The other night, my family tried watching the film version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. For some reason, I hadn’t been able to find much about the books on Goodreads or Amazon, so I really wasn’t sure what the premise or plot was. I was aware from what little I had seen about it in the blogisphere that apparently it’s one of those series whether you either love it or hate it. I had seen the books as they were released and made their way to my local library; I knew that the iconic sepia photographs from “ye olden times” had something to do with the storyline. But the novels themselves never seemed very interesting to me, so I haven’t read them to date. Neither has White Fang, but he wanted to give the movie a go after seeing a trailer.
And so, on Sunday night, here we were, in front of the DVD player, Muffin in bed, ready to learn what all the hype was about. My husband (who watches graphic war movies all the time and would not describe himself as a squeamish viewer) totally abandoned us about 45 minutes in. Shortly after that, White Fang announced he’d really rather check his notifications. I was feeling significantly creeped out, but for some reason wanted to push through to the end.
I did, but I have to say I didn’t care. And there was a distinct sense of missing a big piece of the puzzle — maybe from not having read the book, but more likely just because this is often how entertainment goes these days.
For example — why were the children “peculiar”? There wasn’t any sort of theory offered on why the mutations occurred — genetic heritage, pollution, black sorcery, extraterrestrial involvement — anything. Also, Miss Peregrine never stated how any of these children came to her, whether they were brought by their families, the police, other “peculiars”. Although these aren’t my favorite movies, I just kept making comparisons to the X-Men franchise in my head — because at least the premise was well-explained, and as someone who never reads comics, I wasn’t lost at all the first time I saw one of those films.
The other thing that seriously bothered me was the fact this film is rated PG-13, but everybody thinks PG-13 is the new PG — there are a startling number of kids in elementary school regularly viewing PG-13 movies these days. (I never let White Fang venture into that territory until he was in middle school.) And Miss Peregrine’s deserves the higher rating — in fact, I think it should be in a category of “recommended only for 13-year-olds who think gruesome and grotesque and near-demonic puppetry-abiltiies are really fun.”
Honestly, I shouldn’t have to be a mom who holds certain spiritual beliefs and values to consider this sort of film inappropriate for my kids. I shouldn’t feel like declaring this type of material as non-juvenile fiction will make other adults laugh at me.
As I watched, I thought about how Henry Selick’s adaptation of Coraline (the Neil Gaiman novel) is one of my favorite movies, and how it is much darker and creepier than I usually choose to go. Honestly, I’ve never been able to read more than 60% of the book, because of the creepiness factor. But it’s a straightforward sort of “the monster under the bed is real” — Coraline is not gory, it is not overly bloody, and it sends a clear message about what’s good and what’s evil. I would let White Fang (who’s now 14) watch Coraline with only the need for a minor warning.
I greatly appreciated that some of the new superhero movies are either rated R (because it was the choice of the directors/writers to simply go that dark), or are aimed more at ages 16 and up, rather than the middle-school crowd it used to be. If audiences are prepared for what awaits them, there will be many fewer dissatisfied customers.
And let’s face it, moviemaking is a business.
There’s also something called “human decency.” In a civilized society (cough, cough), not all that long ago, either (cough, cough), people looked out for kids. The idea of a 10-year-old viewing a film that has a scene of white-eyed monsters attacking and mutilating other children was considered horrific and deplorable. In fact, many actors would never even have thought of taking a role in such a production. We all understood that something like that was not okay.
And I have to say, since some of the actors were actually children, I’m kind of concerned about their families allowing them to take part in Miss Peregrine’s.
So, let it never be said that, although I try to be open-minded and diplomatic, I won’t take a firm stand on something where I see the need.
Never let it be said that I won’t try to warn other parents where I see the need.
And never let it be said that I don’t have the best interests of children at heart. Because even though I’d be the last person to tell you how I think you should raise your kids, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for me to say I believe there should be certain standards.
And please let me know I’m not just shouting into the void here. Please let me know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
It’ll help to restore my faith in humanity.