It’s Weird That No One Raises An Eyebrow At The Sky-High Fatality Rates In Kids’ Movies

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lion king mufasa scarWe’re all intimately familiar with the trend in children’s movies where parents are mercilessly offed: Mufasa’s tragic trampling, the bullet with Bambi’s mother’s name on it, Nemo’s mom who became barracuda breakfast. To the great surprise of exactly no one who has ever seen a Disney animated film in their lifetime, it turns out that most kids films are a lovingly-animated bloodbath for their main characters. In fact, main characters in cartoons are way more likely to die (or be murdered) than the characters in R-rated movie: two-thirds of cartoons see a main character kick the proverbial bucket, compared to only half of R-rated adult movies – yikes.

Of course, R-rated movies include raunchy comedies and weird art flicks as well as testosterone-soaked action movies, so they may earn their rating for sex or language instead of for violence. Which leads me to wonder – why are our standards for the amount of violence we’re willing to show our kids so much different from the amount of sex we’ll tolerate? I probably wouldn’t think twice before plopping a six-year-old down in front of Tarzan, even though the main character’s parents plus a cute baby gorilla get sliced up and eaten by a jaguar within the first five minutes, and it ends with the villain getting straight-up hanged by a thick copse of vines. On the other hand, I don’t remember anyone dying in Airplane (I could be wrong, it’s been a while), but as a parent I would definitely not feel right plunking a kid down to watch that when I need a TV babysitter long enough to wash the dishes or make dinner. But isn’t it kind of weird that we’re fine with subjecting our kids to so much animated murder and mayhem?

Why is a character getting stabbed or falling to his death in Beauty and the Beast okay to show a toddler, but a breast wouldn’t be? How come the hero of Tangled getting stabbed and the evil witch going up in a puff of dust after falling out a five-story window is cool, but bare buns would be considered a serious no-no? I’m not saying you should show your kids The Forty-Year-Old Virgin instead of Finding Nemo next time they’re clamoring for some TV time, and I definitely don’t think Porky’s is a good substitute for Babe. But I think it’s important to ask ourselves, why do our views on how much violence harms kids lag so far behind our views on sexuality? Why are we so blasé about exposing kids to murder and mayhem? What really makes a stabbing less harmful for kids to watch than sexual situations? And just how much have we let Disney and the MPAA shape our social mores about what it’s okay for children to observe?

It kind of makes me want to pull the plug on the DVD player altogether. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my kids about movies as they get a bit older, but I do know I have some laundry to do today. Settle in, kids! No, we’re not going to watch The Lion King today – I thought you might like this movie instead. It’s called Bridesmaids.

(Image: YouTube)