I grew up going to the movie theater on special occasions and watching old black-and-white movies on TV with my mom. When I was growing up, movies were usually what we consider “family friendly.” In fact, I remember when the movie rating system was started, back in the late ’60s.
It’s more complicated now, of course. Not only is it harder to find a “family friendly” movie, but movies are much more available now than they were then. I used to stay up until 2 a.m. sometimes just to watch a movie I’d wanted to see. Now I can rent the video or simply watch the movie on my laptop.
When my kids were little this whole movie thing wasn’t too hard to negotiate. We didn’t have much money in those days so we didn’t go see movies often. When we did, we always saw movies about animals or children, those “family friendly” movies.
But as my boys got older, the whole business became more challenging. They would hear about movies from their friends, movies with excessive violence or sexual connotations. When my older boys entered their teens I routinely read the weekly movie reviews in our local paper so I could be prepared in case one of them wanted to see something, or even if I heard my students–their friends–talking about a certain movie. I tried hard to stay on top of it.
And, for the most part, I think I’ve succeeded. After they left home, I’m sure they saw some junk I would totally disapprove of, but if they’re old enough to live on their own, they’re old enough to make those kinds of decisions. While they lived at home, we often discussed the pros and cons of various movies and why we, as Muslims, should or shouldn’t see them.
And this is part of the solution. My husband and I set the example and never saw a movie we wouldn’t allow our kids to see. Actually, my husband, who grew up in rural Thailand, has never been a big fan of watching movies. And I’m no fan of blood and guts or sexual innuendo (or worse!). In fact, even now, when we have only two kids at home and only one of those kids is under the age of 17, I still can’t bring myself to watch an R-rated movie, at least not a comedy. (Though I do strongly recommend movies such as Amistad, which was rated R.)
When we do go see movies, we arrange our plans around the prayer times. If we need to make the midday prayer at 12:30 and the afternoon prayer at 4:00, for instance, we can see a movie in between those times, but we won’t go to a movie that starts at 3:30. Even when our sons go out with friends we insist on following this rule. Our kids know that movie watching must never, ever, interfere with our prayers.
I believe that most things are good as long as we do them in moderation. I saw two movies at the theater last year, and our 18-year old, who loves movies and aspires to become a movie director, probably saw four or five. Twice a month or so we rent a movie from the library. We watch movies, but movie-watching is not a major part of our lives.