Beasts of the Southern Wild
Not recommended under 15 due to disturbing themes and scenes
This topic contains:
- overall comments and recommendations
- details of classification and consumer advice lines for Beasts of the Southern Wild
- a review of Beasts of the Southern Wild completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 28 August 2012.
Overall comments and recommendations
|Children under 15
||Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes.
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:
||Beasts of the Southern Wild
|Consumer advice lines:
This review of the movie contains the following information:
A synopsis of the story
Cut off from the real world by a massive levee bank is the
Louisiana bayou town of Bathtub where six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane
Wallis) lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). Hushpuppy is an inquisitive
and intrepid child, who spends her time walking around picking up all manner of
creatures and looking for signs of life by listening to their heartbeats.
Hushpuppy believes that everything in the universe is connected and that all
the pieces have to fit together just right for it to work properly.
While he loves Hushpuppy deeply, Wink is an alcoholic, who displays
unpredictable mood swings and spends much of his time in a semi-drunken
state. However, when Wink becomes
terminally ill and a massive storm strikes, flooding the community of Bathtub,
Hushpuppy’s universe falls apart. The salty flood waters not only destroy
property but the environment itself, leaving the people of Bathtub without a
means to survive.
As Hushpuppy’s life begins to spiral out of control she
calls on her imagination to confront her fears and finds the strength needed to
endure both the death of her father and to live life beyond the bayou.
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.
Death of a parent; alcoholism; natural disaster; global warming; abandonment
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.
The film contains physical and verbal abuse of a small
child, some reckless behaviour resulting in destruction and injury, and
occasional action violence and peril. Examples include:
- In a couple of scenes, Hushpuppy’s father shouts at her in
anger, threatening violence (“I’m going to bust your arse”) andshe runs away in
- A hurricane hits the community of Bathtub, with wind and
rain battering makeshift shacks, ripping off iron roofing etc. Hushpuppy takes
refuge in her father’s shack as the storm rips it apart. She calls out in fear
for her mother. Wink, in a crazed, drunken state, runs around outside in the
storm firing his shotgun into the air while shouting insults at the storm. The
following morning Wink uses an axe to chop his way through their iron roof and
we see devastating images of storm damage and major flooding with houses,
property and the local environment destroyed.
- In a flashback scene we see a woman shoot an alligator with
a shotgun; we her pointing the gun at the alligator, see the gun fired and see
the front of the woman’s clothes and legs spayed with blood.
- In a clandestine raid, Wink and two other men use dynamite
to blow up a levee bank. The explosion hurls Hushpuppy and the others into the
water (we see images of Hushpuppy sinking under the water) with debris falling
all around; Hushpuppy and the others are uninjured.
- At one point during the film, Hushpuppy throws a tantrum
hurlingand smashing things. To encourage Hushpuppy to release her anger, her
father throws things around as well and the tantrum turns into a type of pillow
- Following the storm and flood, the residents of Bathtub are
ordered to evacuate their homes, and when they refuse, government officials
forcibly remove them. Hushpuppy and her father barricade themselves in their
home, shouting and throwing objects at the government officials. The residents
of Bathtub are taken to a temporary shelter/hospital where they riot and escape
in a stolen bus. At one point while in the hospital we see Hushpuppy’s father
roughing up a doctor before he is physically restrained by hospital
- In one scene we see Hushpuppy, out of anger, punch her
father in the stomach with her father clutching his stomach and falling to the
ground unconscious. Hushpuppy, believing that she has “broken” her father, runs
off in a state of panic and distress.
Material that may scare or disturb children
Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.
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.
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
eight, including the following:
- Six-year-old Hushpuppy lives by herself in a makeshift
cabin. We see her using a large butane torch to light a gas stove and, in one
scene, the stove explodesand the kitchen catches on fire. Hushpuppy hides
beneath a cardboard box as the flames engulf her house. When Hushpuppy’s father
breaks into the burning house searching for her, she refuses to come out from
under her box, fearing her father’s anger. She manages to escape uninjured in
the nick of time.
- When emotional crisis confronts Hushpuppy, she imagines her
fears as fierce and scary looking extinct beasts called aurochs. In one scene
we see imagined aurochs rampaging through the community of Bathtub crashing
through shacks. Another scene depicts images of aurochs savagely eating a dead
aurochs. In one scene we see a herd of fierce aurochs chasing Hushpuppy and a
small group of children. Hushpuppy triumphs over her fears when she confronts
the head aurochs, staring him down.
- In the aftermath of the storm, bloated rotting carcases of a
cow, fish and birds float in the flood waters. One scene depicts the image of
dead animal that had been half eaten by scavengers.
- As a method of coping with the loss of her mother, Hushpuppy
constructs a mannequin consisting of a chair with an old basketball singlet
draped across it and a face drawn on paper stuck to the back of the chair.
- After being abandoned by her father for several says,
Hushpuppy finds her father dressed in a hospital gown walking around in a field
in a dazed and confused manner. When Hushpuppy approaches her father he shouts
at her in anger and Hushpuppy runs away confused and frightened.
- In one emotionally intense scene, Hushpuppy, realising that
her father is terminally ill tells her father that she is aware of what is
happening “You think I don’t know, you think I can’t see”.
- Hushpuppy’s father coughs up blood onto the ground. Later we
see him coughing up blood while in bed.
- Hushpuppy’s father tells her that he is dying and can’t take
care of her any more and that she isn’t to be sad about things dying.
- In one emotionally intense scene we see Hushpuppy lying next
to her father with her head on his chest as she listens to his dying heartbeat,
and we see tears running down Hushpuppy’s face when he dies. Later we see his
body in a makeshift boat which is set on fire and pushed out into the water.
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.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed
by the above-mentioned images.
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.
Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by
some of the above-mentioned images
The film contains occasional low-level sexual references.
- A woman says that a man tried to touch her “titties”.
- Hushpuppy’s father asks her if he ever told her (Hushpuppy)
the story of her conception. We see a flashback image of a Hushpuppy’s mother
and hear a story of how she killed an alligator to protect Hushpuppy’s father,
and the story of how four minutes after she shot the alligator, Hushpuppy
popped into the world.
- A waterside bayou brothel displays the sign “Catfish Shack.
Girls, Girls, Girls.”
Nudity and sexual activity
There is some implied and partial nudity. Examples include:
- In a couple of scenes we see six-year-old Hushpuppy running
around in her underwear.
- Woman displays her bare thigh to Hushpuppy and we see images
of aurochs tattooed on her thigh.
- We see the image of a young woman (from the waist down)
wearing only her underwear.
- In one scene, Hushpuppy ends up in a brothel and we see a
number of women dressed in flimsy low-cut slips dancing with men. We also see
several young children dancing slowly with the women and burying their heads
into a woman’s cleavage as though starved for motherly love.
Use of substances
There is some use of substances in this movie, including:
- Most of the adult characters depicted in the film display
alcoholic behaviour with characters continuously consuming various types of
alcohol from beer to spirits. We see characters in various states of intoxication.
In one scene, Hushpuppy’s father pours himself a
drink of moonshine and then one for Hushpuppy telling her “This counts for a
whole bunch of things”. Hushpuppy drinks
it, making a face.
The film contains some coarse language. Examples include:
“Your arse is meat”; “pussy”; “goddamn it”; “piss on the wall”;
“shit”; “holy crap”
In a nutshell
Beasts of the Southern Wild(M) is an emotionally intense
drama, depicting the harsh realities of the life of a six-year-old girl in a
poverty stricken bayou community. The film, which targets an older audience, is
truthful and brilliant, although emotionally draining, and too intense for
The film is full of wisdom and powerful messages, most of
which come from six-year-old Hushpuppy. For example:
- Hushpuppy believes that people are a little piece of a big
universe where “the whole universe depends on everything fitting together just
so. If the tiniest piece is missing it will be busted”. She maintains that if
you can fix a broken piece everything will fit right
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children
- Generosity, selflessness, friendship and caring: Although
the people of the bayou community Bathtub lived in poverty they displayed
boundless generosity towards each other sharing what little they had with those
that had nothing.
- Bravery: Hushpuppy displays great bravery when she confronts
and stares down her fears in the form of extinct imaginary beasts that
represent the crises in her life.
Parents may wish to discuss how the resilient Hushpuppy uses her imagination to
create imaginary beasts to help her make sense of and cope with the insecurity,
heartache, chaos and turmoil of her everyday life.