I have hated this since before I was even a parent. It was incredulous to me how this could be so accepted and so widespread. Doesn’t anyone get it?! Wake up, people!
Warning: this is a rant post. But I hope you’ll read with an open mind, because I have a good point damnit.
Ok, so when did violence and death become so permissible in childrens’ media?
I’m talking about how common it is for children’s stories, shows, or music to talk about violence or death, or other horrible events; I am not talking about natural disasters, but of deliberate acts of violence or cruelty towards someone or something else.
I used to think about this in regards to children’s songs. (I’m a music educator and took hours of classes in college pertaining to folk music, American music, and elementary music). So many of the lyrics we know and consider commonplace are actually pretty dark. Examples include “Five Little Ducks”, in which Mama Duck loses all her children one by one; and “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, telling of a negligent mama whose monkey kids jump on the bed even though they always fall, and no adult does anything. Unfortunately, I think now it’s become so mainstream that we are all desensitized to it. Many people barely flinch at news stories of murders, robbery, or other horrible crimes.
But that doesn’t make the message ok. Far from it.
The thought of my son repeating “we’re gonna die!” or “I wanna kill you!” makes me shudder, and I get sick to my stomach. He’s my sweet little boy – my God, he’s only 3 years old! Thankfully I have never heard him play like that with another child, nor has any other child said that to him. It seems that he is unaffected so far by these messages. But we all know that we can’t protect our children forever.
Here are some examples which have really affected my heart:
- Children’s songs like “Little Bunny Foofoo” or “Baby Bumble Bee” talk about violence, death or killing.
- The little girl (hippo) in Zootopia tells Judy Hopps “my mama says she wishes you were dead.”
- Many villains have sidekicks whom they abuse verbally and/or physically (Blaze, DinoTrux, Beauty and the Beast, etc.)
- Arlo in The Good Dinosaur yells things like “I’m gonna kill you!” to Spot the boy. This movie’s hillbilly raptors also make remarks about killing Arlo.
- Wiley Coyote gets pulverized all the time by Roadrunner, in horrible gruesome acts.
- The dalmatian in Paw Patrol is constantly falling or getting hurt, and everyone just laughs it off.
- Many Disney movies, from Lion King to Finding Nemo to Bambi, show one of the parents getting killed… in front of their child.
- Nemo’s dad Marlin sees his son and thinks he’s dead… Two separate times. (As a parent, can you even imagine?!…).
- Horton the Elephant is tied up and beaten for “hearing a Who” his friends don’t think is real in Dr. Seuss’s book Horton Hears a Who.
- Many many shows and movies have a character get hurt and it is either ignored, downplayed, or laughed at.
- Historically children would play “Cowboys and Indians” which involved chasing and shooting the other team.
Death is an inevitable part of life. I am not saying that we should lie to our children about death – when it is necessary, we should be honest with them about what happens. (I try to tell the truth but be as succinct as possible for my babies’ sakes). But that honesty and straightforwardness does not mean we need to rub it in children’s faces every 15 minutes – in something which is supposed to be entertainment.
When did we tell society that this was OK?
Even now though, as I write this, I wonder if I’ll get some backlash about this post. I’m sure I’ll take some heat from people who shrug it all off as no big deal, or who think I’m coddling my children or being overly sensitive. And that’s ok. I don’t care. (Some people say the same thing about how they were spanked as children, and they turned out fine. That does not make me want to hit my children either, but that is another article for another time).
This topic used to sicken and worry me, but now honestly it just pisses me off. I don’t want my kid to hear these things, see these things, and become desensitized to violence and bullying. Once your mind is made aware of these occurrences, more examples will start to jump out at you too. Then it’ll be up to you on how you want your children to view violence, bullying, and death in the media.
No matter what, please have discussions with your family about violence, bullying, and standing up for what is right. Hopefully, our babies’ generation will be able to do more for equality and compassion than ours has.
This is one of those posts where I’d really like to know what you think. Really. Thoughts?