A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The inherent evil of religious persecution is portrayed and can easily be extended to include all bigotry toward minorities. As a counterpoint, the film shows the resilience and strength of the oppressed people, as well as the powerful family and community ties which helped them survive with unbreakable spirit. In addition, as the world rapidly evolves because of expanding communication, increased multiculturalism, and changing values, even the most precious traditions may be left behind. Additional themes include compassion and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Traditional old school family roles, with an all-powerful father, a submissive mother, and dutiful children, are examined in this film. In a loving, but dictatorial household, three teen daughters begin to demand the right to make decisions for themselves and follow their own hearts. Both parents learn to accept more limited control over their children and their future. Most, but not all of the Russian soldiers, are portrayed as brutal and bigoted. Most, but not all of the Jews in the village, accept their victimization.
Violence & Scariness
There are a number of incidents which show religious persecution of the Jewish population in a small Russian village. A young girl is accosted and bullied by some teens. Soldiers on horseback threaten the residents, vandalize the town, disrupt a wedding, knock people down and destroy their belongings. Finally, all the Jews are expelled from the village; soldiers order them from their homes at sword point, dispersing crowds, and manhandling everyone. A comic, but scary, musical dream sequence conjures up ghostly presences which pop up from graves and float in the air. The dead return to life to frighten the living.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
On several occasions alcoholic beverages are consumed either for religious ceremonial purposes or in celebration. In one festive sequence, the hero and many of his cronies get very drunk. He suffers a hangover the next day.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fiddler on the Roof tackles many social and political issues within a religious context, including the concepts of interfaith marriages, gender roles, socialism, religious intolerance, and more. Smaller children may be spooked by the movie's portrayal of the violence of the Russian soldiers, and may also be frightened by the film's ending, in which the inhabitants of a small Jewish village are forced out of their homes by soldiers. Expect some celebratory drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's the dichotomy of this film that makes it a daring, thought-provoking departure from traditional stage musicals. At the heart of Fiddler on the Roof is, of course, tradition; the title itself refers to the instability of life, against which tradition provides support. But this movie musical marks the ways in which such traditions are eroded, both for good (the viewer is presented with sympathetic portraits of Tevye's daughters and their unconventional choices of husbands), and decidedly bad (the pogrom that sweeps Anatevka's villagers from their homes is hauntingly realistic).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.