My 3-Year-Old Watches Scary Movies: So What?

One weekend my husband said he was going to take our 3-year-old daughter to see the movie Maleficent. When I mentioned this to a parent, he gasped.

"That movie's PG," he said. "It's not just G. Are you sure your daughter won't be scared?"


I'd assumed Maleficent was about fairies. Mean ones, since Angelina Jolie was in it, but still fairies. How bad could it be? I broached this concern with my husband, who blew it off. "She'll be fine," he said.

I wasn't convinced. My husband, after all, had also let our daughter watch the battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings movies, where orcs rip each other's arms off. Only when I'd order my husband to turn it off, he'd counter with, "But she's not scared. See?"

Looking at our 3-year-old daughter, staring at the TV, she certainly did not seem fearful. If anything, she seemed bored and soon turned back to her coloring book.

"But a TV is a tiny screen," I told my husband next. Might the 20-foot-high movie screen of Maleficent be a bit more intimidating?

"If she seems scared, I'll take her out of the theater," my husband reassured me.

Later on, both my husband and daughter reported enjoying the movie without any trouble. "It wasn't scary," our daughter insisted. "Maleficent was bad, but then she was good."

I'm not entirely innocent on this front, either. Once recently my daughter and I were watching a cops and robbers movie on TV, and before I could change the channel, some guy's head got chopped off. Even then, though, my daughter wasn't fazed. She just giggled and said, "He has no head!"

It's not that my daughter is fearless, because she's not. Sitting on Santa's lap made her burst into tears. She'd rather pet a pony than ride one. But when it comes to what's on screen, maybe it's just not real enough to register.

And besides, the cartoons I grew up with were just as violent, if not more so, than anything my daughter sees. How often did I watch Wile E. Coyote get crushed by a boulder? Or Elmer Fudd shoot Bugs Bunny?

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When my husband was a boy, his parents took him to see The Exorcist at a drive-in movie, stuffing him in the back seat and telling him not to watch. Of course, he did ... until he saw that girl's head spin like a top on her body. That's when he stopped watching. Sure, he was scared. Traumatized? Hardly.

So maybe all this concern about kids watching "appropriate" films has gotten out of hand. Maybe all parents have to do is turn to their kids and ask: Hey, are you scared? If not, then let the show go on.

Do you let your kids watch scary movies?


Image © Mark Dye/Star Ledger/Corbis

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