Australian Council on Children and the Media

Charlotte’s Web

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Short takes

Parental guidance under 8 (Distressing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Charlotte’s Web
  • a review of Charlotte’s Web completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 January 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Parental guidance recommended due to some distressing scenes
Children over the age of 8 Most children over the age of eight should be able to see this movie with or without parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Charlotte’s Web
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 94 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Charlotte’s Web tells the tale of Wilbur, the runt of the spring litter of piglets, who is saved from certain death by Fern (Dakota Fanning), the farmer’s daughter. Fern nurtures and feeds Wilbur and fights for his right to life, but when her care for him affects her school life, her parents encourage her to place him in her uncle’s barn across the road.

In the barn, Wilbur meets the menagerie of farmyard animals and the odd rodent. His cheery and all-welcoming disposition is at odds with the fearful and suspicious attitude of the other animals. He finds a friend in a spider named Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts), who herself is despised by the other animals. When it is apparent that Wilbur’s life may be at risk, due to the fast approaching winter and Christmas festivities, Charlotte makes a promise to Wilbur to save his life. Wilbur’s infectious personality, Charlotte’s efforts and the increasingly supportive help of the other animals have a positive impact on the farm, its residents and the whole town.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The cycle of life.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • when attempting to escape the barn and follow Fern to school, Wilbur repeatedly runs head first into a wooden fence beam. He is briefly stunned and thrown back each time, but is eventually successful.
  • Templeton (The Rat) is chased by two hungry crows who peck him on the back. During his attempt to escape them, he has a number of falls and crashes, and is heard to yell out briefly in pain.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Charlotte’s appearance. Wilbur is not afraid of her, but other animals clearly are initially afraid and revolted by her
  • Fern’s father notices that Wilbur is the runt of his pack. He picks up Wilbur and then goes to get an axe, with the intention of killing him. Fern looks aghast and stops him from killing Wilbur.
  • Wilbur is initially sad at being separated from Fern when he is placed in the barn with all the other animals.
  • Templeton makes taunting remarks about the likelihood of Wilbur being killed for Christmas dinner. Wilbur is scared by this, but reassured by Charlotte’s promise to save him.
  • Wilbur is clearly very distressed and cries when he learns that Charlotte is dying and will not be returning to the farm with him (after the County Fair)
  • Charlotte is shown to be very weak and slowly dies
  • On returning to the farm, Wilbur and all the animals are sad, but look forward to looking after Charlotte’s nest.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some children in this age group could be concerned by the threats to Wilbur, his distress and Charlotte’s death. Children that are particularly frightened by spiders might be worried by Charlotte.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None of concern.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

None

Coarse language

Charlotte’s Web  is a children’s fantasy tale about overcoming adversity and prejudice, and seeing beauty in the ordinary. Children and adults are likely to find the story and characters appealing.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • friendship
  • kindness, patience and generosity
  • seeing beyond the superficial or the ordinary
  • sticking up for your friends and what you believe in.

Parents may wish to discuss Charlotte’s death, and that life will continue through her children.

In a nutshell

Charlotte’s Web is a charming family film with great visual effects that combine live action with computer generated characters (Charlotte and Templeton).

The main messages from this movie are that friends help each other out and remain loyal to one another.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

inclusion and tolerance

  • kindness
  • friendship
  • co-operation
  • loyalty
  • selflessness

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the fact that all living creatures eventually die and that this is a natural part of the life cycle.

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