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Friday, June 24, 2011

My love/hate relationship with Disney-Pixar

I love to watch Disney/Pixar movies. I hate to let my kids watch them.

When it comes to television, I am highly AR (that's short for anally retentive) about what my kids watch. Little things get me and I start to notice how much of what is considered "appropriate" viewing for young kids, especially the 3-5 year old set, is really not that appropriate.

(Really, when you go back through the extensive catalog of Disney material, you'll find that this idea is nothing new - which means they've been pushing the envelope for decades and families have been unknowingly eating it up ever since.)

This conversation came up on a friend's Facebook page, as she had read some reviews about Cars 2 and wasn't sure if she wanted to let her 5-year-old see it. I say, if you have reservations about something, listen to your gut: there is probably a reason why you feel that way. When it comes to raising children, it seems that many times we parents fall prey to peer pressure to let our children do things that we might otherwise question. And the court of public opinion these days says one thing but does another, when it comes to kids: We're all troubled with how "fast our kids are growing up." Then, in the same breath, our culture seems to condone padded bikinis for 8-year-olds, thinks Katy Perry's bizarre choice of wardrobe on Sesame Street is totally okay, and thinks high heels for 4 1/2 year olds is "cute." You can't have it both ways.

A few years ago we visited a friend's house and they put "Finding Nemo" on for our oldest, who was probably three then. I was in and out of the room (figuring that if it's a Disney cartoon, surely it must be safe, right?) and heard bits and pieces of the dialogue. The scary lantern fish that looks more like Jaws was a bit much, and the fart jokes were annoying. Did I want my preschooler repeating this stuff? Not exactly.

It's nice to know there are some people out there who agree with me on this one. As one blogger put it,
This might be the most fundamental confusion about Pixar movies. These are not kids movies that parents can sit through. Pixar makes grown-up movies that parents don't feel guilty about letting their kids watch.
I think the reason so many adults like Pixar movies is because it magically transforms us back to childhood and a time of fun innocence, only through the eyes of adulthood, if that makes sense. For the kids, obviously, it's different because they don't know what we know. Although there are some who agree with me, they don't take much of a stance on it or, like everyone else, get defensive and think you're nuts.

Some of the humor, I've noticed, is more geared towards adults with the expectation that families will watch it together, so there must be "something for everyone." Maybe, but I'm sure we all know that many kids are just set in front of the TV while mom washes dishes, talks on the phone, does laundry, etc. We've probably all done it, some more than others, and I don't think there's really anything wrong with that, as long as it's not all the time. But I think too many people assume that because it's animated, it's "safe." Much of the humor of Pixar movies, I've noticed, is totally not kid-related but rather aimed towards adults, as if kids are too young to pick up on it and won't "get it." I don't believe that, either. At some point, you may just be forced to go there much sooner than you think because yes, your kid does "get it."

Kids are obviously smarter than we think, and pick up on even subtle nuances in behavior quite easily. And when they see it on television, in commercials, on the sidewalk when walking past a window display, or at the mall, it's everywhere, and it's in their faces all the time. It's quite tempting sometimes to just put a paper bag over my kids' heads when we go out in public.

One thing that especially annoys me are those who think I have some kind of problem because I don't let my kids watch shows like Spongebob, etc. As if to say, "What's your problem? Every kid watches that stuff." Those who agree with me seem to be in the silent minority, and it's difficult when you're on the fence about something. Someone expressed near amazement when I said my kids didn't like Toy Story 3, and I responded, "Something about flames and the baby doll getting punched in the stomach were a bit over the top."

Before I had seen the movie, I heard people talking about the ending. I thought to myself, What could be so bad about it? When I did see it, I definitely thought it was a bit too much, and characters like the cymbal-crashing monkey bothered me because of their diabolical facial expression and behavior. There is pressure from everyone to let your kids watch shows like that, just get over it, blah blah blah. Or you hear, "Well, compared to XYZ they see every day, this is nothing."

But what about that? Why is that okay and how have we come to this point? I heard that a lot during the big Katy Perry Sesame Street blow up. Parents who were offended and thought it was too much went head to head with those who saw nothing wrong with it and compared it to a Victoria's Secret display in the mall.

Some parents are neglectful and don't give a rat's butt what's on TV when their kids are there, or swear like a truck driver within ear shot of their children. That's their business. But then I think there are those who don't even realize the magnitude of a childhood that's exposed needlessly to things that are otherwise totally inappropriate. I reconnected on Facebook with a friend from childhood who grew up in a very modest, Christian home and am amazed (and not in a good way) at the stuff her two young sons do that she thinks is "cute." They talk like little men, about things they should know nothing about at their age. There is some profound loss of innocence there that while it's bound to happen eventually, seems like it's just happening way too soon.

We complain about all that stuff, but essentially we let it happen, little by little. To the point now where yeah, we think it's wrong or whatever, but we accept it as natural and move on, or look away and just throw up our hands in an "What can you do?" expression. I'm sorry, but I refuse to do that, and I'm going to be the pain in the butt mom who objects because it just doesn't seem right in my brain not to.

More reading:
Disturbing Disney movies - Mental Floss
Adult humor in Pixar movies - Pixar Wiki


Diana J. said...

Agree completely!!!!!

Teaching-Mommy said...

LOVE this blog! I 100% agree, and I can't tell you how much flack I have gotten over the years because I don't let my kids watch shows like "Spongebob" and "Phineaus and Ferb".

We did take the kids to see "Toy Story 3" and we had to spend the entire afternoon trying to soothe some VERY upset children (the fire, the punching bear, ALL the anger/sadness) UGH.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Yeah, the ending was just BAD. And still absolutely NO closure about Andy's dad. I totally do not get that.

MadameRock said...

I really don't think Toy Story 3 was for kids. I think it was more appropriate for the people who were young when the first installment was released. People who are in their late 20s or early 30s now. It made ME cry!

And as for Spongebob, I totally agree! I also don't allow Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora and the like. My kids get very limited TV time, so I would prefer it be something they can benefit from. Great post!!

Enjoy Birth said...

I am glad I am not the only parent who doesn't let her kids watch spongebob. Even my 13 year old doesn't watch it. Frankly when he does watch TV, it is the History Channel or MythBusters. My 5 year old only watches about 1 or 2 shows a week and they are PBS shows. He wants to see the Cars movie, but I don't think it is going to be happening any time soon. It is horrible the things parents let their kids see, without even thinking twice about it.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I'm not trying to say I'm a better, or superior parent because of my beliefs on "kids" movies, etc. - but rather that we should perhaps step back and re-examine what the rest of the world is telling us should be 'right' for our kids.