If you haven't yet seen Moonrise Kingdom then please stop here. I don't want to ruin the film for you because it is both quirky and adorable. And it is the first Wes Anderson movie I have enjoyed in a long time.
It is just - and here I begin - there was one scene in particular that bothered me. If you have seen the film, you might know which I am referring to. It's the one in which Sam and Suzy are standing by the lake and are having a sexual awakening. She tells him he's hard and he touches her underdeveloped breasts, which are covered by a training bra, as she reassures him that they'll grown soon. And herein lies my problem with the film.
In film reviews these two characters are described as teenagers but in the movie, it is clearly stated that Sam is 12. I cannot remember Suzy's age. But in the light of Sam's, it is almost as if these critics refuse to acknowledge that both characters are simply children.
In general I found the kids behaving like adults endearing in this film: in fact the humour of an adult-child is a classic dramatic device. Only recently I enjoyed yet again the role reversal of adults and children in Monkey Business whereupon the grown-ups embody child-like roles and one child becomes the voice of reason.
In Moonrise Kingdom, the child as an adult takes the audience in its role as the voyeur a step further or perhaps too far. And I cannot help but wonder if images of Suzy sitting in a tent in her underwear and Sam lying back on the rocks in his pants were found on a home computer, would its owner be in trouble?
Cinema doesn't have to be easy viewing. Great films draw us in emotionally and challenge us. Throughout the film, Wes Anderson even makes us aware of our role as the voyeur as we peek through a pair of binoculars and are firmly placed in the film. And when the narrator turns to the camera and speaks to us, we could be forgiven in asking 'who is watching who?' But when challenging the audience's cinema-going experience, isn't there a fine line between a misjudged scene and getting it quite wrong?
I don't believe in censorship. I have moments in my life where I am grateful that I have grown up in a country and at time where I haven't had to experience my voice being suppressed. If I have held back, it is only because of my own personal development and not because of any social or political dictatorship.
Film is also where I have gone to escape. It doesn't matter what problems I have faced in the real world. When I sit in the cinema everything disappears, if only for a couple of hours. Film also allows us to explore another side to our psyche or emotions that lie deep within. And through history, it has held a mirror up to our status quo and reflected the economic and social developments of our times.
So I'm in a quandary why if Facebook is adamant that it is not opening up its social networking platform to under 13s as an ethical code of conduct, why does the film industry think it is acceptable to place under-13s in sexualised roles? Is it one rule for Hollywood and another for social media?
I understand that these two industries cannot be directly correlated. In cinema, the audience is the spectator and the content is the spectacle whereas in social media, its broadcasting platforms are interactive so there is more of a reason to protect a child. But surely the representation of individuals is also valid? Or doesn't it matter because the child cannot be directly approached?
As I left the cinema, I wondered if this particular scene in Moonrise Kingdom needed to be included in the final cut. Could the filmmaker have made the same point about the characters' relationship without it? Or did the story really need it?
What if there was another way to explore the children's sexual awakening? If not subtly between the two child characters then perhaps through the regression of the adults as explored in Monkey Business? Or am I just being a prude and should I learn to accept that today children are not just growing up quickly, that we should simply be comfortable in perceiving them in adult roles?
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