to be a small victory.

So what's the solution? Do I allow him a Spiderman toy or two but not the movie? Or do I just put a total ban on the whole thing? The complicating issue is that we've had the Spiderman movies on our shelf since they came out on DVD, before Alex was even a consideration, and since he's taken interest in the subject he's noticed they're there and been petitioning to watch. OK, I know I could just say it's too adult for him and he has to respect that... but I watched it recently and it didn't *seem* to me to be *that* much worse than some of the stuff he already watches that's G rated. And on the plus side, he seems to get SO much out of this Spiderman/superhero fantasy world that he creates for himself. He'll play it for hours in the backyard, alone or with friends, shooting imaginary webs from his wrists, 'getting' the baddies, running amok. Superhero-worship is truly a time-honoured small-boy phenomena. We've had various discussions about 'play' fighting vs real fighting, and he seems to know where the boundaries are so far. So I've let him watch it, and if his behaviour starts to change I'll pull the plug.


  1. I had the same dilemma with my son, who has a cousin 8 months older who watched Spiderman type movies since he was about 12 months old. We discouraged it for as long as possible with my son and encouraged more age-appropriate superheroes and entertainment. Most recently I have had to discourage my now 7 yo from watching the Batman Dark Knight movie. It is so graphic in the violence and themes depicted, and completely inappropriate. Another issue is the cinema, I remember watching Star Wars Revenge of the Sith and there were kids as young as 2 and 3 years of age with their parents. It was so frightening they were cowering under their seats. The classifications are there for a reason, and as a general rule I use them as a guide. It's a pity many other parents do not do the same. Should there be a law regarding movie tickets for certain ages - I think so. I just wish they would stop marketing these characters to young children.

  2. I have two boys and have struggled with similar issues. I think that it comes down to making a judgement call taking all the factors into consideration.

    I get annoyed with products being marketed to children who are too young to have easy access to the events/movies they promote. My train-obsessed son was given a spiderman soft toy by his aunt when he turned 4, which he just lookedat in confusion. Spiderman certainly wasn't on his radar.

    Spiderman, Batman, Harry Potter, Twilight - they are all guilty of marketing products that aim well below the age demographic they are intended for. Toothpaste, underpants, dolls, the list goes on. It makes it even harder for parents avoid exposing their children to things that they are too young for (such as preschoolers watching M rated movies).

    Yet another complication of parenthood that they don't tell you about in the books.

  3. Thanks for the comments, some very good point. I'm walking a precarious line right now by allowing him to watch certain pre-viewed parts of Spiderman, I'd never just turn it on and leave the room, but it's a slippery slope that doesn't sit too well with me. It's not the content of the 5 minutes of watching Spiderman swing through the air that bothers me so much (the more adult content I don't allow him to watch); it's just the whole idea of the slippery slope I'm on - and how carefully all of this needs to be negotiated in order to allow him a degree of fun and freedom (yes, even at age 3) while protecting him and allowing him to be a child. I've also found some G rated stuff to be pretty scary in the past. Luckily his other favourite movies are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Chicken Run! And he loves the ABC show 'Grandpa in my pocket', it's really cute.

  4. I came here via "the best of all possible worlds" blog. I've had problems with the adult film/kids marketing for years. I went with the line of "it's too old for you" and my now 5 yr old tells me he can't watch certain movies (namely transformers) yet. I don't let my kids watch anything over a pg unless I or their father check it first and there's quite a few pg movies I won't allow (including Chitty chitty bang bang for my son). It depends on what scares your children as to which ones you allow (11 yr old has seen all the Harry Potter movies but found Coraline v.scary when she saw it with a friend). If you feel your son can cope with Spiderman while you're him then don't consider it a slippery slope. If you were to give in because every other Tom, Harry or Jaiden are watching then it's a different story.

  5. I'll send you a piece I wrote about Superhero play. I had to come to terms with superhero worship and learned a bit in the process. Will dig it out soon.:-)

  6. I think knowing your child and what their particular sensitivities are help you to decide what is appropriate - no matter what their age or the movie rating. A friend's young son was terrified by the stampede scene in the Lion King movie and couldn't watch it until he was at school. You can't just assume that G rating means it will be okay and PG (or higher) means it won't.

    I think if you're making sure that he is only seeing the things that you have made sure are appropriate for him then you aren't on a slippery slope, you're being a responsible parent. Well done!

    My aim, with children aged 5, 8 and 10, is to teach my kids how to filter shows they are watching for themselves and how to make good choices about what they choose to spend time viewing (and reading for that matter).