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What Do You Mean Its Not For Kids / Superhero Films

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As mentioned on the front page of this trope, superhero films tend to be one of the most common victims of this trope. This is probably because many families have the stigma of associating anything superhero-related as being perfectly OK for kids, possibly because many of these franchises, especially the works of DC Comics and Marvel Comics, have been heavily marketed to children, mainly through merchandising and animated television series.


  • The various Batman films from 1989 on have been prone to controversy over their appropriateness for kids:
    • All have had PG-13 ratings, but they were not all created equal in terms of violence and intensity. Joel Schumacher's films were intentionally Lighter and Softer than Tim Burton's in part because of complaints. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy reboot is adult. In some countries like The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, The Dark Knight was rated 15 or 16 (no one under 15/16 admitted) for its psychological horror, Nightmare Fuel and gruesome (but implied) death scenes involving pencils, guns and knives.
    • In Argentina, they heavily marketed The Dark Knight to children, including coloring books, sticker albums, and action figures based on the movie.
    • It's like that in North America, too. There are children's toys and Fruit Roll-Ups themed after The Dark Knight. There were even The Dark Knight kids' meal toys!
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    • Batman Returns got Happy Meal toys. Look, the Batmobile! Follow it, Dad, before the Penguin kidnaps and drowns all the first-born sons in Gotham! (Stuff like this led to at least one daytime talk show that summer covering the complaints from parents over the movie...)
    • Tim Burton lampshaded this during an interview about his movies. He mentioned that executives were very displeased with the film, with comments like "Look, Penguin eating raw fish, spewing black stuff out of the mouth, how am I going to put this in a Happy Meal?!?!". Fortunately, Joel Schumacher's films being directly related to the whole Batman franchise going comatose for almost a decade vindicated Tim Burton's movies. Most of the "Batman is for kids" mentality though is because of older generations used to the campy Adam West Batman series of the 60's being their only exposure to Batman.
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    • There have been The Dark Knight Rises action figures for kids that must be at least five or six years old. You know, The Dark Knight Rises? That delightfully family-friendly movie outing featuring such delights as a graphic blood transfusion in the opening scenes, multiple shootings, one resulting in a hospitalisation, Bruce Wayne having his back broken and with the appropriate sound effects, several other people having bones crushed and necks broken by Bane, including one who has his skull crushed, and of course, several realistically presented bombings. The last of which should not be surprising since some are depicted in the actual trailer. It's PG-13/12A for a reason.
    • After the July 20, 2012, mass shooting at a midnight showing of this movie in Aurora, Colorado, that left 58 injured and 12 dead, there were people on several forums who were pouncing at the fact that articles were stating that some of these victims were under 10 years old, and were like, "What were these parents doing bringing their young kids who are less than 10 years to a midnight showing of a very violent movie?!"
  • Kick-Ass got complaints from misinformed parents thinking it was a fun superhero movie despite the R rating it received. And, you know, the word "ass" right in the bloody title. Amusing because some theaters even censored "Ass" on the ticket stub.
  • R.I.P.D. left children shaking in fear outside of the theater. Hell, it scared quite a few grown-ups due to having "soul-killing bullets" - that's right, bullets that kill you forever - as a major plot point. This wasn't bad parenting - their parents supposedly took them to the film just because it was based off a comic book. Even worse is that it was advertised on channels aimed at kids like Cartoon Network when it came out.
  • Hulk was first thought to be a typical superhero film, but the intense drama, slow pacing and profanity can make parents question why it got a PG-13 rating.
  • The film adaptation of Watchmen did not take long at all to fall victim to this:
    • Consider: Comic book fans all know this story is by no stretch of the imagination appropriate for children. Okay. Now think of all the people out there who are not comic book fans, have never heard of the novel, and only saw an awesome trailer with superheroes doing cool stuff. The film does have an "adults only" rating in most parts of the worldnote , but we all know how well some adults acknowledge those.
    • There is some merchandising. One imagines a little kid walking around with a Doctor Manhattan or a Rorschach lunchbox.
    • In fact, Debbie Schlussel wrote an entire column bashing Watchmen as another example of marketing extreme content to children. When she was called out on this, and told that the film was not intended for children, she replied by saying that the existence of merchandise based on this film proved her right, apparently not understanding that the filmmakers and merchandisers are completely separate groups and that the filmmakers likely were forced to include a merchandising agreement in their contract, despite the film being rated R. For that matter, numerous films, comics, video games and other things very clearly not marketed to children still have merchandising, such as the Alien franchise, the porn-comic Morbis Gravis, etc.
    • On a similar note, some DVD covers of the Watchmen movie don't censor Doctor Manhattan's privates. You can't really tell he's naked since he looks so inhuman and sort of like a Ken doll, but he's still naked.
    • Parodied in "G-rated Watchmen comic" and "Saturday Morning Watchmen".
    • The failure of Watchmen within the United States pretty much killed any chance of any more R-rated superhero movies. It wasn't really until the box office success of Deadpool, which is almost a textbook example of the trope, that producers began to see the value of such movies. According to Bruce Timm, there were plans for an R-rated DC animated film, but the poor box office haul for Watchmen put the kibosh on any future superhero movies with anything higher than a PG-13 rating. (not that some DC Universe Animated Original Movies don't push the rating as far as it goes).
    • Mark Millar has also said this is why none of the studios were interested in Kick-Ass, which ultimately ended up as an indie production and a surprise success.
    • Writer Grace Randolph made a petition to get Deadpool (2016) released in an alternate PG-13 cut, so that kids who were fans of other superhero movies could go see it. Ryan Reynolds said he was sympathetic to her concerns, but that the movie was so raunchy and violent by design that a PG-13 cut would only be a few minutes long.
      • A PG-13 cut of the sequel (including a new framing sequence starring Deadpool telling the story of the film to Fred Savage) was released around Christmas 2018, retitled "Once Upon A Deadpool". It was later revealed that the reason for this cut was to get the movie into the lucrative Chinese market as Western R-rated movies automatically fail censorship in their original forms. It was released in the Middle Kingdom in January 2019.
  • Howard the Duck got a kid-friendly PG rating despite a few scenes of naked or semi-naked women, but apparently it was okay since they were ducks.
  • Not even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is immune to this trope:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy isn't the worst offender on the list but many people did think this movie was a kids movie, mainly due to the presence of a talking raccoon. However, the movie itself has curse words, sexual jokes, and some rather over-the-top violence (including a scene where Groot impales a group of soldiers, throws them around a spaceship, and then smiles).
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Oh look, a movie with all of our favorite MCU characters joining together! Seems like a fun family outing, huh? You are aware this was called Avengers: Infinity War Part I and its then-untitled sequel Infinity War Part II until Allegiant's failure discredited the idea of Movie Multipacks, and that any movie whose title ends or used to end in "Part 1" is unlikely to end on a happy note, right? Not only is this movie Darker and Edgier than your average PG-13 superhero film, but the film ends with Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones and wiping out half of the life in the universe. Because of there being no family-friendly films in theaters the week this was released, many parents opted to take their little ones to this, ending in many children leaving the theater in tears.
  • Logan. Like the aforementioned Deadpool (2016), it does feature a popular X-Men–related character (in this case, Wolverine). Furthermore, Wolverine forms a father-daughter relationship with an adorable little girl. The catch? It's filled with so much violent and horrific imagery that parents would be wise not to take their kids to see it. In fact, the first trailer depicts Wolverine jamming his claws through a mook's head! It doesn't help that this is the Grand Finale to Hugh Jackman's tenure as Wolverine, meaning that kids would be not only scared, but also sad.
  • Despite having the same age rating as most other superhero films, an argument can be made that X-Men: Days of Future Past goes so far with some of the deaths in the Bad Future to the point that it should have received a higher age rating. The opening scene especially is rather disturbing and not at all child-friendly.
  • Many children were frightened after being taken to see Shazam, with their parents being fooled by the fact that many of the main characters are children and that several of the actors starred in several works that were aimed at kids. However, it is one of the most violent DC movies there is, including scenes in which characters get shot by guns, and others where they are thrown against buildings, and an office full of people getting horribly slaughtered by demons. Aside from the violence, there's also a Running Gag involving a strip club, characters cursing (including one instance of Flipping the Bird) and a scene involving underage drinking.
  • Some clueless parents are taking their kids to see Joker (2019), unaware that it is rated R. Alamo Drafthouse had to issue a PSA to said parents about not taking their kids to see it, as it is not kid friendly at all.


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