If you have Netflix (or even if you don’t), you’ve probably heard about Bird Box and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch by now. If somehow not, they are two made-for-Netflix programs that have set social media on fire (one far more than the other). They seem like perfect programs to catch over the holidays, but they’re also rated R and TV-MA respectively. So, what does that mean for families who might be watching with younger viewers? I’ve watched Bird Box and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch with my kids and can tell you exactly what to expect from both.
It might be an unpopular opinion, but Bird Box is not a great movie. I initially boycotted it because the story looked too much like A Quiet Place, but changed my mind when it blew up Twitter. Bird Box vaguely tells the story of an apocalyptic invasion by creatures who, once seen, incite suicidal actions. It stars Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes (two of the best things about Bird Box) and, despite the nail-biting trailer, isn’t that scary. It IS, on the other-hand, violent, gory and includes a brief but explicit sex scene. There is also loads of profanity but Bird Box, thanks to it’s shallow script, isn’t very traumatic. I would recommend it for mature 13-year-olds and above, but Bird Box might even be fine for those who are slightly younger (my 11-year-old had no issues with it). I’d encourage parents to watch it first before making that decision. (C)
Also on Netflix is an experiment of sorts, in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The popular Twilight Zone-esque series becomes a Choose Your Own Adventure tale with this interactive episode. Viewers are allowed to make choices for the characters, which lead to various outcomes and endings. It’s occasionally slow, while “decisions” are buffered, but Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is always entertaining. I watched it all the way through with my husband and daughters, then went back and tried other options to see what we had missed. It’s groundbreaking, and possibly the start of a whole new way to watch TV, but Black Mirror: Bandersnatch isn’t exactly family-friendly. There is constant profanity, and some drug use that has extremely unpleasant consequences. The violence is what most parents would be concerned about, though it isn’t consistent throughout. Some story-lines in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch end in mild bloodshed, while others wrap things up with decapitation and dismemberment. That’s why I’m also recommending it for mature 13-year-olds and up, with some exceptions. In other words, you’ll be better off if you never choose the “Chop and Bury” option. (A)
***Side-note***: If you or someone you plan to watch Blind Mirror: Bandersnatch with suffers from any paranoid disorders, I would think twice about it. There are parts of the show where characters discuss how they’re being controlled by outside forces and how it’s affecting them. This could be a massive trigger from someone who actually suffers from those delusions. I am not a therapist and could be completely wrong about this, but it’s something to consider before watching the show.