On Toy Story and Bad Language


My youngest daughter just turned two, and as kids are wont to do, she received a trove of delightful gifts. Among them was the movie Toy Story.

It’s a quality film that I can’t believe is almost 20 years old. As we watched, I started to believe its age more and more as I realized how much of the film I had forgotten.

It’s funny what things will jump out at you when you watch something as an adult, and much more so when you are watching as a parent. You notice things like violence, insults, even borderline bad words.

Now, I feel that I should mention that Toy Story is solidly rated G, and there isn’t anything objectionable about the content of the film. But while there aren’t any dirty bits, there are still things that I wouldn’t want my kids to repeat. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the situation that arose about a half hour after turning the movie off for the night.

My girls were in their shared room, playing when they should have been sleeping, when my wife and I heard my oldest daughter loudly say, “You are stupid!” to my youngest daughter.

“What did you just say?!”my wife and I asked simultaneously.

My oldest daughter back-pedaled. She knew that she had done something or said something that she shouldn’t have, but even she was unsure of what it was. After a few minutes of trying to convince her that we weren’t mad, but that we just wanted to talk about what she said, she finally told us that she said “stupid.”

Okay, before you call me a prude for being concerned over an innocuous word like “stupid,” let me say that the word isn’t even the issue here. The fact that the word is an insult is what’s at hand. In our house, we work very hard to only build each other up. About the worst things that we will say to one another is “You are acting like a turkey,” and “You’re being silly.”

So, to hear one of my daughters tear the other one down was an icy slap in the face. We just don’t do that. It is never helpful to insult someone, whether you have just cause or not.

After my wife explained all of this to my oldest daughter, she apologized to her little sister and told her that she was pretty (totally unprompted!).

In a way, I’m glad that the incident happened, because life is messy and I can’t shelter my daughters from being exposed to bad words, insults, and violence. But I can teach them that we have a choice in how we respond to those things, in whether or not we will act that way.