"I call it my ‘Chicken Finger Manifesto,’ ” says Eric Beckman, founder and creative director of the New York International Children’s Film Festival. “If you raise your kids eating chicken fingers, all they’ll want to eat is chicken fingers.”
Beckman makes an interesting point. If we expose children to deeper, more diverse, sometimes darker, and sometimes sadder films, will we foster a desire for fine film rather than “chicken finger”-quality film?
It always strikes me how well certain movies (for adults) do in the box office. Why do people want to spend $12 on a movie that barely makes them think, doesn’t touch an emotional nerve, and doesn’t really say much of anything at all? I suppose movies are a way to relax, and sometimes people want to go to the movies to avoid deep thought. But the real “quality” movies, those with actual cinematic credibility that touch us in some way instead of solely entertain, are often times not given the attention they deserve from the general population. Does this stem from the population’s film “training”? If children saw a variety of films—the typical “kid” films plus other films that are appropriate for children but aren’t all rainbows and butterflies—perhaps they would request more films like that, creating a market for deeper films for children, and eventually a demand for quality films in general. I think the key here is also variety. As an adult, I have the option to watch a sad film, a funny film, a dark one, or a mystery. Children tend to have two categories—light-hearted and animated, or light-hearted and live-action. While some movies, Up being the first one that popped into my mind, may have more emotional moments and messages, the core of the movie is silly. Children experience a wide range of emotions and events, many of which aren’t light-hearted, even in just a few years of life. They deserve to see that presented on screen in a developmentally appropriate way.