Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Whale Power

This last weekend I watched Whale Rider. This film had provoked some controversy during its theatrical release because the producers had used a quote from Roger Ebert recommending the movie to "the whole family" on the advertisement. The film has a PG-13 because of a bit of language and a momentary shot of a marijuana pipe. The MPAA cried foul that the makers of Whale Rider were marketing a PG-13 movie to children, which is a no-no. Ebert entered the fray, arguing the ridiculousness of a ratings system that puts a fine film such as this in the same category as Scary Movie and Scream.

I will join Roger in saying "take the kids". This is a great movie about empowerment. There has been a recent spate of films from overseas about young women and girls overcoming the limitations and prejudices placed on them by society. Rabbit Proof Fence dealt with racism, and a journey home for 2 young girls across the Australian outback. It was an emotional and heartrending film. Bend it Like Beckham was a lighter look at an Indian family in modern England, and the culture clash that occurs when the youngest daughter wants to play soccer. And Whale Rider deals with a girl born to be a chief of her Maori tribe in New Zealand, but has to deal with her paternalistic and chauvinistic grandfather.

All of these movies have important things to say to the subject of female empowerment and simply of humans overcoming odds to live their dreams. As an adult, I enjoyed all three. Whale Rider, with its focus on a young girl, is a wonderful film to share with your children. It is life affirming and the language is very mild. The one drug reference is of the girl's slacker uncle trying to hide his pipe when she walks in on him. You never see him use it, and it is almost too quick to notice.

The ratings system is broken, and this case is the best example of why it needs to be revamped into something that might actually be useful to parents.

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