My favorite movie in high school was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid*. I mean, what was not to like? Butch and the Kid were handsome, funny and just plain cool. More importantly, as a teenage boy, I had a huge crush on Katharine Ross, who played Etta Place, Sundance’s girlfriend. She caught my eye when she costarred in Shenandoah when I was only 12. Those feelings grew into a crush when I saw her in The Graduate at age 14, and love bloomed after I saw her in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at age 16. Here is a clip of one of my favorite scenes from the movie to the music of Burt Bacharach, sung by J.B. Thomas:
After watching this scene, it’s easy to see why I fell in love with the beautiful Katharine Ross. But I digress.
Since I loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so much, my friend and I decided to perform the following scene from the movie in our drama class. I played Butch.
After our performance (we got an A, by the way), I asked my drama teacher, “Didn’t you love that movie? She replied that she had never seen it. I was shocked. One of the best movies of all time and my drama teacher had never seen it! She explained in words that shocked me even more. “I don’t support immoral movies.”
Immoral? Huh? She then explained. “I consider it immoral because it makes the viewer root for men who were robbers and murderers. Do we really want people like them to be our heroes?”
I had never thought of it in that light before. I did root for Butch and the Kid as they spent their days robbing banks and trains, and even though, in reality, their Wild Bunch Gang was credited with more than a half dozen murders. And I admit I felt sad when the law finally caught up with them in Bolivia and presumably killed them.
How do we usually decide whether a movie is immoral? We look at movie ratings. If it’s R rated, we often decide its probably something we shouldn’t see, but a PG-13 rating makes a movie OK, regardless of its content, theme or message. A great movie might be rated R simply because the “F” word is used a few times, while a PG-13 movie might contain nothing but trash (but no “F” words). Should we really let faceless people whom we know nothing about set our moral standards for us
Don’t get me wrong. Movie ratings can be helpful when deciding what movies to see. But our analysis should go deeper than that. Whenever I finish watching a movie, I try to take at least a few minutes to analyze it. What did I learn from it? Do I care about the characters? Why or why not? What motivated them to do what they did? Could the characters have handled things differently and for the better? What would I do if I were in a similar situation? I do this analysis as an adult with no kids left at home. How much more important would it be to have these types of discussions with our children about the movies they see – hopefully, together with us.
*Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Directed by: George Roy Hill
Written by: William Goldman
Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox