Although it's rated PG-13, "42" is a fine pick for parents with kids ages 9 to 11 -- as long as they are mature enough to deal with the racial discrimination and slurs that are depicted in the biopic. It's a good idea to prepare kids and teens with an overview of Jackie Robinson's life and the institutional racism that existed not just in Major League Baseball but all of American society at the time.
Here are five reasons to take your teen(s) to see "42."
1. It's a Lesson in Civil Rights: Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) didn't just break the baseball color barrier, he also prepared America for the Civil Rights Movement. Sure, it took another two decades to fully materialize, but Jackie Robinson stepping up to the plate was more than a sports milestone; it's one of the most important watershed moments in the history of the United States. Baseball was considered the national pastime, and the fact it was all white was a reminder of how minorities were treated as second-class citizens. Who else paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement to flourish? What are some examples in the movie of how spectators reacted to Robinson? 2. Historical Accuracy: While a lot of biopics take extreme liberties with the material, writer-director Brian Helgeland obviously researched Robinson's life and times with the Dodgers rather meticulously. From the obvious -- Jackie's hair style and signature ritual at bat -- to direct quotations (Leo Durocher's famous use of "Nice guys finish last" to several documented Branch Rickey quotes) and documented interactions between Robinson and other players. Like "Lincoln," this is the kind of docudrama that takes the details seriously.
3. Branch Rickey's Role: While many kids grow up learning about Jackie Robinson -- whether as part of a Black History Month curriculum or because of an interest in baseball -- far fewer kids know who Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) was and why he's important. Without Rickey, then the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, being willing to break the unwritten color code in professional baseball, Jackie Robinson wouldn't have had the chance to play for the Dodgers. And Rickey, a man of faith, sees it not only as a business savvy move to integrate baseball but also as his moral duty.
4. Overt Racism: It sounds weird to make racism a reason to see a movie, but the truth is that many kids nowadays don't understand or witness institutional racism. Individual cases of bullying or prejudice definitely, but many young viewers have no context for what life was like in the times of Jim Crow. Considering that Major League Baseball is the most racially diverse professional sport in the U.S., it will be eye-opening for younger audiences to see how 70 years ago, baseball was a purely white institution. 5. Connection to Other Pioneers: Discuss the impact of Jackie Robinson's legacy. For example, if you stay until the end of the movie, you'll see footage of Jackie Robinson Day (traditionally in April, since his number was retired on April 15, 1997) -- when every player in the MLB wears No. 42 (the only number that's retired across all Major League Baseball teams). Who are other notable pioneers in professional sports? Talk about athletes like Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, and Joel Ward (who wears 42 in Robinson's honor) in the NHL, all of whom play(ed) in once predominantly white sports.