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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story is a documentary about a Navy Seal who changed her gender from male to female. The documentary is mostly low-key and composed of shots of people talking, so younger viewers will probably find it too dry to watch. In addition, younger or sensitive viewers may find some of the real military footage that illustrates discussion of Beck's Seal career disturbing, as it features dark locations, menacing shadows, explosions, and gunfire. Otherwise, there's some non-graphic discussions about cross-dressing, sexual preferences, and body parts, plus a few four-letter words. Parents who want to teach kids lessons about diversity and acceptance may want to watch with their children, but kids younger than about 14 probably won't be interested.
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What's the story?
Kristin Beck, the transgender soldier at the heart of LADY VALOR: THE KRISTIN BECK STORY, had a reason why she was so brave in battle: Adrift in a body that seemed terribly wrong, it didn't matter to her if she lived or died. She did live, though, serving as a Navy Seal for 20 years and completing tours of duty in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and other war zones. The whole time, Beck says, she was sneaking out to gay bars, hiding women's clothing to wear, and feeling fundamentally wrong in her own skin. LADY VALOR is Beck's story, told in interviews with her family members, fellow soldiers, footage from the career of Chris Beck, and moving commentary from Beck herself.
Is it any good?
Many of the beats of this poignant drama will be familiar to viewers who've seen other dramas about people who change their gender. The years of hiding, the rage and sadness, the tentative explorations out, the eventual blossoming into one's true identity, the chorus of angels, and fin. But Kristin Beck's story has a few additional wrinkles that make it more interesting, particularly for those from military families or who have an interest in gender issues.
As one of Beck's veteran-bar cronies puts it, "She served her country, and she's a true American." But others, such as an anonymous hate-mailer, says, "Enjoy your stay in hell." Does changing her sex wipe out 20 years of service? "Is it like my career means nothing?" poignantly asks Beck, who's still doing work for the U.S. military, as the viewer watches her ex-colleagues react to her presence at military functions or old hometown friends encounter her on the street. Viewers of Lady Valor begin to be aware that Beck is engaged in something no less brave than when she charged into Afghanistan with weapons blazing. It takes guts to change yourself, particularly in ways that you know other people won't approve of. "I'm a human being, and I deserve dignity and respect," she says.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the history of the military and gay/lesbian/transgender soldiers. Why was Kristin Beck's story important enough to be the subject of a movie? What is unique or unusual about her?
Parents: Can you imagine Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story coming out in 1965? In 1985? Why, or why not? Explain to your children.
Is Kristin Beck someone to be admired? Why? For what? What aspects of her life are brave?
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