5 Family Movies With A Messed Up Sense Of Morality [Opinion]

Not all family movies are created equal. Some of them are downright mean-spirited.

Retrogasm / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped And Resized)

Not all family movies are created equal. Some of them are downright mean-spirited.

Is morality intrinsic, fixed, and absolute, or is it subjective? That all depends on your spiritual and/or philosophical perception. The universe seems to come without a set of identifiable rules, but of course, we as a society, call people out for being moral degenerates all the time.

There are norms and taboos we have established as a society, giving us validation when we judge and gossip about others. So is morality subjective? Does nothing mean anything in this indifferent universe? I don’t know, but talking about the shortcomings of others sure is fun so let’s discuss some movies that are perceived as wholesome and family oriented, but are actually deeply immoral, by society’s standards.

5. Field of Dreams

  Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

Listen, aspiring writers, aspiring artists, aspiring creatives of all kinds, “building it” is not tantamount to “them coming.” You can paint the most beautiful portrait of all time and it will go completely unnoticed without proper promotion. You don’t get to be successful just for having talent, you have to work for success.

No one gets to mow down their crops because Henry Hill from Goodfellas told them to, install a baseball field, and suddenly draw visitors from all over the country who are nostalgic about baseball. And I don’t care that James Earle Jones disagrees with me, it doesn’t work that way.

Promotion is expensive and time-consuming and a serious pain, but it’s a necessary evil. Also, while we’re at it, you also don’t get to bankrupt yourself and risk your family’s security on a vanity project. How self-absorbed can someone be? Is Shoeless Joe going to pay your mortgage off and invest in your daughter’s education? I don’t think so. Your brother-in-law was a jerk, Ray, but he also wasn’t wrong.

4. The Jungle Book

  TheKirbster / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped And Resized)

Baloo is a loafer. I can spot a loafer from a mile away and Baloo is definitely one. Loafers aren’t intrinsically bad people or even harmful people. Some of my best friends are loafers and they don’t bother a soul. Mostly they just watch tv and cite “total corruption” as the reason for their apolitical stance, when in reality they’ve just never taken the initiative to understand politics. It’s fine. Do you, buddy.

Baloo, however, is a different kind of loafer, in that he’s kind of harmful in his irresponsibility. Mowgli is confirmed as being in great danger, Baghira is trying his best to take him out of the jungle and back to the man-village, which actually should have been done immediately upon finding him, but OK. The point here is, Baghira has recognized the reality of the situation and is doing the best he can with what he’s got.

Baloo is incapable of seeing further than the tip of his own nose and wishes Baghira would just calm down and listen to some jazz or something. It takes a catastrophe involving monkeys — really the best kind of catastrophe — for Baloo to understand his loafing can have consequences for others, but the damage is kind of done. Mowgli lucks out in that the tiger doesn’t maul him to death, but he gets what anyone would consider being too close for comfort.

I guess we could excuse all that, lessons are learned. Mowgli isn’t dead, they’ve made it back to the man village, no harm done, but remember this next time, Baloo.

And now for an emotional goodbye. It’s hard to leave your friends, Mowgli, but sometimes it’s what has to be done. Maybe Baloo and Baghira can vis— oh nevermind he saw an attractive girl and split without even saying goodbye.

Seriously, Mowgli sold his boys out for someone he’s never even met. Where I come from, that’s less than acceptable. So much for friendship and dedication.

Pretty girl singing with a vase on head. Must follow. Nevermind that you’re not even sure if she likes you back.

3. How The Grinch Stole Christmas

  Retrogasm / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped And Resized)

Whether it’s the classic cartoon or the Jim Carrey version, this one’s obvious. The Grinch committed, I don’t know, thousands of felonious burglaries in one night? Nevermind the fact that if this were a reality, he would have been imprisoned for a very long time, and rightfully so, that’s a pedantic observation. Furthermore, it’s the whole point of the story, he’s forgiven for his misdeeds in the spirit of Christmas.

Personally, I’m not sure what the birth of Christ has to do with bypassing all accountability for the guy returning your $2,500 worth of half-smashed Christmas gifts, but that’s your business. Overlooking the fact that he destroyed all the Christmas decorations you spent money on and worked so diligently to hang seems psychotically passive to me, but I must be wrong because we’ve been normalizing this reaction since the book was published in 1957. Who am I to question redemption? After all, it’s just theft, material objects, they can be replaced.

You know what can’t be replaced? The innocence of the dog he mistreats all throughout the story. The Grinch is awful to Max from the get-go, treating him as a servant, an afterthought, subjecting him to ridicule, scorn, and forcing Max into situations he obviously finds terrifying.

He puts Max in harm’s way so many times with that sleigh of his, it will be a wonder if the dog ever recovers. As someone who rescued a shelter dog, not cool Grinch. Of course, Max still loves The Grinch, he’s a dog and all dogs know is love. Well, I don’t love The Grinch, I think he’s a lowlife.

I once saw a movie called John Wick where some bad guys kill a puppy. John Proceeds to brutally murder everyone involved and I mean it’s something like hundreds of people getting annihilated all over one dead puppy. I was perfectly fine with that. The Grinch doesn’t get a pass for being sorry in the end. He abused his dog. He’s garbage. Full Stop.

2. Old Yeller

  Orin Zebest / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped and resized)

All soapbox rants about animal abuse aside, killing Old Yeller might have been the only act of decency I saw in that abyssal pit of a movie. What a deeply upsetting existence that family leads. The father is almost never home, strange people wander on and off the property, helping themselves to whatever they please. But the biggest downer is the general tone of the movie. Travis is not really afforded a childhood. He looks on envious of Arliss who still gets to meander about life as a child, but knowing solemnly that soon enough, Arliss too will be expected to abandon his innocence and “become a man.”

Yeller, Travis’ best friend, is, of course, bitten by a rabid wolf and Travis is forced to watch his companion slowly become a monster. It’s something of a poignant metaphor, watching innocent Old Yeller transform into an unrecognizable monster. A fine parallel with how we go from being innocent children to being told to put emotion away and become cold, indifferent workers and soldiers. As Travis aims the gun at his friend gone mad, he isn’t crying because Old Yeller has to die, he’s crying because unlike Old Yeller, Travis has to stay here, in the howling void he calls his existence.

Killing Old Yeller is often considered crossing a threshold into manhood for Travis, difficult as it is. Yes indeed, growing up is definitely about watching the things we love die… and sometimes actively killing them ourselves.

What I can’t understand about Old Yeller is why this notion is considered a virtue, and why Old Yeller isn’t explained to children as a cynical view of the world, not a status quo to which we should aspire.

1. Home Alone 1 & 2

  S_herman / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped and resized)

First, I want you to watch this YouTube clip.

Now I’m going to give this some context, whether you’ve seen the movie before or not, this is important.

Kevin McCallister is an entitled little brat, this is true, but what upper-middle-class 8-year-old isn’t?

Here are some facts about Kevin McCallister:

  • His parents largely dismiss and ignore him.
  • His cousins belittle and insult him.
  • His uncle Frank blatantly verbally abuses and threatens him.
  • For dinner, he is offered vomit to eat.
  • At exactly the same time as a sadist regurgitates some pre-digested food for Kevin to eat, Kevin’s cousin simultaneously seems to subtly, but delightfully, threaten to later urinate on Kevin.
  • This angers Kevin to an understandable breaking point.
  • His perfectly reasonable outburst is looked upon as a serious inconvenience by all and Kevin is shunned by every visible member of his family, then Kevin is banished to an attic he is terrified of.

I get it, no family is perfect, but there’s something deeply disturbing going on in this house, not just casual, run-of-the-mill emotional childhood scarring. We all have that and the dynamic of the distracted parent isn’t going away anytime soon.

Kevin just wants to be noticed, to be occasionally validated by his family, and to not be forced into sharing a bed with someone who everyone openly identifies as a potentially pre-meditated bed wetter. He also just wants to enjoy the lovely cheese pizza he was promised. What’s so bad about Kevin? These seem like reasonable expectations, even for a child.

Later, he’s quite literally forgotten about by his family as they skip merrily off Paris, leaving Kevin “The Little Jerk” McCallister to celebrate Christmas alone and at the mercy of some kind of Southbend Shovel Slayer with a heart of gold and Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas. What is it about gangsters showing up in family films?

Mom realizes she messed up, races across nine continents to profusely apologize and… wow. Well, maybe they have seen the error of their ways? Maybe she’s actually sorry and ready to pay attention to her son? I sure hope so.

Just kidding, she makes the same exact mistakes again in the next movie, and this time Kevin gets to figure out the hustle of credit card fraud and the reality of homelessness, all while in a dangerous metropolitan area he’s unfamiliar with.

Home Alone 1 & 2 are not family movies, they’re commentaries on the cycle of abuse we unknowingly put our loved ones through. It’s an art-house masterpiece and deserves a place in the Criterion Collection