Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8s, PG to 13 (Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • a review of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 July 2005.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Due to its themes, this movie is not recommended for children under the age of eight for whom, in any case, it would probably be of little interest.
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance is recommended for viewers in the 8-13 age bracket as some of the themes of this movie (e.g. death, divorce, depression, sex) may be challenging.
Children over the age of 13 Children over the age of 13 could watch this movie with or without parental supervision, depending on the individual teenageru2019s life experience. The themes of the movie could offer parents the opportunity to discuss several important issues with their older teenagers.

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. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes
Length: 118 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

While preparing to go on different summer holidays, four teenage friends go shopping together. Despite their different shapes and sizes, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Carmen (America Ferrera) and Bridget (Blake Lively) manage to find a ‘magical’ pair of jeans that fits them all perfectly. After buying them, they decide to form the ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’—the jeans will be sent to each girl a week at a time, uniting them whether ‘together or apart’ and hopefully bringing good fortune for the wearer.

Lena, artistic and diffident, travels to stay with her grandparents in Greece. Here she meets and falls in love with Costas (Michael Rady). The relationship allows her to gain a sense of self and confidence. However, a longstanding feud between their families, and Costas’ impending departure back to Athens, threatens to break them apart.

Tibby, rebel and cynic, takes on an unsatisfying job at a supermarket to earn money to support her burgeoning film-making career. She meets twelve year old Bailey (Jenna Boyd), who becomes Tibby’s assistant in the making of a documentary about the town’s locals. Tibby discovers that Bailey has leukaemia and realises how much Bailey has impacted on her life.

Bridget, confident and athletic, travels to Mexico for a summer soccer clinic. She notices and pursues a young soccer coach, Eric, disregarding the rules forbidding this. Bridget’s mother has died and her distant relationship with her father leaves her longing for closeness with others. This culminates in her first sexual experience, which confuses her further and makes her wish all the more that she had her mother to talk to.

Carmen, who is half Puerto Rican, looks forward to spending some one-to-one time with her father over the holidays. Her expectations are dashed when her father (Bradley Whitford) suddenly tells her that he is now living with his fiancée (Nancy Travis) and her two teenage children. Though welcomed warmly, Carmen feels increasingly out of place and that her father has ‘traded her in for something better’. After a disastrous expedition for wedding outfits, Carmen runs away and returns to her mother’s home. She feels unable to attend the rapidly approaching wedding.

The girls have a mix of good and bad fortune when the ‘Traveling pants’ come into their possession, but ultimately ‘the pants held them together when nothing else would’.

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 only one violent scene when Carmen, having run away, returns to her father’s home one evening and sees through a window that her father and soon-to-be step-family are sitting down to dinner, instead of searching for her. She gets angry and throws a rock at the dining room window.

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.

Although there are no overtly scary scenes, there are many themes which could disturb very young children, as all of the main characters have some experience with loss:
•    Costas tells Lena that both his parents were killed
•    Tibby finds Bailey unconscious in the supermarket and then discovers that she has leukaemia. Later scenes in the movie show a pale and weak Bailey attached to a drip in hospital and Bailey and Tibby talking about the fear of dying. Although not mentioned directly, we know that that night Bailey dies and Tibby is very saddened by this.
•    Carmen is very upset by the feeling that she no longer fits into her father’s life and runs away. When she calls him later to say how she feels, she is very distressed.
•    Bridget struggles to cope with her mother’s death. Although never directly mentioned, it is apparent that her mother had depression and that her death may have been related to this. Bridget experiences a heightened sense of loss and confusion after her first sexual experience and is very upset as a result.
Another scene shows Lena nearly drowning after falling off a pier and getting her jeans caught on wire. Although rescued, this scene may be scary for young viewers.

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.

The above-mentioned scenes could also disturb susceptible children and adolescents between the ages of eight and thirteen.

Thirteen and overinfo

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.

There are no scenes in this movie that would be scary for older children; however, the movie does raise some very interesting issues that older teenagers might benefit from discussing.

Sexual references

There are a couple of discreet sexual references in this movie:
•    Lena tells the girls (specifically Bridget) that the ‘Traveling pants’ can only be removed by the person wearing the pants. Bridget pretends to the be insulted by this comment.
•    Eric joins Bridget by the beach one night and they are shown to kiss. Bridget returns later to her bed. The next morning she writes Lena referring to ‘her first time’ and that it wasn’t what she was hoping for.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is no explicit nudity or sexual activity. However, there is some implied:
•    When trying on the ‘Traveling’ jeans, both Bridget and Carmen are shown in their underwear. In a later scene, Lena strips down to her underwear before diving into the sea.
•    While in the Greek Iles, Lena observes a few young men applying suntan lotion onto the back of some topless girls.
•    Bridget lets her hair down and pours water over herself in an attempt to catch Eric’s attention.
•    Bridget experiencing her ‘first time’ with Eric.

Use of substances

There are a few instances of substance use:
•    One of the older women at Tibby’s workplace is shown smoking during a break. None of the younger characters smoke.
•    The father of Carmen’s new ‘step-siblings’ is reported to be an alcoholic in a rehab facility, but is never shown.
•    Bridget and some of her soccer friends go to a bar (cantina), but none of the characters are shown to consume alcohol.

Coarse language

There is some occasional mild coarse language and name calling, including:
•    you’re a pain in the ass
•    ass
•    scares the hell out of me
•    everything is screwed
•    screw the world.

In a nutshell

The movie’s main message is about the importance of enduring friendships and loyalty when everything all around is changing. There are also messages about self-respect, accepting yourself for who you are, seizing life’s opportunities, and looking for the best in everything and everyone.
Values parents may wish to encourage include:
•    Friendship and loyalty
•    Endurance through adversity
•    Accepting yourself (and others), no matter what your appearance or beliefs.
•    Looking for, and bringing out the best in people
•    Forgiveness
•    Younger male characters were shown to care for and treat girls with respect.
•    Step-families interacting positively.
Parents could take the opportunity to discuss with their older children and teenagers the following values and attitudes:
•    Not being a team-player
•    Being too forward / reckless
•    Lying and disobedience to parents and grandparents; breaking the rules.
•    Using violence when angry
•    Riding motorbikes/mopeds without helmets.