The Disney Channel aired its final episode of Good Luck Charlie this week and I have to say, I’m a little disappointed it’s over. Good Luck Charlie found a way to harmlessly poke fun at typical family issues, exposing each character’s weaknesses in a very humorous way. I feel like I know those characters well and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Amy Duncan, the flighty but loving mother to five Duncan kids. I have a feeling Good Luck Charlie was written for parents as much as for kids. What’s not to like about watching imperfect parents and imperfect kids — It makes me think we’re all in this parenting thing together.
I was skeptical that any show on The Disney Channel could make me laugh out loud. I’m not a fan of most shows on that channel with their fake-looking sets, silly story lines and characters that just don’t resemble the real world or real teenagers. But I have to remind myself to lighten up… Just because I don’t care for the Wizards of Waverly Place putting magic spells on each other to get what they want doesn’t mean the show doesn’t deserve its followers. Many kids love and need the fantasy that these shows deliver.
I’m thinking that the Disney Channel might be starting to lose its appeal for my tween and that’s okay with me. Our tastes in what we view change, depending on our age, our interests and our moods. I am currently addicted to Downton Abbey but I also like to sneak in an episode of Barefoot Contessa when I can, so I can get a few cooking tips. Others in my house currently like Friends reruns and Walking Dead. To each his own. As long as my kids are busy with other activities for a good portion of their days, I don’t mind too much about the shows they watch. Back in my college days, I would see guys as big as linebackers curled up on dorm couches, eyes fixed on Saturday morning cartoons like they were life-altering news stories. At the time I couldn’t believe it. Now I realize: Everyone needs a little mindless escape from time to time.
Recently a friend on Facebook was asking for movie suggestions that she and her husband and kids, ages 10 and 13, could watch together. She wanted something funny, similar to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – some movie that promised to be entertaining for both kids and adults, but without vulgarity or those scenes too embarrassing to watch in mixed company. I have to say, it’s not easy to find good clean movies for that age group.
When my two oldest kids were young teenagers, I suggested we watch Sixteen Candles together. I wanted to see if they would laugh out loud at scenes I remember being so funny when I saw it in the theater. To my horror, the very first scene showed a girl showering, fully exposed, in the high school locker room. How did I not remember this scene? (Maybe I was at the concession stand getting popcorn). My kids still laugh about that movie night, not because of the content in the opening scene, but because of my screaming and carrying on about not being able to find the remote control to stop the show.
I don’t think I’m the first one to share that kind of story. It’s been 30 years since I saw Sixteen Candles at the movie theater and the scenes I remember clearly are very funny ones. The scenes I remember less clearly (or not at all) apparently are the inappropriate ones. It proves to me that if I want my kids to experience my favorite movies, I probably should watch the movie again, beforehand. But I also need to relax. At some point in time, kids will see and hear inappropriate images and language, either at the movies, on cable TV and DVDs, or maybe even on the school bus, but in all likelihood they will not be scarred for life because of it.
A couple of years after the Sixteen Candles fiasco, it came up in conversation with my daughter that she had seen the Sex in the City movie at a friend’s house. Once again I was embarrassed — this time by the thought of her viewing a certain scene in that movie, a scene that my friends and I were taken aback by when we saw it in the movie theater. Sigh.
To be fair, I myself sat through An Officer and a Gentleman at age 15, when my friend and I lost interest in whatever movie we were seeing at the time. (Sneaking from one movie into another at the theater was my friend’s idea, by the way). Yes, I was slightly shocked by a certain scene in An Officer and a Gentleman but it also gave me some information I wouldn’t have known otherwise. (My mother sighed when I told her the story many years later).
My tween is approaching 13 and is starting to be exposed to more, thanks to PG-13 movies and being younger sister to 16- and 18-year old siblings. I’ve noticed that she voluntarily leaves the room if she thinks (or knows) a questionable scene is coming onto the TV screen. That’s okay. She’ll watch when she’s ready to watch. (Nothing in our house is too outlandish, I assure you). I do remind her, on occasion, that some of the shows she watches are not reality. Real high school is not like High School Musical where kids break into song and dance and Sharpay Evans types sashay down the halls looking like dressed up Barbie dolls. Real high school students don’t think up complicated strategies to win the spotlight in the school musical. That behavior just isn’t real, although it is entertaining for tweens to see.
For now, my tween and I can watch reruns of Good Luck Charlie, the perfect mix of sarcastic humor and believable characters and story lines. There are no wizards nor is there nudity, which is a plus for both of us.
When she’s older, I can watch one of my favorite teenage movies with her. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend Say Anything (1989). This movie meets all of my criteria for a great teen flick. The main character, Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusak, is an average high school senior. He’s not sure what he wants to do with his life, but he’s big into kickboxing, and he’s determined to not screw up his date with Diane Court, the beautiful class valedictorian whom he has worked up the courage to ask out. Diane doesn’t usually date because she invests so much of her time to her studies.
What makes this movie so special is that the characters are believable. Unlike a Disney show, the relationships in Say Anything are complex just as real life and real people are complex. Problems in real life are not always solved easily. In fact, at the end of Say Anything, viewers are still unsure of the future for Lloyd Dobler, despite the obstacles he and Diane have overcome. I felt hopeful for him, the way I do for all kids who have a good heart.
I had the pleasure of watching Say Anything with my 18 year old not long ago and she loved it. I’m pleased but not surprised by this.
Now, if I can gently convince her that after she graduates from college, she probably won’t be moving into a city apartment with her pals and living like the actors Friends, I’ll have done my job.