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5 Movies to Teach Your Kids About Consumerism

in Courtney's Posts, Family, Money Basics


Note: This is a post from Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD.

I love having conversations with Milli about big ideas-  money, elections, being pretty, God, even ‘where babies come from.’

But I found it difficult to talk about consumerism. I knew all the topics I’d like to talk about, but I couldn’t seem to get the conversation started.

I love kids’ movies – especially the new witty and clever era that Pixar initiated.  Milli has finally hit an age where she can talk about the themes in movie.  We happened to be watching Robots, and she commented on how ‘unfair’ it was that these robots were going to be replaced with ‘upgrades’.  ”Why won’t anybody fix them with spare parts?”

And without me even noticing what was happening, we were talking about some basic concepts of consumerism.  Organically.

Since then, I’ve come across a few other movies that have also led into incredible conversations.

Check out these movies and see what kind of discussions ignite in your home as well.

People are judged by their possessions – bigger, brighter, and shinier.

The old model robots are falling apart and the repair factory is being shut down by a corporation tycoon. A young inventor has just moved to the city and is using spare parts to fix broken robots.  Why fix the old when an upgrade is so much better?

Other Key Concepts:

  • Everything comes in a box.
  • How can we reuse things?
  • Upgrades aren’t always better.
  • Doing what you feel is right will get you further in life.

Sneak Peek:

(The good stuff starts at 0:41.)

0:41  ”They’re no longer making parts for your model. All you need is an upgrade- they have cup holders! Standards!”

Heavy consumption wastes natural resources.

“How bad could this possibly be?” the Once-ler asks.  He drives his profits up by selling the ever-popular ‘thneeds’.  But, is it really that great to be successful?  And what has he destroyed along the way?  Don’t worry though, a portion of his profits are going to charity!

Other Key Concepts:

  • Survival of the fittest.
  • Entrepreneurship.
  • Greed.
  • Breaking promises and losing trust.

Sneak Peek:

0:33 There’s a principal in nature that almost every creature knows. It’s called survival of the fittest. Check it, this is how it goes. The animal that wins gotta scratch and fight and claw and bite and punch. And the animal that doesn’t ends up someone else’s l-l-l-lunch.

1:19 There’s a principal in business that everybody knows is sound. It says the people with the money make this ever-loving world go round. So I’m bigger in my company, I’m bigger in my factory, I’m bigger in my corporate sign. So everybody out there take care of yours, and I take care of mine, mine, mine.”

We forget the value of a dollar and spend money for unwise uses.

Tiana works in a restaurant saving money bit by bit to one day open her own restaurant. Her well-to-do friend Lotti has been pampered all her life. While both girls are genuinely kind and loving, they have entirely different views on money.  This movie highlights the distortion that comes with getting everything you want versus earning what you want.

Other Key Concepts:

  • Work ethic.
  • Entitlement.
  • Saving, spending, and investing.
  • Looking beyond a person’s money.

Sneak Peek:
1:13 “Oh Tia, I’m going to need about 500 of your man-catching beignets tonight for my ball. (She grabs her ‘Big Daddy’s’ wallet and hands a wad of cash to Tiana.) Will this about cover it?”

Consumerism distorts values and pushes us into life decisions that make us settle.

This movie isn’t laced with a consumerism theme quite like the others, but instead talks more about complacency. Barry B. Benson is on track to be a honey stirrer, but he doesn’t want that job. He feels pressured from his father to do it, and all his friends are following suit, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Other Key Concepts:

  • Where do products come from?
  • Peer pressure and bullying.
  • Having ‘one career.’
  • Life inside the hive.
Sneak Peek:

In this clip, Barry mentions that there are a lot of choices for jobs.  His dad replies, “but you only get one.”

The Consumerism Struggle: It’s OK to have and appreciate things, but you will eventually have to let them go.

I don’t know many people that don’t recognize Woody and Buzz Lightyear. If you don’t, then you have homework this weekend. I think this movie represents most accurately our day-to-day attempt to keep a leash on our consumerism. Andy’s family has purchased him these name-brand toys slowly over time. Occasionally, he’ll add a new toy to the collection, but not very often. Andy loves his toys.

Nonetheless, these toys are going to become obsolete. It’s not only because they are replaced by newer, more advanced toys (like Buzz Lightyear), but because Andy grows up, changes, and phases into new interests. And that’s normal.

But what is to become of your things then? How can you let go of things you don’t need anymore?

Other Key Concepts:

  • Old vs. new (Woody and Buzz).
  • Name brand vs DIY (Mr. Potato Head vs Sid’s creations).
  • Storing vs. purging (put toys in the attic or gift to another child).

Sneak Peek:

*sniff*sniff*

Here are a few other resources to keep the discussion going.

With these resources, you are bound to spark some discussions about what consumerism means to you and your kids.

What conversations are happening in your home? Do you have a movie suggestion?

Tell us in the comments!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay Wyglendowski January 17, 2013 at 4:18 PM

I know what I’m about to say is extreme by today’s cultural standard.

We don’t have a TV. We don’t watch TV.
Our two year old daughter, Lily, does not watch TV or movies ever.
We love it that way and work hard not to judge those who make their own decisions.

So many of the lessons Courtney mentioned are also present in the simplest of Aesop’s Fables, Fairy Tales, Mother Goose rhymes, and our own made-up stories for Lily as well as carefully selected children’s picture books.

We are seriously turned off by the effects of television on our own and children’s minds. The precedent for entertainment and speed it sets are unsustainable.

Thank you so much for this important post, Courtney, I’m reminded why I so loved meeting you guys on our cross-country trip!

Reply

Courtney January 17, 2013 at 7:02 PM

That’s the tough thing about travel. All the friends you make are scattered across the country! Wish we could see you guys again.

I think there are tv shows, video games, and movies that provide an engaging learning atmosphere. I love the creativity and imaginative stories that goes into these pieces of art. They aren’t banned in our house; in fact, they’re appreciated.

But, I think there’s a limit. You have to find the limit within your own family’s values.

For our family, if learning’s happening, we’re game. If the shows have become our babysitter, then it’s time to reset some limitations.

Reply

Raquel Jackson January 17, 2013 at 5:09 PM

We don’t have a TV, but enjoy movies and select shows on Netflix. We are still trying to simplify life further. I’m currently inspired by John the Baptists quote, “the person who has two coats should give one away. He who has more than enough food should share with those who are hungry.”
We’ve already minimized what we consume and have gotten rid of physical and mental clutter but with the birth of our first child and son last March, I’m always looking for creative ways to teach the next generation about being happy but not getting caught up in the cultures standards of happiness around us. Having real joy, not superficial success. Thanks for the post of movie suggestions and teaching tips!

We can always shed ourselves of an extra coat…

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Courtney January 17, 2013 at 7:07 PM

We aren’t tv people either, but we do subscribe to Netflix. It’s great, because we can have access to different programs out there on our own time and with purpose. There’s not much ‘channel surfing’ involved.

The trick with minimizing is preventing things from creeping into the house. Sounds like you are on top of it! Keep it up!

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Mayor Jones January 17, 2013 at 5:39 PM

“What Would Jesus Buy?” starring Reverend Billy of The Church of Stop Shopping!

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Courtney January 17, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Ha! Exactly!

That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about ‘clutter’. It had less to do with getting rid of things, and more to do with the habits behind how those things entered your house.

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Emily January 17, 2013 at 6:14 PM

“Wall-E”…the ultimate Pixar movie on consumerism!

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Courtney January 17, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I have to admit I haven’t seen Wall-E yet! Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll put that on the list for movie night.

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Darnell Jackson January 17, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Good topic Courtney,

I agree the problem is consumerism. People are being “raised” to be consumers.

Value system is extremely low so people’s net worth and financial value are the same.

Reply

jami January 17, 2013 at 11:28 PM

I decided to do away with tv when my daughter, then 5 years old, would misbehave after watching PBS show Arthur (which had endorsements). That was more than eleven years ago. We also home schooled and homesteaded for just over three years until their father and I separated, at which time, and with split custody, he decided to place them in school since he couldn’t keep his job and teach them… as he explained to me at the time. Although those years were fleeting and things have changed since that time, my oldest is now pulling on those experiences in defining who she is now, and who she is defining herself to be. It’s extremely rewarding, although for the past seven years I was left wondering… Thanks for posting and reviewing these films, Courtney, would you by chance have come across films that might be enjoyable for 10yrs+, especially teens? It’s great to have more resources for more discussions to reinforce good habits and strengthen personal values!

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Erik Mansoor January 18, 2013 at 3:12 AM

We liked Madame Blueberry (Veggie Tales) for its discussion of materialism.

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SSS_NYC January 18, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I really enjoyed this article! I remember when my son, who is 27 and i would have talks about brand name crap in the supermarket when he was little. He totally understood when i told him “mommy koves you and cares about your health they don’t they just want you to spend your money on them.”

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John January 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM

What a great article. If I had kids, I would systematically show them these movies and ask them what lessons they learned at the end to spur on discussion. Saw The Lorax recently and really enjoyed it myself!

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Shannon February 12, 2013 at 1:56 AM

I love this post, and the fact that Millie was able to pick up on some of the subtleties that we often just try to ignore as adults and pretend are okay. The only of these I haven’t seen is the Bee Movie, and I remember hearing good things about it when it was released–I love the theme ideas you talk about and will look for it now! :)

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Jennifer November 25, 2013 at 10:05 PM

One movie I love and that has a great message (though not entirely about consumerism) is Fern Gully. It’s definitely one I will be showing to my kids when I have them as it teaches them about protecting nature and the effects of excessive logging and development.

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