What does the holiday story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer have to do with sex ed? Well, not much to do with sex, really. 🙂 But classic movies do give parents an opportunity to talk about gender roles and societal expectations. This is especially true for movies that were made in an earlier era.
What does your child think about how Clarice and her father interact? about the parts of the movie where going to rescue Rudolph is called “men’s work”? about “getting the womenfolk back” to safety? about the fact that Clarice and Rudolph’s mom go on the journey even though they “shouldn’t”? Does that fit with how we think about things today? Are the differences between now and 50 years ago a good thing?
Similarly, watch Miracle on 34th Street and talk about it. When the movie was made, it was highly unusual for a woman to be a divorced single mother and to have the kind of well-paid professional job Doris Walker does. The happily-ever-after ending of the movie implies that she and Fred Gailey get married (leaving it unclear whether she continues working). Do movies today often end with marriages? Why? Does your child think Mrs. Walker should or shouldn’t continue working? Would a child in 1947 have thought the same way?
Other holiday classics might also spark this kind of dialogue. Look for ways to add an historical perspective for a younger child or preteen who might not be aware of how the world has changed. It’s not about having answers, but about getting kids thinking and wondering—and talking with you.