Movie Review: Babies

The biggest casualty in the culture wars has been babies. At the extreme, they’re literally casualties, with millions of infants being murdered in the womb. But beyond that, the societal view of babies is more negative than perhaps at any point in its past. Babies are viewed as a burden, where they were once viewed as a promising future. They’re viewed as an obstacle to professional development, where they were once viewed as the reason for holding down a busy job. A Google search of babies brings up this picture. Women are putting off, and positively dreading, having kids.

Of course, once babies are born, the whole situation changes: even the most pro-abortion, zero-population growth advocate finds his or her own baby adorable. The whole myth that a baby is nothing more than a burden melts away when you come to bond with a baby as a fellow human being. So it’s great that the movie Babies exists, because you come to bond with four different babies from around the world. The film is a documentary which follows the lives of four babies from four different parts of the world. You can see the babies, and their hometowns, here:

Two of the babies are from the first-world, and two are from the third-world, and three of the four babies are girls. The film’s website does a good job of introducing the four:

  • Ponijao lives in Namibia with her family, including her parents and eight older brothers and sisters. Ponijao’s family is part of the Himba tribe, and lives in a small village with other families.”
  • Mari lives with her mother and father in Shibuya, a busy metropolitan area within Tokyo, at the center of all of the city’s noise and excitement. Mari is an only child and lives a contemporary urban lifestyle.”
  • Bayanchandmani: Born in Mongolia, Bayarjargal, usually called ‘Bayar’ for short, lives with his mother, father, and older brother Delgerjargal (‘Degi’) on their small family farm.”
  • Hattie lives in San Francisco, born to very ecological, ‘green’ parents. Both of Hattie’s parents are equally involved in her day-to-day life, fixing her meals, taking her to play groups, and spending time with her around the house.

It’s fascinating just to watch the differences in parenting styles. Ponijao grows up around a lot of other young children. Bayar grows up in virtual isolation in the Mongolian countryside, and his brother hasn’t adjusted to him yet, so he spends much of his time playing with the animals: cats, a rooster, goats, and cows. Mari’s surrounded by a big city and inundated with technology, while her parents seem too busy for her. Hattie’s parents are doting, and go to great lengths to ensure she has a model childhood.

Whatever the reason, my two favorite kids were the third-world kids, particularly Bayar. They had a simpler life. When Ponijao played, it was because she wanted to play with her siblings or neighbors. When Mari or Hattie played, it was because their parents took them to special classes or to daycare. It was all pre-planned and scheduled, and neither baby seems particularly thrilled by this.

Still, given the massive differences in cultural and parenting style, the babies were surprising similar, although they each had their own personality. The film is shot very well to show some interesting parallels. For example, there are scenes of Bayar and then Hattie playing with cats, along with Ponijao playing with a dog. The filmmakers show the kids in similar circumstances: at meal, getting washed, trying to eat on their own, playing with animals, interacting with other young children, playing with toys, learning to crawl, learning to stand and to walk, and so forth. It’s endlessly interesting.

The differences in style might suggest that Western parents should probably learn to just relax and enjoy their kids. It was sad to watch Mari’s dad on the phone distracted when she was very young, or watching him trying to type over her while she played with a cell phone. Of course, none of the parents were able to watch their baby nonstop: Ponijao’s mom would be talking with the other mom, Bayar’s mom was frequently gone (presumably working), and Hattie was left to play by herself while her mom did the dishes. But still, the film seems to suggest that new parents not fill their lives, and their baby’s life, with so many distractions.

But I’m not positive that this was an intended message of the film (although I suspect something of the sort was). Mostly, I think that the message of the film was that babies are a blessing, and should be savored.

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