How Young Is Too Young to Watch Avengers: Infinity War?
My friend told me a story the other day: a receptionist in her office, knowing that my friend was an Avengers fan, asked whether she should take her 7-year-old son to see the movie. “He’s the biggest Spider-Man fan,” the receptionist explained. “He wants to dress in his Spider-Man costume to watch it.”
My friend’s eyes went round with horror. “No,” she said. “Oh, no, no, no. Take your kid and run in the opposite direction.”
I don’t believe that there are universal “right” ages for kids and young adults to see movies. Everyone has different maturity levels, and everyone is sensitive to different topics and scenarios. When I was a kid, I never blinked at sex scenes (I found them boring), but the first mean dinosaur (Jurassic Park) or melting face (Indiana Jones) that I saw scared the hell out of me and left lasting impressions.
I spent a majority of my teenage years trying to sneak into R-rated pictures, most of which had earned those ratings because of language or “adult situations” rather than because they were wildly inappropriate for a high schooler to see; many of those films deemed “appropriate” for my age range were much more disturbing, content-wise.
The Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system can be inconsistent and has a history of erring on the side of pearl-clutching where sex and cursing are concerned while rubber-stamping head-exploding violence for a general audience (welcome to America). But generally, we take these ratings as guidelines for age-appropriateness, and while unattended kids and young adults are usually made to show IDs to gain entry to PG-13 and R-rated films, parents are allowed to take their children of any age into any movie that they see fit.
So what do you do with a movie like Avengers: Infinity War?
Infinity War was marketed as one of the biggest movies of the year, and it’s undeniable that it was also heavily marketed towards children. Dozens upon dozens of toys cropped up on store shelves; tie-ins were absolutely everywhere (even Ziploc sandwich bags and Dole bananas started featuring stickers with the Avengers characters on them).
If you have a child, I imagine that they were interested in Infinity War or at the very least had heard about it from their friends or from commercials or from their bananas.
I’m usually the last person on Earth to harp on age-appropriateness, but Infinity War is different than the Marvel movies that came before it. There are disturbingly violent and emotionally fraught deaths of well-known and well-loved characters (Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, Vision).
Then, something unprecedented happens for a superhero movie: the good guys fail to stop the bad guy and appear, for the time being, to lose. They lose badly, with more than half of our favorite heroes crumbling to dust dramatically onscreen.
I imagine that all of this would be quite a lot for kids of certain ages to handle, considering how many adults I know who were shocked and shaken. It’s cold comfort to tell a child that this is all just part of a cliffhanger and everyone they idolize will probably be back in a year. That’s a long time to live in a world without Spider-Man when you’re 7.
I’ve seen some discussion of Infinity War‘s appropriateness online. One blogger reported that at her screening, there were children crying hysterically in the theater, and her friend’s child cried for days. When someone asked her why parents wouldn’t pre-vet content like this for a younger child (Infinity War received a PG-13 rating for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references”—though weirdly no mention of mass death), she explained that many parents are very busy and have limited funds.
It’s not as though you always have the luxury of going to an expensive movie on your own to make sure half the galaxy isn’t killed off before the end credits. And so you trust that a superhero film with a thousand toy and product tie-ins isn’t going to traumatize your kid.
received what’s likely the appropriate rating for it: PG-13, and from there, it’s ultimately the parent’s decision to take their child. I might’ve preferred if the filmmakers had just gone for a full R, which would’ve been more of a warning to parents that the content was really difficult, but every Marvel Studios movie to date has aimed for and received a PG-13 rating, broadening its box-office potential.
Yet it’s clear that Infinity War was marketed as a movie that families could enjoy together, and I’m sure that many, many did. And it’s equally possible that many had no idea what they were in for and were disturbed by the results.
As someone without kids, I’m curious about what parents and guardians and those with an opinion on Infinity War think is the age cut-off here. Does it depend entirely on the kid, or should there be a strong recommendation not to take a 7-year-old in a Spider-Man costume to see his hero turn into dust while he begs to stay alive? Or is the movie an important lesson for young minds about the potential triumphs of evil and the reality of genocides perpetrated by thick-headed abusive ecological fascists?
How young is too young for Infinity War?
(images: Marvel Studios, shopDisney, Dole)
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