Should I take my kids to see Where the Wild Things Are?

poster02_WTWTAMedia expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he discussed how to help your teens manage media and their academics.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books growing up and now my 5 and 7 year old kids love it too.  I’m eager to see the movie but I’m not sure if I should take the kids with me.  The trailer looks kind of dark and I’m not sure they’d “get” what’s really going on.  What do you think?
Wondering about Wild Things in Boston, MA

A: Dear Wondering,

Books and movies have very different ways of creating worlds. When we read a book—even if it’s illustrated—our minds add sounds, other images, and detail to the story. That means that what we imagine will be limited by what our brains are ready to create. Movies, however, describe worlds much more fully, with sounds and music and visual images, and so they make meaning for us.

This means that a story like Where the Wild Things Are, which can be great for adults in any medium, might work for children in one medium but not in another. For example, an adult who reads the book may see darkness in Max’s emotions, but a child who reads the book may not see that darkness at all, simply because her brain is not ready to create that darkness on its own.  In contrast, the world of the movie is so fully formed that it will pull her into that darkness whether she’s ready for it or not.

What that means for your children depends on their age and sensitivities. At almost any age, they will perceive the fear and anger and sadness in this movie. The younger they are though, the less likely they will be able to understand that this movie is about managing and living through those feelings—what they will walk away with is those feelings themselves, not resolution of them. That’s all their experience so far has prepared them for.

For all of these reasons, if you’re considering sharing this movie with your children, I strongly recommend that you see it first, and think about what you know of your children as individuals to help you make your decision. In some ways, this movie is a great representation of how kids Max’s age think, and adults might be able to learn a lot from that.  But the kids themselves certainly won’t come away with the same understanding as you do.

>>See the movie trailer

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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3 thoughts on “Should I take my kids to see Where the Wild Things Are?

  1. What I want to know is, why are all these movies made from lovely kids’ books (this one, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and many others) rated PG?? Can’t they make a G-rated version? Do they really need wisecracks and sexual innuendos intended to go over kids’ heads? (and I don’t think they do)

  2. *comments taken from Children’s Facebook fan page*

    Shari Latraverse McCabe
    I don’t think so. I went with my 8 year old and 3 year old. It was more loud in the theatre then scary.

    Kimberly Harper
    I read it wasn’t supposed to be for kids, but for parents who enjoyed the book as kids? But my kids are 2 and under, so we’re not going anyway.

    Erin Poole
    I agree with Shari, I also brought my 7 yr old and 3 yr old, they werent scared at all, however I think it was a little too hard for them to understand the movie.

    Paula Borrelli Vargas
    We have the book, for our 5 yr old Kyle,which he loves but I think we’ll pass on the movie for now! To read about monsters is one thing, but to see them on tv is totally different! lol

    Ana Patricia Jordao
    I don’t think it’s appropriate for little kids at all, it’s actually a little depressing, even for adults.

    Kelly Roberts
    Yes. It is as if Quentin Tarrantino collaborated with Maurice Sendak. No child under 12 should go without parents previewing the entire movie prior to taking the family.

  3. I agree with Ana Jordao. As a child I loved reading the book. As an adult I percieved the movie to be dark and depressing .

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