Grown-Up Movies for Kids: Yentl

A few weeks back, The Girl said the phrase “tomorrow night” just before bedtime, and because my brain is full of every song from every musical I’ve ever seen, I started singing “Tomorrow night, tomorrow night, under the canopy I’ll stand with her all dressed in white…” and The Girl said “No, don’t sing that.” So then I started singing “Papa Can You Hear Me.” Which was a horribly dumb idea, because then The Girl was like “Why is her dad in heaven, how did he die, did he get stepped on by a dinosaur, is my dad going to get stepped on by a dinosaur?!?!” So I assured her that no, he didn’t get stepped on by a dinosaur, he was just very old, and I promised to let her watch the movie so she could see there were no dinosaurs in it.

Now, plenty of haters gonna hate on Yentl because it’s cool to make fun of Barbra Streisand. I get it, she’s your mom’s favorite, because you’re Gen X or a millennial. But that woman can act, and sing, so stop being a pouty teenager and accept that Streisand is a star for reason. Besides, Yentl is a goddamn feminist icon. If you’re not inspired a woman who loves learning so much that she’s willing to deny her identity and give up the man she loves rather than give up her studies…well, I don’t know if we can be friends. There, I said it.

When we sat down to watch Yentl, The Girl was almost immediately transfixed. She asked lots of questions, like Yentl was sleeping in a forest, why Yentl had to pretend to be a boy, why Yentl got married, why Yentl didn’t want to go swimming, why she was getting married when she didn’t want to. Lots of questions, just like Yentl. She also loves the songs and now asks me to sing “A Piece of Sky” at bedtime.

The Boy, on the other hand, had a visceral reaction to this movie. He HATED it. I think the problem was that he knows that lying is wrong, and he was scared what would happen when Yentl got caught. He has that reaction to TV shows involving wrong-doing too, like, he’ll literally go hide behind a chair or leave the room entirely rather than watch someone doing something he knows they shouldn’t. It was really interesting to see how differently the kids reacted to this movie.

In terms of swears, violence, and nudity, there’s only the last one, and it’s pretty tasteful. You do get a clear view of Mandy Patinkin’s butt when he goes skinny dipping. My family sees each other’s naked butts on the regular (The Girl is practically a nudist) so they didn’t bat an eye at this, but of course your family may react differently.

What I really love about this film is how it supports my nerdiness. It can be really hard for a girl to feel like it’s OK to love books more than dresses, especially today. I also often feel like it’s not OK to ask all the questions running around in my head, especially as a woman–challenging authority is still problematic for women. Yentl gives me and The Girl an example of a person who said “Fuck that noise, Imma do me.” And frankly, The Girl can’t have too many of those examples in her world.

So, turn off that god-awful Sofia the First, and pop in Yentl. Your little girl may love it as much as mine does! Let me know what your kids thought of this film in the comments!