Watch ‘Paddington 2’ to Teach Your Kids About Prison Abolition. Seriously.

Whether intentional or not, the adorable movie is an introduction to a big social issue.

David Dennis, Jr.

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Paddington 2 is one of my favorite movies of all time. I went to see it in theaters a couple of years ago simply because my son wanted to see it. I expected to take a 90-minute nap as I do for a lot of kids’ movies. But Paddington 2 was different. The movie was so damn positive and warm. It’s just a bear and a family and a community that loves him. It’s rare to feel that fulfilled in a movie theater. Parents, watch it with your kids. You’ll all feel better about life.

But there’s an added benefit. If you dig deeper, you can use the movie to teach your kids about one of the most important issues facing society today: the criminal justice system. I know this sounds like a stretch, but hear me out.

Paddington 2’s second act revolves around the titular bear being framed for a burglary. As a result, he ends up in jail. What follows is a story about how prisons don’t actually provide any rehabilitation and how treating people with humanity is transformative and rehabilitating.

Here are three simple things Paddington does when he gets to jail:

  1. He accidentally put a red sock in the washer with the rest of the prison uniforms and turned them pink. The imprisoned men at first bristle at the color but come around to the brightness of their outfits.
  2. He complains about the food they’re provided and the fact it doesn’t have any nutrients. So he goes and cooks his famous marmalade sandwiches for the prison occupants.
  3. After the sandwiches are a success, he asks the other men what they would like to eat and if they know recipes. Soon, they put together a fancy dinner full of meals they like, implementing their service industry skills, organizing and even event planning.

In a matter of movie minutes, four of the imprisoned men who have mostly shed their hard exteriors pull together to try to get Paddington out of jail. The escape is successful and the next time we see the four escaped prisoners, they are helping save Paddington’s life before setting off to contribute to society. (Bonus: the…

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David Dennis, Jr.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us