5 Movies to Teach Your Kids About Consumerism

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Toy Story and other movies help raise issues about consumerism with your kids

Note: This is a post from Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD. There are several movie clips featured in today's post; to watch them, click the image and you'll be taken to the right spot in this post on our site to play them!

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.

Robots: Repair For Adventure!

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!"

Robots movie still

Heavy consumption wastes natural resources.

The Lorax movie still

"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."

The Lorax screengrab

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

The Princess and the Frog movie still

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?"

The Princess and the Frog movie still

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

Bee Movie still

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.

Toy Story movie still

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:


Toy Story movie still

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 here!

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