Guest-Post: Subtitles are Educational too!

Guest-blogger Jo Berry is a film critic and mum of one who runs the website The site has a database of over 1000 reviews of films aimed at kids, teens and families, and also reviews the latest cinema and DVD releases.

Until the birth of my son D in 2005, movies were my life. As a film critic, they are also my bread and butter, but I have always loved movies so much that they are a big part of who I am. I can remember my dad taking me to movies when I was little (the first was Lady And The Tramp, age five) and my mum sitting me down in front of the TV whenever there was a film starring one of her favourite actors – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden – being shown. (I also remember her telling me that weepie Love Is Many Splendoured Thing had a happy ending so I would watch it with her, but that's a subject for a whole different blog, or perhaps a therapy session). Name a movie from the eighties when I was growing up and I probably have a memory linked to it – Ghostbusters (I nearly killed the mum in front who loudly opened a pack of Mr Kipling tarts during the film then asked each of her kids at the top of her voice what colour jam tart they wanted), An Officer And A Gentleman (the first 15 certificate film I sneaked into, aged 12), The Evil Dead (watched on video at a friend's house while another pal hid under a cushion), Batman (the first press screening of a movie I ever went to).

When I met my husband, we bonded over a love of Steve Martin, GoodFellas, Star Wars and big budget Hollywood movies; so much so that my dad's speech at our wedding was made up of movie titles (he finished by saying he knew that together we had found our 'field of dreams', at which point I started blubbing into my champagne). So it's not surprising that, whether he likes it or not, we're both passing our love of movies onto our son. Obviously in my line of work, this has been quite easy; film companies screen their movies to the press a few weeks before they open in cinemas, and if they have a family movie they show them to us on Sundays so we can bring our kids. By the time D was 18 months old I had taken him to his first screening (of Happy Feet) and showed him tons of DVDs at home that I thought he would like: Elmo In Grouchland, Thunderbirds and Cars becoming firm favourites. (He wouldn't watch Star Wars, though). He even loved The Iron Giant (based on the Ted Hughes book) so much that I had to write a 'sequel' one evening as he didn't understand why Hollywood hadn't ever made one.

Of course, there have been slip-ups along the way. I carefully started the DVD of Finding Nemo after the first scene in which Nemo's mummy and sibling eggs are gobbled up by a predator so three year old D wouldn't be traumatised… only for him to pick up the remote a few days later while I briefly was out of the room, select 'deleted scenes' (he has always been a whizz with TV remotes) and find a longer, even more upsetting version of the scene. Cue a week of bed time conversations in which I had to reassure him that his mummy wasn't going anywhere, and certainly wasn't going to be eaten by some nasty fishy.

More recently, he came out of a press screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 and loudly announced (in front of the PR handling the film) that it was 'the worst movie ever.' It isn't, of course (it's actually pretty good), but D had been scared of the bad guy peacock throughout, hence his reaction. (I have always told D that if he doesn't like a movie he should tell me so I can take him out of it, but during this one he had stayed silent because, he tells me, he wanted to know how it ended).

Cementing my reputation as an irresponsible mummy, I let D watch the first two Transformers movies on DVD despite being 12 certificate movies (I did vet them myself first). He loves the toys (what six-year-old boy doesn't?) and the violence in the films is robots smashing up other robots, so I thought it would be ok. I skipped a scene from the second one in which a woman turns into a robot with a snaking metallic tongue (really didn't want to explain that one to him) and decided that, although there are a couple of swear words in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen they are uttered so quickly they would pass him by. Oh no. A few weeks later, D comes home with a 'comic book' he has drawn in class (luckily during a wet lunchtime, rather than a piece of work seen by his teacher). This collection of stick images with speech bubbles including one page of transformer Bumblebee under attack, a predicament that has him yelling "SHIT!" in his speech bubble. Apparently D had once turned the subtitles on for a few minutes while watching the movie, and in doing so had learnt a new word (credit to him – he did spell it correctly).

Needless to say, I never leave him alone with anything more controversial than Toy Story in the DVD now. I know in a few years time we'll be arguing over whether he's old enough to watch Reservoir Dogs or The Godfather, so in the meantime I want to enjoy his childhood and his love of movies featuring animals that talk (Zookeeper had him in stitches), cars that can fly (Cars 2) and tank engines named Thomas. And maybe one day, in the not too distant future, D will finally let me and his daddy show him the classic that is Star Wars

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  1. @somethingblue_2 says

    I loved this post! I used to think of myself as a bit of a film buff, was always at the cinema and have an extensive DVD collection. However over the last couple of years my collection hasn't been updated very much – somehow I ended up with a husband that doesn't really "do" movies & I can't stand listening to his talking or snoring through the 2nd half! I've tried to watch a few Disney classics with my son but he's not interested enough yet, he's happier with half an hour of In The Night Garden! I'll keep trying though, and bear in mind not to leave any of my DVD's in the player as he is already showing a great deal of interest in how the remote control works! x

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