Love is finding a whole new world in the very same places.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Troubling Television

       Sometimes I find myself wondering not just how much television my children should be allowed to watch, but also what they are really watching. One night my daughter and my nephew were sitting watching Spongebob Squarepants. Spongebob is an extremely happy, fun-loving aquatic little cartoon who famously, “lives in a pineapple under the sea.” There was no real pause for concern for me as a parent, since it was on Nickelodeon; I figured it’s a kid’s network so life is good. As I folded my laundry, however, the cartoon characters did a multitude of inappropriate and suggestive things. Such as, Squidward calling Spongebob an “idiot” and an “imbecile,” these things just don’t fly with momma. Likewise, in one episode there are suggestive jokes as Spongbob and Patrick wrestle in their underwear.
     A friend of mine suggested this was because the creators of Spongebob didn't intend it as a children's show at all. However, I've found that it isn't true. Spongebob was meant to be a children's cartoon from the beginning. He was supposed to be this creature who smiled brightly and was happy through any adversity. And so he is.
      Ironically, it is not Spongebob's character I question. It is the adversity, and the language used in that which I question. Let him conquer evil, let his optimism overpower anything. Teach my children that hope is more powerful than everything else. However, don't teach them so if Squidward has to call names or I have to explain to my kid what that dirty joke actually meant.

Here is one example, to show you what I mean.
Most of these aren't too bad, as long as your kid is too young to understand.

          This one I thought was a little more of a legitimate example: Spongebob Watches Porn

 My kids may not understand what the joke was, but that doesn't mean I want it in there.

So lately, I have begun to look at my kids’ movies a little more carefully. Last night I began with a newer continuation of an old classic, Toy Story 3.

                The beginning is very action-packed and very thrilling. As always with Disney Pixar, the animation was superb. My husband and I were immediately drawn in, and my five month old was captivated by the colors, if only for the few minutes he was awake to see it. The plot of Toy Story 3 is about, as always, Andy and getting older. This time Andy is off to college and the toys in his room wonder, what’s going to happen to us? Complaints of having not been played with in years ensue and as Andy’s mom presses him to make decisions about where all his stuff is going, a mishap happens. Mom accidentally throws the toys in the trash, and then they get donated to a local daycare. Nearly seven hours of play, every day, with endless amounts of new kids to play with, seems like heaven to the new toys, but heaven is soon too good to be true. Although the movie is action-packed and thrilling, I found that it is the appropriate amount and type of action for its target audience. There is no shooting, no one blows anyone up and no one pops any caps.
                 During the movie though, some mom alarms definitely went off. Not nearly as bad as some Disney movies I have seen, with adult undertones and innuendos, there were still some moments where I felt certain phrases or expressions could have been left out. For instance, Lotso-Hugs, who is ironically the antagonist, calls another character an idiot. This was really not as terrible as it could have been though, since immediately the other characters on his side looked at him differently, and saw it as a mean gesture. Likewise the producers made it very obvious that it was not something that was not nice or appropriate. Similarly, Buzz Lightyear stumbles upon what is very obviously a game of roulette. I thought the fact that gambling was in a children’s movie was inappropriate, but I approved of how the creators set it up. The setting was very dark, with a green, somewhat evil hue to the room. It sent a message that they were doing bad things, and were definitely not behaving. That much I appreciate, although they probably could made it more appropriate.
                Woody is a character that kids can relate to, and so are all his friends. After this movie, there is a definite reaction. It pulls at your heart strings, it makes you laugh, and it even makes you wonder. Much like, when I saw Transformers and afterwards I walked out to my car, only to stare at it and wonder; “Why can’t you do that?!” I wondered about my own toys, where they were now and where my kids' toys would be when they grew up. Even though we made a deal and they aren't allowed to grow up!

                         All in all, I have no problem with this movie. But what about others?
       Are there any movies or TV shows that are supposed to be for kids that you've caught?
                          What do you deem appropriate for your child's age group?

 Personally, I wrote a letter to Nickelodeon after watching the new Fred movie with my nephew. At one point Fred opens the fridge, where his dad is supposed to live, and exclaims "Damn it!" very loudly when his dad isn't in there.
                  What shows, if any are your kids allowed, or not allowed, to watch?
                         How do you feel about adult language in shows or movies
                                 that are supposed to be rated G or at least PG?
                                       What have you banned from your house?

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