Free to Be You and Me

  • Review Date: January 18, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1974
  • Running Time: 45 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Classic musical celebrates kids' value and uniqueness.
  • Review Date: January 18, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1974
  • Running Time: 45 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

The film shakes up stereotypes with regard to both gender and race and introduces ways to acknowledge and talk about feelings and values.

Positive messages

This DVD is loaded with positive messages that were fresh and original when the special was first broadcast in 1974 and are still relevant today. For instance: "It's all right to cry" and to express your  feelings even if you're a boy; "parents are people, people with children"; life offers choices for both males and females in terms of career and marriage; good friends are among life's most valuable riches; and "we don't have to change at all" (i.e. better to be comfortable with ourselves as we are).

Positive role models

Particular attention is paid to ethnic diversity, gender equality, and the roles of women and men in the world. Stereotyping is avoided throughout. Both boys and girls are encouraged to be true to their own personalities and goals and to recognize that their feelings are to be trusted and expressed freely.

Violence & scariness

In the animated "Ladies First," a child who trades on a vision of herself as a particularly delicate "little lady" is chosen by a group of tigers to be the first to become their dinner.

Sexy stuff

Hand puppet babies discover their gender when nurses change their diapers (off camera).

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1974 film deals with issues that were boundary-pushing at the time -- including gender roles, awareness and expression of feelings, ups and downs of sibling relationships, working mothers, racial stereotyping, and more. Even though society has since embraced most of the values the film conveys, the message may seem heavy-handed and obvious. Still, its cleverness, originality, and fun prove to be of lasting value.

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What's the story?

In a series of songs and sketches that use hand puppets, a variety of animation styles, dance, live action chats with kids, and even the crayon drawings of the very young, Marlo Thomas and a like-minded group of talented celebrities (including Roosey Grier, a mountain of a man who sings "It's All Right to Cry," Mel Brooks as a newborn baby, Michael Jackson singing and dancing with Roberta Flack, and many more) earnestly introduce kids to what in 1974 were new ways of looking at the world around them. In FREE TO BE YOU AND ME -- a TV special created after the enormous success of the album it was based on -- girls can grow up to be anything they want, boys can cry if they want to (even play with dolls without fear of derision), parents are people, friends are irreplaceable, siblings are both annoying and lovable, and the world is color blind.

Is it any good?


Free to Be You and Me is dated, insofar as the ideas it expresses are no longer cutting-edge. Still, that doesn't lessen the sheer delight of watching some of Hollywood's most bankable stars of the recent past show off their considerable talents in a project that's funny, heartfelt, inventive, and highly entertaining. The songs are memorable, the children interviewed are irresistible, and those who were kids in the '70s and '80s will be delighted to share this wonderful film with their own families. Sometimes it's a treat to revisit old favorites. This is one of those times.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's effort to get away from stereotyping. The filmmakers wanted to show that boys and girls are different and yet still have many of the same feelings and goals. Which of the stories or songs helped clarify this concept for you?

  • Atalanta wanted very much to show her father that she could make her own decisions. How did she convince him? What are some positive things you do to try to help your parents understand how you feel?

  • The babies in this film are often very wise even though they were just born. "Irony" often makes us laugh when what we're expecting turns out to be something else. Talk about the irony of the baby scenes. How do the voices, ideas, and puppetry help make these sketches so entertaining?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 11, 1974
DVD release date:November 20, 2001
Cast:Alan Alda, Marlo Thomas, Michael Jackson
Director:Bill Davis
Studio:Murakami-Wolf Productions
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:45 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Free to Be You and Me was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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