A good friend of mine loves old movies, and there are lots I enjoy, too. Recently she loaned me a DVD collection with Doris Day and Rock Hudson that included a movie called Pillow Talk, made in 1959. Let me say that they have fantastic chemistry on screen and that the movie was cute in general. But as I was watching it, I wondered if I'd let my children sit through it.
Why? Well, surely a movie from 1959, the era of Leave it to Beaver and the Dick Van Dyke Show, must be wholesome and uplifting?
There are some aspects of the movie that are: the goal for the young woman is to settle down and have a family with the man of her dreams. The womanizer, Rock Hudson, mends his ways and pursues the driven career-girl and eventually wins her over. The physical affection between the couple is relatively innocent most of the time.
When Rock Hudson's character, Brad Allen, has a button he can push in his apartment that transforms his place into a love nest, complete with a fold out bed that mechanically pops out, the lights going down, the record player starting...How do I explain what's happening to my children?
"Oh, he's just having a sleepover." ???
Another scene shows the two of them in a split screen, each in the bathtub covered with bubbles on the phone. It's very sensual and made me feel embarrassed even though I was watching by myself. What do I say to that?
"Ummm...you probably wouldn't want to talk on the phone in the bathtub because you might drop it in and electrocute yourself? And it's immodest to let anyone see you bathing...Let's fast forward-"
Not to mention the outright deception Hudson's character pulls off. Granted, he does face the consequences of his actions, but it's still painful to watch.
In researching the history of the movie, I discovered that even Rock Hudson was hesitant to make this movie because he thought it was "too racy". (Of course, the tragic turn of his life might become a post in and of itself someday. It's terribly sad. At any rate...)
In many ways, this movie isn't much different in its subtle messages than a modern movie. Sure, there may not be as much skin, but there's plenty of sexuality implied. Would a kid "miss it" and just enjoy the movie, especially a romantically minded little girl or teenager? I think kids pick up on more than we realize.
You cannot assume that just because a movie is rated G or PG or is one from the '50s it must be OK. We have to watch each movie with a discerning, even a critical, eye, asking, "What message is this movie trying to communicate?"
I'm not a total fundamentalist here on movie watching. I think I was just taken back at how not much as changed at all over the years in Hollywood. And the movie caused me to keep a more watchful eye on what my kids are absorbing in the media. I'm also reminded of the extremely helpful site over at Focus on the Family that reviews media called Plugged In.
Be vigilantly on guard for your family in the culture.