Cocoon Your Kids

James Lileks (via Glenn Reynolds) thinks he needs to have a talk with his daughter:

Something’s wrong with my daughter. There’s not a single cartoon character on TV that doesn’t exactly mirror her own experience, and she doesn’t seem bothered by it. But she should. We’ll have to have a talk.

After he surveys the relative merits of several animated thespians with relation to their ability to serve as proper role models, Lileks wraps up with a discussion of Winnie the Pooh and the fact that Disney may be addressing his faux problem by replacing Christopher Robin with a girl.

I don’t mind that they’ve introduced a girl into the 100 Acre Woods, and as the father of a daughter I fully support the addition of female characters with whom my daughter could identify. But I know how I’d feel if I had a young boy. There are 100 acres. There’s not room enough for both?

This relates to something my wife and I were discussing the other day. Kids TV, for the most part, ain’t so great. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that we have a pretty tight rein on what we allow our kids (they’re both under 8) to watch. In fact, we really don’t let them watch that much TV at all (though I’m a little more lax…what Dad isn’t?)
Violence is a no-no, end of story, but then there are the “situations.”
Quick, name a major animated Disney (or Pixar) movie where one or more parent isn’t absent, dead, dying or doomed? Or where there isn’t one extremely bad, nightmarish character who will scare the beejesus out of your younglings? Not many (if any–btw, I’ll take suggestions!). Live action movies aren’t much better (though Mary Poppins is certainly a favorite in our house) and many shows and movies also feature a missing parent or some sort of back-story tragedy.
And these are rated “G”?
As we’ve brought up our children, we’ve always wondered why there is such a rush to expose kids to complicated, adult situations. Why rush them into the world of adults, with its sexual innuendos and snarkiness and love of “irony”? Why turn innocence into cynicism so quickly? So they can be “cooler” and “hipper” and “wiser” than all of the other 7 year olds on the block?
I’m not saying everything has to butterflies, rainbows and ponies. Heck, my kids love the stuff on Animal Planet (obviously not including attacking animals, etc.) or Zoboomafoo, Zoom, Fetch! or Hi-5 (and once, when they were younger, The Wiggles). And as they get older, it’s easier to find appropriate stuff on TV. But once in a while they’d like to see a nice movie or TV show (animated or not) about a family that involves some sort of non-violent, non-tragic plot (that means no lost or dying pets!). And a little slapstick is also much appreciated (especially by my youngest). Even kids who can’t “identify” with such a story about a (gasp) traditional, nice, well-adjusted family might enjoy it. Maybe they’d be inspired to try to, one day, have a family just like the one they saw on the screen. And wouldn’t that be nice?
As my wife and I concluded, there is such a desire to create entertainment featuring characters to whom today’s kids can relate, that we seem to have stopped providing positive–if somewhat idealistic–examples of good kids and parents and the families they comprise. Held hostage by a fear of hurting a child’s self-esteem, we’ve unintentionally (maybe?) limited their exposure to the traditional, well-mannered family because we’re either too worried they won’t be able to “relate” or concerned we may insult them somehow. Thus, we’ve projected onto them our own adult conceptions about what is “realistic” and helped steer them down the path towards relativism and cynicism. How sad.
I wish it weren’t so, but I doubt that the situation will change anytime soon. In the end, we can only control what our own kids watch (if anything).
Now, I’m sure there are some out there thinking, “Sheesh, this guy’s living in a freakin’ Fantasyland.” Well, I’m not. But I try to make sure that my kids are. They will have plenty of time to grow up and learn about the “real world.” Meanwhile, my wife and I are going to try like hell to keep your kids in the cocoon as long as we can. We think they’ll thank us for it in the end.

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17 years ago

The last paragraph hits the crux of the family values argument nicely. You have the right to determine what TV shows your kids in watch in your home, but you do not have the right to determine what other people’s kids watch in their homes. This is why God gave us the clicker.
I’d love to hear South Park conservatives’ perspective on this issue (now there’s a show liberals and conservatives can enjoy together).

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