Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Is Christ film too violent for kids?

Message outweighs R-rating
concerns of some local parents

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tell children it's OK to close their eyes

James Brush, a child psychologist in Monfort Heights, offers these tips to parents who might take their children to see The Passion of The Christ:

• Explain beforehand that the movie will be violent and upsetting. Some children likely will decide on their own that they don't want to see it.

• A child who becomes upset during the film should be given the option of leaving. Or, suggest that the child keep eyes closed during violent scenes.

• After the film, allow the child to express feelings. Be a good listener. "We parents are far too eager to jump in and tell kids what they should think. If you get a kid starting to talk, don't right away go into what you felt. Let them vent, and then share your own thoughts."

Almost lost in the debate over whether The Passion of The Christ will spur anti-Semitism is a question many parents face: Should they allow their children to see such a violent film?

Mel Gibson's R-rated movie about Jesus' final hours includes graphic depictions of torture that some parents fear would overwhelm their children. For instance, it depicts Roman soldiers scourging Jesus with metal-tipped whips and pushing thorns into his head.

Others, though, say the movie's powerful message outweighs such concerns.

Wendy Jordan-Cook of Silverton said she and her husband, Phillip, will see the film with their 9-year-old son, Devin, and daughter, Sydney, who will be 8 next month.

Her father has advised against taking the children, Jordan-Cook said, but "my son is so into reading the Bible and understanding more about Jesus, that he is determined to go."

She adds: "I think we can shield our kids from so much, but if Jesus sacrificed his life for us, can we at least see a film that would help us with a better understanding?"

Deby Weik of Independence said she and her husband will see the movie, "but I am not taking my 9-year-old daughter. She would have nightmares about what happened to Jesus and question me about that forever.


Enquirer coverage:
Faithful get early look at powerful 'Passion'
Is Christ film too violent for kids?
Controversial film stirring emotions

'Passion' big on Internet
Scholar takes Gibson to task
The greatest story ever told, and told, and told . . .

Talk about it:

For more:
Movie showtimes
Official trailer

"A few of the previewed scenes made me shudder. I hope I can sit through it myself."

Likewise, based on the excerpts she has seen, Janice Abu Bakr of Springdale said she won't let her 13-year-old see the film. "I think the subject matter is too intense for her right now, and the violence doesn't help.

"When she is older and ready to go see it, I would go with her so we could talk about it. I would like to see it myself, but I don't know that I could sit through all the violence. It appears to be very graphic."

Dr. James Brush, a child psychologist in Monfort Heights, hasn't seen the film, but said: "I probably would not want a 12- or 13-year-old to see a real, real violent movie. ... When in doubt, parents probably should see the movie first and decide."

That's the approach Lisa Cousineau and her husband, Renard, are taking. The Sharonville couple have a daughter, age 11, and a son, 9.

"We're not certain that Hollywood is the best way to get this message across to them," Lisa Cousineau said. Even if she and her husband decide the movie is suitable for their children, they'll wait to rent it on DVD. That way, "we can pause, reflect and talk with them about what they are feeling."

E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com

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