Australian Council on Children and the Media

Perks of being a Wallflower, The

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Not recommended under 15 (adult themes, sexual references, drug use)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Perks of being a Wallflower, The
  • a review of Perks of being a Wallflower, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 29 November 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to adult themes, sexual references and drug use
Children aged 15 and over 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: Perks of being a Wallflower, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, drug use, sexual references and coarse language
Length 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This film is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. The ‘wallflower’ is Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introverted adolescent who is nervous about starting his freshman year at Mill Grove High School.  He has been quite disturbed, partly because his best friend Michael committed suicide several months earlier, but also for other reasons.  He starts writing letters to an anonymous person whom he tells that the only family member to whom he was close was his Aunt Helen who died in a car accident when he was only seven.  He blames himself for this accident.

Charlie spends his first few days at high school sitting alone but is eventually befriended by Sam (Emma Watson) and her step brother Patrick (Ezra Miller), both seniors at school. Sam and Patrick soon introduce Charlie to their world of parties, alcohol, drugs and sex. There he meets Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) who wants to be his girlfriend but Charlie is in love with Sam. Charlie learns a lot about life during his first year at high school but at the end of the year, he realises that all of his friends will be leaving and he’ll be alone again. This causes him to go into a tailspin. He almost attempts suicide himself but is saved by his quick thinking sister Candace (Nina Dobrey) who sends the police around. Charlie ends up under the care of a psychiatrist who helps get him back on track.

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.

Sex and sexuality; suicide; coming of age; child sexual abuse

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:

  • Candace and her boyfriend have a fight and he hits her across the face.
  • Patrick relates how Brad’s father catches him and Brad having sex. Brad’s father badly beats Brad and he is seen the next day at school with a badly beaten and bruised face.
  • One of Brad’s friends trips Patrick up and Brad calls him a faggot.
  • Patrick hits Brad then a fight breaks out and all of Brad’s friends start beating Patrick up. Charlie comes to Patrick’s rescue and knocks the other guys out.

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.

Children in this age group are likely to be scared by the above-mentioned violent scenes

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 might be disturbed by some aspects of this movie including:

  • Charlie tells how his best friend Michael shot himself in the head.
  • Charlie gets very upset and starts telling Candace how he thinks he’s to blame for his Aunt’s death. He thinks he might have willed her to die. Charlie runs into the kitchen where there is a large knife but the police arrive just in time. Charlie is admitted into a psychiatric unit where a nurse talks to him about his problems.  This is quite a disturbing scene.

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.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and by the fact that one of the girls in the group, Alice, gets her kicks by stealing jeans.

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.

Younger children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some scenes, particularly those involving the suicide attempt and talk about suicide.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are a lot of sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Girls talk about giving boys blowjobs.
  • Brad’s father thinks homosexuality is evil.
  • Sam’s first kiss was when she was 11 and it was by her father’s boss. After that she got quite a bad reputation at school.
  • Patrick dresses as a drag queen and dances provocatively in a scene from the Rocky Horror Show.
  • Patrick tells Charlie about a couple who had sex but didn’t have any condoms so they used plastic sandwich bags instead.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Patrick kisses Charlie.
  • Charlie walks in on Patrick and Brad kissing.
  • Mary Elizabeth wants to have sex with Charlie and starts to undress. She gets him to touch her breasts but they are interrupted by her parents coming home early.
  • Sam and Charlie kiss. She starts to rub his leg which brings back memories of when he was young. It is apparent that his Aunt Helen used to sexually abuse him as a child. Charlie stays the night with Sam.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • drinking at various social events, parties, etc.
  • Charlie gets stoned at a party after eating a brownie which he naively thinks is just a cake.
  • Sam says that she likes crack.
  • Charlie takes LSD at a party and is found asleep in the snow the next morning by the police.
  • Charlie and Mary Elizabeth open an expensive bottle of her father’s wine to drink.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • faggot
  • arsehole
  • shit
  • Jesus
  • slut
  • bullshit
  • for Christ’s sake
  • bitches
  • Goddamn

In a nutshell

The Perks of being a Wallflower is a coming of age drama based on a novel written by Stephen Chbosky. It covers many issues that teenagers have to face while growing up. Charlie, however, has more serious issues than most as he was molested as a child and his best friend recently committed suicide. It is therefore not recommended for young teens but for more mature teens and young adults.

The main messages from this movie are about the complexities of growing up. It portrays the teenage years as a confusing time but also a time when young people find their true inner selves.

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

  • Loyalty to and defence of your friends.
  • Inclusivity
  • Honesty

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss:

  • the effects of drinking too much alcohol and taking drugs.
  • why Charlie felt alienated from his parents and unable to talk to them about his problems.

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