Young Kids at Grown-Up Movies – A Conversation Inspired by the Tragic Dark Knight Shooting

I’m going to say this up front: the only person to blame for the horrific Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, Colorado is the shooter. This post is not about the shooting itself. It’s about the broader issue of taking young children to movies intended for an adult audience late at night. My heart breaks for every parent whose child was harmed physically or psychologically in the attack, because no one deserves to have to deal with that regardless of their parental choices.

That being said…

The tragic loss of a six-year-old girl and the injuries sustained by a 3 month old opened up a dialogue about the appropriateness of bringing such young children to such a late and gratuitously violent movie. (And to repeat, I am not blaming the parents for their children being shot by a sociopath.) My post here is an expansion of my comment on Children at a Midnight Showing?

The Dark Knight Rises Bane Promo

People like me, who expressed concern that young children were present at the movie opening when news of the shooting broke, were shouted down. We were called callous and uncaring. We should be ashamed of ourselves for blaming the parents (even though many of us weren’t) in the midst of their grief. How dare we judge them? We must think we’re perfect parents, then. “I hope nothing like this ever happens to your child,” people even said, which sounded like a curse, if not a threat. Of course, I know I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t always make good decisions either…the context for my concerns was that the parents of these children who were victims of the shooting are going to be tortured for the rest of their lives for making a decision that ended up having far worse consequences than anyone could have ever imagined. They’re likely going to need counseling. But the fact that they are not to blame for the shooting does not make their decision to bring their children to the movie irrelevant, either.

While taking young kids to a midnight showing of an excessively violent movie does not necessarily make someone a Bad Parent, it is a bad, irresponsible parenting decision. We all make bad parenting decisions sometimes, but some of those decisions are more harmful than others. Think of the message you’re sending your young children by taking them with you to movies that contain frightening images and glorify violence. You’re desensitizing them to these things at an age where they are still forming connections in their brains as to good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate, real and not real. We haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, but having seen the previous installment, I can only imagine the nightmares TJ would have for weeks, if not months, if he were to have seen almost any part of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. And there were all of those frightening images in the first movie, Batman Begins, when the Scarecrow unleashed terror – literally – on the people of Gotham. I cannot imagine any legitimate justification for bringing a young child to see the third installment of this Batman trilogy… or other movies intended for an adult audience that contain gratituitous violence, sexuality, etc. We’ll get to babysitting issues in another paragraph or two.

And then there’s my stance as a moviegoer. You may be certain that your infant is going to sleep against your shoulder for the whole movie, but when she suddenly wakes up and starts screaming because of the loud explosions on the screen, you’ve suddenly become worse than the person who forgot to turn the ringer off on their phone or texts throughout the film. Even if you immediately get up to take your kid out, you’ve already disrupted the experience of everyone else who paid good money to watch the movie without distractions, possibly ruining the entire experience for a crowd who just missed a crucial line of dialogue. Or subjecting your fellow movie patrons to your 5-year-old’s not-so-quiet “whispers” asking you, “Mommy, what’s he doing?” “Daddy, is he the bad guy?” or the helpful, “No, don’t go in there! He’s got a gun!” And the shrieking when someone gets their face shot off. It is disrespectful to bring pint-sized distractions to grown-up movies, especially when the price of a movie ticket pushes $10 or more nowadays, and many people choose later movie showings specifically to avoid being in an audience with children. Chances are, there are a number of parents in the theater with you who did pay for a babysitter to watch their kids so they could enjoy some adult time…only to have to deal with your kids instead.

I’m a parent. There are many movies my husband and I have missed because we didn’t have anyone to watch our son. Your inability to find/afford a babysitter does not give you permission to disrupt the experience of other movie patrons. Either go to a matinee showing, when kids are more tolerated, if not welcomed during more mature movies, or wait until the sucker comes out on Netflix. Being a parent sucks sometimes. It’s something we all have to deal with. I know that it’s hard to make time to do Grown Up Things alone or with your spouse. But parenthood does not grant any of us the right to bring our children to any location at any time. Parenthood comes with a lot of sacrifices, and the responsibility to differentiate appropriateness in a variety of situations. Sure, we’re allowed to be selfish sometimes, but there’s a time and a place. And I’m sorry, but keeping young children out past 2:00 am because you want to be the first one to see a violent superhero film is not that time and place.

(In a perfect world, none of us would be judgmental of anyone else’s decisions – but let’s face it, some of you are judging me for being judgmental, aren’t you? This is, of course, just my opinion. I’m not forcing anyone to change the way they do things, but maybe my point of view could be taken into consideration when folks are contemplating similar decisions.)

Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


  1. While I totally get your point, (especially since I do not have children and get very frustrated when others bring their children to the movie theatre), I do think there is some insensitivity in posting this. I believe that there are much deeper underlying issues in the American society right now than allowing children to go to R rated movies. You say “But the fact that they are not to blame for the shooting does not make their decision to bring their children to the movie irrelevant, either.” No, it doesn’t but at this point, Im pretty sure any parent would feel bad enough without having you write comments like this surrounding an already tragic event. I believe your message is important but I believe your timing is off. Try again after people have had the opportunity to mourn such a great loss.

    • Sally, while I agree that there are deeper underlying issues in American society, that doesn’t mean this isn’t worthy of a discussion. As for the parents feeling bad enough, there’s a larger problem if the parents mourning the loss of a child from the shooting are searching the Internet to read posts like mine related to the shooting. If any of the parents who brought their children to the shooting are reading my post, I wholeheartedly apologize for adding to their burden. But I’m fairly confident that they have more important things to be doing with their time right now than reading my little blog.

  2. I’m not sure if you have noticed the effects of social media / networking or not but it would be naive to think that your “little blog” will not reach someone who knows someone who was affected by this awful event. I unfortunately found your blog on a social media site used by millions of people, I was not seeking out an article on this topic at all. All I am saying is to show some compassion for the families and friends of those lost and those injured. Let them have their moment of mourning. You reap what you sow and this article sends out a whole lot of negativity in a world already plagued with enough sadness and blame.

  3. Christina, Thank you for being brave enough to say exactly what I was thinking! I haven’t been able to get my thoughts down in a blog post as well as you did so instead, I have just been sharing your post. I agree with you 100%.

  4. Thanks, Cindy. I tried to approach this in as diplomatic a way as possible. I’ve seen sweeping statements about how insensitive it is to discuss this at all, but the fact remains that people ARE thinking it, so why not talk about it in a mature, non-inflammatory way instead of letting the truly insensitive trolls own the conversation?

  5. Insensitive Troll says

    Just as you have your opinion, I have mine. I tried to approach the subject in a non-confrontational way and I don’t think there was anything wrong with the discussion we were having (Well until you resorted to name calling . . . good one by the way). I’m sorry that you felt attacked as that was not the purpose of the discussion I wanted to have. I hope that you can find a way to be open to other opinions as I do think that you have some valid points.

    • Sally, I wasn’t calling you an insensitive troll! I was referring to people who were using the tragedy to say horrible, horrible things that I won’t repeat here…but the gist was that the parents deserved to lose their kids. 🙁 No parent deserves to have their child die, and it’s the people who say such things that I was calling insensitive trolls.

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