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I Can’t Stand Taking My Kid to 3-D Movies: Am I a bad parent?

I’m going to come right out and say it: I loathe 3-D movies. If there was a Facebook-style dislike button one could press when an ad for a 3-D movie came on TV, I would lean on that sucker to make my point. When yet another 3-D movie ostensibly marketed to the whole family is released, I pray my kids won’t notice. But they do notice. How could they not? They’re TV watchers, internet surfers and general marketing targets. And once my kids see the promo, it’s over. They start counting the days until the movie is released – always mentioning it with the enthusiastic descriptor “in 3-D!” lest I forget.

Let’s get the first set of complaints out of the way. 3-D movies: cool. Spending nearly $50 for matinee tickets for a family of four: not so cool. Yes, there’s something priceless about a special experience, but the “special” that used to apply to 3-D back in the dark ages (when it was used as an event device and we wore flimsy paper glasses) is a thing of the past. Today, there’s a new 3-D offering every week.

Most (but not all) of my issues can be traced to the stupid glasses. In the first place, they’re awkward and- if the theater you frequent offers the reusable kind – of questionable cleanliness. Sure, I see employees spray them with what looks like disinfectant as we leave, and I’m no germophobe, mind you, but I just don’t trust it.

Next problem: the movie trailers. Previews for any and every movie with 3-D technology headed for theaters start rolling 18 months ahead. And in my unscientific sampling, I’ve found that at least 40 percent of the previews my kids watch at a 3-D animated feature are not age-appropriate. The doomsday, sci-fi, high-impact action movies, in particular, scare the bejeezus out of my three-year-old. I never expect to see these types of previews when my family sits through yet another Shrek or Ice Age movie, but apparently according to the Hollywood bigwigs, 3-D is the great equalizer. Um, no.

Then, once the movie starts, I’m robbed of one of my favorite experiences in the movie theater with my kids: the ability to appreciate the look in their eyes as they become totally transfixed and transported. Covered by those oversized masks they call 3-D glasses, I can only infer their expressions.

All of this, of course, is predicated on the notion that my kids actually wear the glasses. Don’t get me wrong, my seven-year-old loves them, but my three-year-old finds them a little scary, a lot uncomfortable, and ultimately more fun to take on and off, drop on the floor, bang on the head of the patron in front of him:you get the idea. Which leaves my son watching most of the movie sans specs, and leaves me wondering exactly what kind of damage I’m doing to both his neurocortex and his already genetically predisposed crappy vision by allowing him to watch the pre-translated images.

All of which makes me further exasperated by the fact that only a scant handful of movies that are made in 3-D actually warrant the treatment. In the case of Toy Story 3, the usual Disney Pixar color palate of vibrant-jump-at-you hues was actually compromised by 3-D. And while we’re on the subject, Toy Story 3 carried a message that was touching, and at moments, heartbreakingly honest in its sentimentality. Watching our hero, Andy, struggle between childhood and impending independence was one of the most emotionally satisfying movie experiences in recent memory. I found myself not just tearing up but getting downright weepy as Andy came to terms with growing up. But dammit, those friggin’ 3-D glasses were in the way, fogging up and making it very hard to wipe my tears away. (They don’t fit like regular glasses, so they’re ten times more awkward to deal with than my regular ones in weepfest situations.)

Listen, I’m no luddite. I married a guy who cut his teeth on Inspector Gadget and the Jetsons and has outfitted our house, nay, our life, accordingly. There is no bit of new technology that he does not find a way to harness into use for our convenience. A friend once joked that our house is wired in such a way that in order to watch TV, you have to first toast an English muffin which sets off a domino-effect of bells, whistles, switches and lights that make the TV – which is controlled by task-gathering universal remotes – all the more absorbing and cutting-edge cool. Fine. But the idea of technology used for the sake of it, or making a movie in 3-D just because you can is downright insulting.

Still, I go. I shell out the bucks. I try to get my little guy to wear the glasses, and then I get all self-important about why that particular cinematic gem was so not in need of 3-D enhancement. I do this in part because my kids enjoy the experience (and the bragging rights) of having seen something in 3-D. In fact, they’d watch almost anything in 3-D, which makes me wonder if I’ve got it all wrong and I should be recording instructional videos on manners, comportment and chore completion in 3-D for their viewing pleasure.

But inevitably I find myself ticked off at the laziness that passes for creativity while I cringe at a plotline that is clearly not appropriate – like the story thread in Despicable Me, in which Gru adopts three girls out of child slavery – er, an orphanage with a cookie business – and then returns them to the orphanage sometime later. No child, adopted or not, should ever see that message – and certainly not see it as funny. And in Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which did a so-so job at spoofing old Bond movies, the only watchable scene involved stoner cats hopped up on catnip. Funny to me, but listening to my kids ape the dialogue with perfect inflection made me more than a mite uncomfortable.

Here’s what I think would make the 3-D experience worthwhile: Bring it Rocky Horror style so that every member of the family must dress in the theme of the movie for an all-encompassing experience. This way, no matter how lazy the plotline or how inappropriate the themes, my kids can be fully distracted by taking off and putting on their costumes forty zillion times in the space of ninety minutes. (If I’m going to be driven crazy anyway, I’d at least prefer activity that will keep me from napping behind those blasted glasses.) And then, can we do something about the $12 admission?

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