Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 13+
Evocative folksinger bio with strong pro-union message.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this dramatization of hardship and poverty in the 1930s includes several scenes of violence -- mostly fistfights and beatings of pro-union activists by company thugs. One minor character is shot, perhaps fatally. Though nothing explicit is shown, it's clear that Woody Guthrie has slept with various women, not just his wife. The political angle of the film is very pro-union, with bullying characters equated with corporations (railroads and agricultural, mainly) who exploit and underpay poor workers.
- Families can talk about how Woody Guthrie puts his activism and a life of uncertainty ahead of having an easy existence as a music superstar. Can you imagine doing that yourself? Is Guthrie a role model?
- What is this movie's message about unions? Do you think it is an accurate representation of the issues? Are there any stereotypes in this film?
The good stuff
Positive messages: Theme of unselfishly putting one's own personal gain aside to help the downtrodden. Along with that is the unjust exploitation of the poor and desperate in the 1930s that pointed out a need to unionize. An undertone that rich people -- even rich people who want to help -- live in a completely different reality than the working poor.
Positive role models: Guthrie leaves his wife and children for the road and dallies with other women -- but he sends for his family once he becomes a success. He is suspicious and deliberately rude to rich people but gives up everything to single-handedly help the poor, even undergoing beatings. The character of Pauline is a wealthy woman dedicated to running a charity kitchen for the underprivileged, but Guthrie criticizes her high-society standing anyhow.
What to watch for
Violence: Paid thugs and bullies attack Woody Guthrie and his cohorts in the unionizing movement. Fistfights break out among hobo types in a railroad boxcar and men in a saloon. A train-hopper is shot from a distance.
Sexy stuff: Nothing explicit, but Woody has clearly been intimate with other women besides his left-behind wife.
Language: "Damn," "bitch," "s--t," "hell," "bastards," and "ass." Plus "God" as an exclamation.
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Social drinking in hobo camps, dinner dates, and saloon environments.