Taking your children to the cinema in The Netherlands involves a certain degree of angst. You always have to wonder whether there will be something entirely age-inappropriate (and possibly nightmare-inducing) at a showing of a ‘six years and older’ film in this country. Believe me, even a movie about a furry bear seeking a home in London while carrying emergency marmalade sandwiches under his hat is fraught with risk. I should have known the dangers after last summer….
In July 2014, my friend R and I took a group of children to see How to Train Your Dragon 2.
This was an afternoon showing, and the cinema was nearly empty apart from one other child with her mother and a handful of adults. R and I sat at the end of our row with the five children to our right: a 10-year old, two eight-year olds, a seven-year old and a five year-old. They squabbled over the seating arrangements and messed about with their 3-D glasses. Finally, the lights went off and the first movie trailer began to show….
For Sex Tape. Yes, the first trailer at a children’s movie was for Sex Tape. R and I blanched, but started to giggle a little. The children didn’t seem to have noticed, and this is—after all—The Netherlands. There had been a 2-story-high nude frontal photo of an eight-month pregnant woman with a lot of body hair on the outside of the photography museum a few streets away. So the Sex Tape trailer was to be expected, sort of.
Then a scene from another trailer began, with a man asking to borrow money from his female friend. She replied, “I don’t have any money—I spent it all on condoms last night!”
R and I laughed louder.
The trailer continued with the shot of a white moving van bearing the caption: Use condoms to prevent genital herpes.
R and I started laughing so hard that we squeaked when we breathed. How could this possibly be shown at a children’s movie?
The other adults turned around to look at us. Our children ignored us.
Surely it couldn’t get worse?
But it did.
On came the trailer for Cuban Fury. After an opening salvo of dance moves and mentions of ‘limp dicks’, the main character asked something of a rather camp dancer, who replied with, “I don’t have time for this! I will be late for my ball waxing!”
R and I bent double, hooting with laughter and unable to speak. My sides hurt, and I was trying to catch my breath when my five-year old daughter tapped me on the shoulder.
“What did that man say?” she asked. R burst out laughing again. I gave my friend a dirty look while trying to draw enough breath to answer.
“The man said that he would be late for his ball game,” I managed to gasp out.
“Oh,” she said and turned back to face the screen which had finally started to show the main, child-appropriate feature.
After the film, we told the mother of the ten-year old girl about the trailers, especially Cuban Fury. The mother said that if questioned about ‘ball waxing’, she would explain that the man was a champion bowler and had some work to do before a competition.
We burst into paroxysms of laughter. My ribcage ached for two days.
Which brings us back to the present, and the viewing of Paddington Bear. My husband and I left the theatre with our two happy children and walked straight into a lobby full of hundreds of women drinking champagne in preparation for the ladies night premiere of 50 Shades of Grey. My children stared at the sexy-time clothing hanging on the mannequins and would have gone over to touch some of the other items for sale if we hadn’t taken firm hold of their hands and hurried them down a series of escalators to the exit.
It’s risky taking your children to a children’s movie in The Netherlands. You’re never sure what inappropriate thing might flash before their eyes. But on the other hand, France has just rated 50 Shades of Grey for children ‘12 years and up’ because they find it ‘prudish’.
Maybe Holland isn’t that bad after all.