Guys, I had an awesome childhood. Not perfect, mind you, but full of sheer awesomeness. We played tonnes of games outside and formed many longtime friendships in those early years. I actually don’t recall television being a key part of our lives in those times, since we spent the majority of our time playing games or reading books with friends both indoors and outdoors.
Not wanting to give you the impression that we were children of hermits, we did watch some television. Much of the shows we watched were very contextualized, in other words, quite tied to the geographical location we lived in. There were certainly shows we also watched that were less contextual (e.g. Sesame Street) and movies we enjoyed that could be found almost anywhere in the world (e.g. The Sound of Music). Fun times.
As we grew up, I noticed that my younger siblings were exposed to a different selection of cartoons and TV shows than we’d been. They had Children’s BBC, the Cartoon Network, heck, Nickelodeon to boot. Options, options. It was totally fun to chill with them and enjoy a new experience of childhood, although by that point I was a teen. As I observed, I was increasingly amazed at the change in content of the shows and couldn’t believe they were intended for kids’ consumption.
So, in the place of silly, loopy cartoon shows like Tom and Jerry, or the Loony Tunes, there was Cow and Chicken, Courage the Cowardly dog, and shows on Nickelodeon that were displaying incredibly odd and mostly sinister characters.
A quiet observer, I noticed that my siblings would often swing from being nonchalant to expressing repulsion. Me? I had a pretty constant reaction to all such shows/cartoons: I was amazed. And not in a good way.
I am still a kid at heart and in some ways never grew up. Yes, yes, don’t try to take my animated movies away or someone may or may not try to bite you. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but if I were you, I wouldn’t test that out. #justsaying. Where was I? Oh yes. I love animated stuff! (In general, I am super thankful for DreamWorks and am very quick to evangelize about their movies). Over the years, I have enjoyed a heap of animated movies, fromAntz, Toy Story and Shrek, to Up, Over the Hedge, Flushed Away, Chicken Run, Ratatouille, and… Oh man. I’m basically advertising for them right now, eh? Lol! They keep churning out so many fun ones, guys! But, you know, I especially love their recent stuff because I’ve noticed that the movies they make are increasingly thought-provoking. That said, the other thing I’ve noticed is that more kid movies are being produced which are questionable in their very nature.
They have a lot of strange characters and plot lines; they also seem to both incite fear and “mock” those things we fear. I recall wondering what Monster’s Inc and Monster’s University were really about. Sure, they were fun to watch, but I won’t lie that I wasn’t bothered about the fact that we humans were watching some make-believe monsters try to outdo each other in their ability to freak out human children. Seemed like a twisted plot. It kept me thinking. Why are the movie’s heroes those who were able to genuinely generate the most fear out of their human subjects? And why, above all, did we cheer for such monsters/monstrous behavior? What does this all say about us?
I started to wonder if there’s anyone else like me who thinks a bit more critically on topics such as these. I read an article recently that actually argues for the need to scare children! Writing based on the children’s horror movie Coraline, the main argument there is that since children will have to deal with fear in real life, they need a safe place (e.g. by watching these movies) in which to first be introduced to it. I would argue differently. As a child, I once visited the home of some friends who my mum had communicated her preference for our not visiting. While there that day, they started to watch a movie that was based on Roald Dahl’s book, The Witches. Despite my concerns regarding the title, they assured me that it was a fun movie. More than halfway through it, I almost peed myself from fear – the women’s transformations were freaky! Being an impressionable child with an active imagination (as is the case with most children), I found that way after the movie was over, I couldn’t place myself back into the reality of my life. I needed a mental reset, it seems, because scenes from the movie kept overlapping with my real life experiences. I was forever bothered by the images I’d seen and am unable to say now that, retroactively, my watching The Witches helped prepare me to deal with fearful situations of life. I would instead imagine that dealing with the scary situations of life with the loving guidance of a parent is the best way for a child to cope with and make sense of fear. In my case, when I recently noticed that my baby freaked out each time I turned on the vacuum cleaner to do my chores, I eventually decided to hold her close to me with one arm while going about my work. That helped her realize that the vacuum cleaner, a normal part of daily life, was not a thing to be afraid of. I can’t vouch for subjecting her to unreal images, thereby introducing new fears to her that she may not need to or be ready to deal with, as a way of helping her in the long run!
What are your thoughts on these arguments?
Look out for the completion to this discussion in my next post!