Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tangled over Tangled

The LGBB went and saw this movie yesterday with her dad and me. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

However.... I have a niggle. Just one. Okay, maybe two. Come on, this is me you're reading here. You know it's going to involve something deep. Sorry 'bout that *sheepish grin*

The story is about Rapunzel, of course, and it's quite entertaining. Certainly watchable. Funny. And a bit scary for the kids in places. All good. But what I am not comfortable with in these movies - Toy Story 3 did it, disappointingly, as well - is this focus on death. Moreso, the use of fear of imminent death being upon the hero/es of the story as a means of high drama or thrill factor.

Why am I uncomfortable with it? I haven't looked at it too deeply, so I don't know for sure. But I can bet it is something to do with our children being taught from such a young age to fear death. To even be vengeful over the death of another. In movies as far back (and further) as Snow White, death or the threat of it has been used as a pivotal plot point. And I could go the way of the majority and say I was raised on it. It hasn't affected me. Sniff. Except, has it?

I don't want my child desensitised to violence, aggression towards others, personal safety, death and destruction. There are few movies of this modern age for children that allow this. Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue was one that had bare little drama by way of villain at all (unless you count the cat, but it was minor compared to the likes of all three in the Toy Story trilogy) and I take my hat off to the makers for producing something I am happy for my child to have in her movie library.

Look, I'm not saying I want to cocoon children from these things. The LGBB watches many of these hero-villain-subtle violence movies - Lion King and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs to name just two of her all-time faves - and I know it is all part of her integrating into society as it stands today.

But when it comes to death scenes like the one that is in Tangled - SPOILER ALERT! ha ha - then I think we're going a bit too far. Basically, the hero/friend of Rapunzel dies and is brought back to life by her tears falling on his cheek. On the surface, a lovely, magical happy ending that exudes all the hope and imagination of young kids.

On the other hand, they've mixed a fundamental truth with fantasy and I'm not comfortable with these movies pushing these boundaries more and more. Death is real. It is a concept that so many children have to encounter, too early in their lives. If I want my child exposed to death, then I'll do the teaching, thanks. The reality is, my daughter is already too familiar with what it means to die. Through her sister, she has realised her own mortality. In a real sense. It's really bloody scary as a concept and doesn't need to be added to by this fear of death factor in otherwise fun, entertaining childhood romps through fantasy land (all of which I'm very happy for her to have, as an escape for a while). Start mixing it with fantasy, or playing it down, and that's when the danger begins, in my opinion. Besides, this scene didn't teach anything constructive about death, it incorrectly conditioned: If someone you love dies, your tears will bring them back if you're magical enough, basically.

I sat in that cinema feeling really unnerved by what the little minds around me were absorbing. I know it's simplistic and children have a way of working these things through in their minds. But I had to wonder... How do they know - and how responsible do they care to be, as movie makers - how a child will react or what scenarios those children are going through? Do they consult with child psychologists around the world to ensure they are constructing something within that responsibility? What if a child just lost an aunty to breast cancer, for instance? Is he/she learning that their tears could have brought her back? Or that their tears were obviously not enough because she didn't come back to life? What line of questioning have their parents now been subjected to?

Some would say it is up to the parent/s to decide. But is it? I had no idea that scene/premise was in this movie. The LGBB has seen it now and fallen in love with the "girl with the long, long, long hair". She'll see it again. On the scale of movies of this type, it's a very good one, all said and done.

But why this focus on death? In Toy Story 3, the toys joined hands and faced their impending doom as they were being engulfed by the fire. NOT something I want my child to have to confront at the age of four, thank you! And so I have not allowed Lolly to see that one again. It's too much. I don't want her desensitised to that - accepting her fate when it is evident. I don't care what last-minute life-saver appears. Ludicrous storyline, if you ask me!

What are your views? Are the animated movies coming out of Hollywood starting to go too far? What other concepts are you uncomfortable with? Or are your views the complete flip-side? Do share in the comments, I'd love to learn from you.

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