Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

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Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 13 (mature themes and distressing themes related to a shark-attack)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
  • a review of Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 March 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to distressing themes related to a shark-attack.
Children aged 8–13 Parental guidance recommended due to potentially distressing shark-related content.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

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: Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is a documentary by Aaron Lieber that follows the life of one-armed surfing legend Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm at age 13 during a shark-attack. Using old interviews, news, and home-footage, interspersed with talking head style interviews with current-day Hamilton, the documentary explores the impact the attack had on her life - not only physically as an athlete, but spiritually and emotionally as a teenager thrown into the media spotlight.

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.

Christian faith; recovery from injury.

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:

  • Frequent discussions of the shark-attack in which Bethany Hamilton lost her arm at age 13 – While not overtly graphic, descriptions of her blood loss and recovery may distress some viewers.

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:

  • Bethany is hurt during a surfing event and blood is shown on her legs.
  • Bethany’s severed (but healed) arm is shown throughout the film – While not grotesque or gory, it may be distressing for young children.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Candid discussions of the shark-attack and the loss of Bethany’s arm may distress children in this age group.

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.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Home-footage of 13-year-old Bethany in hospital following the attack may distress children in this age group due to her visible pain and fear (including a recurring nightmare in which she is being eaten feet-first by a shark, which she cannot escape from).

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.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Rip Curl surfing/swimwear products
  • Roxy swimwear
  • Red Bull
  • Corkcicle drink-wear.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Bethany and her husband kiss on a number of occasions.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is an inspirational documentary about surfer Bethany Hamilton and her journey from shark-attack victim to professional surfing legend. This documentary is beautifully shot and provides a glimpse into the adult life of Hamilton. While undeniably inspirational and an example of a strong female role model, this documentary may lack interest for some viewers due to a greater focus on surfing, rather than the story. Likely to appeal to surfing enthusiasts, this film is suitable for children over 13, with parental guidance recommended for ages 8 to 13 due to distressing themes related to the shark-attack.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Even in the face of great adversity and tragedy, people are stronger and more resilient than they may think.
  • Acknowledging and speaking up when we need help or support is vital in overcoming difficulties.
  • With hard-work, determination and courage, people can achieve great things.

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

  • Dedication, motivation, and perseverance when following a passion.
  • Feeling grateful for life, health, and support.
  • Using difficult experiences to help others (e.g., disability advocacy).

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Swimming or surfing in dangerous conditions (e.g. large waves as featured in the film) or without supervision/someone knowing where you are (e.g. drowning risk, shark-attack, etc.).
  • How media attention can feel exciting but may also lead to difficulties and stress.

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