Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Are The Kids Watching?

In a burst of warmth for my family, I agreed to sit down with them a few weeks ago and watch Robots. If you don’t remember this, don’t kick yourself. It’s one of many animated kids comedies with celebrity voices and pop culture references, trying to be the next Shrek. If you’re a parent, odds are you know what I’m talking about.

Somehow I cringed my way through the whole thing. A while later, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. I don’t have it verbatim, but this is the general idea…

Me: I noticed something scary in that movie.

Friend: What?

Me: It has no respect whatsoever for genocide. All of the less-developed robots are going to be exterminated, and melted down for scrap metal, and all anyone cares about in individuality. Nobody praises Rodney for saving thousands of innocent robots like him from destruction. When he’s celebrated at the end, he’s celebrated for following his dreams. You ever see Hotel Rwanda? No? Well, there’s this hotel manager who saves a bunch of Tutsis from being killed by Hutus. Would you praise him more for saving those people, or for following his dream to be a hotel manager?

Friend: Well, you know, Sean, Robots is a kid’s movie; it doesn’t have to be realistic.

Me: What? What about The Lion King? It’s one of your favorite movies of all time! One of the best children’s movies of all time! When Mufasa dies, it’s pretty darn serious!

Friend: Well, not every kids’ movie is The Lion King.

Me: But it still has to show respect for death! Kids’ movies show them a view of the world. Do we want them to take in information demonstrating that an individual’s aspirations are more important than other peoples’ lives?

Friend: How about you just let your little brothers watch it, and leave me alone?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m obsessing over details. More often than not, though, I think I’m not. I am a Barney child. I watched that stupid purple dinosaur tell us how wonderful we were until I was at age 8. Since then, I have scorned children’s entertainment.

Kids are constantly taking in the world around them. They’re looking for cues on how to live. They’re walking out of a tunnel, wondering what this strange world around them is, and how they need to act in it. Whatever signals they get, they translate into a view of the world.

Go watch children’s programming on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or PBS. You will see a constant parade of self-esteem, tolerance, and friendship. It portrays a world of perfect peace and harmony.

But this is not a world of perfect peace and harmony! Anyone, regardless of religion or creed, must recognize that this world is rife with bloodshed and evil, and has been for mellenia. I have trouble to this day remembering that. Imagine millions of kids like me. All of us, watching the TV that our mothers bought us so we would leave them alone.

If the TV doesn’t show anything seriously evil, and we are shown nothing seriously evil by Mom and Dad, it naturally follows that we find it hard to conceive that serious evil even exists.

But that’s okay. Can’t we all just hug and make everything better?


  1. When I first started reading this I was like, "really Sean?" I thought you were reading way too much into it, but towards the end, I started seeing your point. When I was younger, I watched TV shows where people had perfect relationships. They were the perfect BEST FRIENDS. I wanted that sooo badly, and I think in the process, I sabotaged all my relationships with my friends because of it. I still struggle with friendships, probably more than anything else in my life.

  2. One more reason to be glad my kids don't know who Barney is. They watch old school Sesame Street, some Disney movies, and Star Trek. Yep, my kids are Trekkies. I think watching the Borg works. ;-)

  3. @Anonymous: I'm glad I struck a chord. I wasn't even thinking on the level of friendships, but now that I do, it blows me away. Thank you for sharing that.

    @Archaeology cat: You are my hero. I may not know anything about Trekking, but an enemy of Barney is a friend of mine.

  4. Great post Sean! I now dislike that movie even more than I already did.

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