Friday, October 8, 2021

Darkness and Fear: How Much Can the Youth Handle?

 In my youth, I remember watching a few great pieces of Anime from the early nineties, namely Ronin Warriors, Escaflowne, and Card Captors. The stories captivated my imagination, and inspired countless dreams and daydreams. It wasn’t until much later that I found out these classics were actually edited a decent amount for content before they were released stateside. I think this was actually the case with a lot of  shows before anime became more mainstream. However, I would posit that these shows didn’t need to be edited, and that the youth can handle more than we often give them credit for. 

Do you remember The Secret of Nimh? It’s the story of a brave, little, anthropomorphic mouse and her quest to find medicine to save her ill child. I was having a conversation with Joe recently about the director Don Bluth. He did work for Disney at one point but Joe told me cut ties with them, wanting to produce animation that was a little scarier for children. I LOVED this film as a child. Was it super intense? Sure. Did the scene where Mrs. Brisby had to sneak into the farmhouse terrify the Honey Nut Cheerios out of my five-year-old self? Abso-freaking-lutely! But did the darker subject matter bring extra meaning and gravitas to the whole experience? You better believe it. As an adult, I can appreciate how Don Bluth wouldn’t shy away from darker subject matter. Sure, many of the plots in Disney movies are actually pretty horrifying if you break them down… but I think they abstracted away some of the details at least in the early nineties to make things more suitable for children. 

One of my favorite lines from Saving Mr. Banks comes when Emma Thompson as PM Travers-Goff attests that Mary Poppins doesn’t shield the children from the darkness in this world, she prepares them for it. I think it is important to have more nuanced media available to our youth for this exact purpose. Obviously, parents should exercise good judgment when selecting media for their kids (we probably shouldn’t have taken our young’uns on the Pinocchio ride at Disneyland…), but I hope we can start giving kids more credit when it comes to “scary” scenes in kids films and shows.

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