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Since the time of cartoons, children have been avidly watching. The fun characters on the screen go on wacky adventures with their friends and learn throughout it. Without realizing, the characters learn lessons that, in turn, the watcher will be learning as well. Judith Halberstam, in Animating Revolt and Revolting Animation, sees the lessons that animated films teach as unfit for kids to learn. Animation ingrains lessons into the minds of people, especially smaller children.
A big lesson many films have taught kids is that death is inevitable. Family or friends may die but that should not stop what you do. The Lion King or The Land Before Time both teach about death. In The Lion King, Simba’s father is killed but he is able to become stronger from that. The Land Before Time shows that death happens and cannot be prevented. The Lion King also teaches that if success is wanted, someone must die. Both Simba’s father and uncle died before he could become the next lion king. The sacrifice of his family aided him into becoming the lion king, though he would have eventually succeeded his father anyways.
In Shrek, it teaches that beauty does not matter as long as you are yourself. After Fiona is changed back into a human, a kiss from her true love, Shrek, turns her back into an ogre that she hated to be. But she accepted that she was an ogre, knowing who she is and who she loves. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo was not able to get the girl because of his looks. He saved the day but because he was not a handsome man, the woman he loved had her eyes on another man. Both animated movies share a theme about beauty but one is happier than the other and teaches beauty does not matter.
Beauty and the Beast shows Belle in an abusive relationship with her kidnapper. She eventually changes him into a better person but that is not what happens in real life. It teaches children, or even adults, that if they are in an abusive relationship, they can make that person change. Many times, that will not happen and it gives the wrong impression that humans will change because someone showed them love. The story is toxic but as a child, they do not understand that the movie shows something incredibly harmful to many people in real life.
As Halberstam stated, “Fairy tales have always occupied the ambiguous territory between childhood and adulthood, home and away, harm and safety” (286). When it comes to fairy tales, people come close to harm, or are being hurt, such as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, where it does not seem like she is being abused but actually is. The movies teach children adult topics or messages and can also appeal to adults through sneaky jokes that children would not understand.
In these animated films, “difficult topics are raised and contained in children’s films precisely so that they do not have to be discussed elsewhere” (Halberstam 293). They are treated as unimportant, so they are put into films for kids. The children will have trouble understanding the importance of the topics at a young age, so they will not argue against what the movies portray. Kids will not question the government or begin to revolt against it.
Animated films are not just terrible though. They also help kids, or even adults, get through tough times in life. A character in a movie or cartoon may be going through the same thing the watcher is, giving them hope for their future. If the character takes action, it may inspire the watcher to do the same and help them get through a tough spot in their life. It may be something as bad as losing a parent or friend or even just being depressed but seeing that there are ways to keep going may help out.
The world of Pokemon has as many lessons as it does Pokemon. It is okay to lose, gender roles do not control you, face your fears, sacrifice for what you believe in, and muchmore. It helps kids understand life may be hard or scary but it also has many great opportunities awaiting them. Losing does not mean losing at life, trying over and over again will help build up to success. Girls do not have to like girl-labeled things and vice versa for boys. It is okay to like dresses or monsters as any gender and Pokemon shows that through characters. Even in Robots, it “imagines embodiment as an assemblage of parts and sees some as optional, some as interchangeable” (Halberstam 287). Gender roles and gender itself can be shown as fluid or can be changed.
While some animated films and shows have adult lessons, they are not inherently bad for children. They can teach them things that parents or teachers may not necessarily be able to and it is much easier for kids to connect with. Children should be able to watch animation to help grow their character. Watching them may also be useful in them with communicating with others and become socially advanced. As adults, those morals or lessons stick because they have been taught at an impressionable age.
Judith Halberstam’s Animating Revolt and Revolting Animation is wrong for thinking that animation has too much mature content. It assists with learning social skills and valuable life lessons that will later be used as an adult. They may not understand at first that they are learning but will come to discover that many things they know are from animation.
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