A father is calling on theatres to ensure that family-friendly movies are not spoiled before they start after an uncomfortable outing with his daughter prompted Cineplex to pull a trailer from certain screenings in British Columbia.
Mike Mitchell said he and his wife took their nine-year-old daughter to a Cineplex theatre in Langley, B.C., last weekend to see “The Miracle Season,” a Vancouver-shot drama about a girls’ volleyball team that bands together in the face of adversity.
But before the feel-good flick could get underway, a preview for an upcoming film starring Amy Schumer left the parents feeling horrified, said Mitchell.
His jaw dropped as his daughter watched an unclothed Schumer seducing a potential beau in the trailer for “I Feel Pretty.” The comedy is about an insecure woman, who after suffering a head injury, believes she has been transformed into a would-be model.
The trailer also shows Schumer shimmying on stage as she partakes in a wet T-shirt contest.
Mitchell said he felt the preview was too explicit for the girl-powered volleyball movie’s young target audience. He was equally troubled by what he perceived to be the “I Feel Pretty” trailer’s subtext — that a woman’s self-worth is determined by her body image and sex appeal.
“Anxiety, body awareness – these are very, very tender and current issues among teenage and tween-age girls exposed to this,” he said.
“What I saw, through a child’s mind, is, ‘If I get naked, I get accepted.'”
Cineplex responded to Mitchell’s concerns by removing the “I Feel Pretty” trailer from the lineup for the G-rated “The Miracle Season” at the seven B.C. theatres screening the movie.
“We’re in the business of entertaining our guests, and if they found it made them uncomfortable, then we wanted to respect that feedback in that one particular market,” Cineplex spokesperson Sarah Van Lange said. “If others are upset or had concerns with it, we’re happy to listen to that feedback.”
Of the three or four trailers that are shown before a movie, Van Lange said Cineplex selects roughly half of the movies being previewed, while the rest are recommended by the film’s distributor. She could not immediately say who made the call to show the “I Feel Pretty” trailer at Mitchell’s screening.
Trailer lineups at Cineplex screenings can vary from theatre to theatre, she said. The company considers a variety of factors such as a film’s genre, target audience and ratings to select previews that jive with the feature film, Van Lange said, but trailer curation is “not an exact science.”
“I Feel Pretty” has been designated a PG-rated feature film, according to Consumer Protection BC. The provincial regulator has assigned the movie’s trailer its broadest rating, meaning it can be screened ahead of G- and PG-rated films.
The consumer watchdog’s director of motion picture classification said it only receives public complaints about trailers once every two or three years.
“This is a really isolated incident, but it’s something we do take seriously,” Steve Pelton said, adding that his team will take a “second look” at the ratings for the “I Feel Pretty” trailer.
While Mitchell is pleased that Cineplex has taken action, he said the entertainment company needs to do more to address the corporate culture that would allow such a “big fail” to happen.
As a remedy, he proposed that theatres only screen trailers for movies that have the same rating as the feature film they paid to see.
“I took my child to a children’s film, and was shown an adult trailer,” he said. “I want to be given the choice.”
Mitchell insists that he is not a “prude.” It’s not just nudity and sexual innuendo he’s concerned about, but how his daughter is processing these subjects he feels are beyond her years.
In the “I Feel Pretty” trailer, Schumer tries to entice a male suitor by showing off her naked body as a “sneak peak of what’s to come.”
Mitchell said he wants his daughter to know that her body is hers to protect, love and nourish – not be offered as a “reward.”
“I don’t want her to start thinking that to please men, she must show her body,” said Mitchell. “This really flew in the face of positive growth in a child, and it’s got to stop.”
While he recognizes the feature-length film might be more nuanced than a minutes-long sizzle reel of the film’s “naughty bits,” Mitchell said he does not think his preteen daughter is in a position to make that distinction.
Raising kids in the digital age, Mitchell said it has become increasingly hard for parents to filter out inappropriate content, but that won’t stop him from trying to protect his child “one little step at a time.”
“I’m the guardian of a really bright, young kid that I want to be raised as a person, not a gender,” he said. “I want her to bold and be noble and succeed in the world based on her ability, not her sexuality. And I think sexualizing women in film and things like that is just old. It’s just done.”
— By Adina Bresge in Toronto