Published on April 19th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Think of the children!
As I write this, I am still reeling from the numbing shock of finishing Peter Pan by JM Barrie.
I remember hearing that the novel is notably darker than its silver screen incarnations but it hardly made me any the wiser to the novel’s sinister fancies and author’s grotesque and somewhat racist and sexist fantasies.
You know how kids are always talking about killing and some such? Well in this book they really mean it and do it. Frequently. They genuinely slaughter pirates and “redskins”. Mentions of scalping and merciless killing abound, Wendy not once reprimands the Lost boys or her young brothers about their murderous ways and even Smee, the lovable and bumbling sidekick to Hook wields a gun called Johnny Corkscrew, I suppose that sounds alright, but why is his gun called Corkscrew nobody asks? Because after shooting children with it, he proceeds to gouge the pistol into the victim’s swollen and bloody wound and screw the cold metal into their torn flesh. Nice.
It’s not just this though, there are tonnes of children’s books that feature strong language, dark themes or violent content, it’s not merely limited to literature either, although in my opinion it’s one of the worst advocators of adult themes around children, because films and the oft-accused video game industry also feature the like. You know a lot of weird tosh used to fly back in the day.
One of the films I remember was rather traumatising (in that enjoyable way) was Return to Oz, for starters, the story starts back in boring Kansas where even happiness comes in dingy grey, but also Dorothy is being shipped of to the nuthouse because she’s got a bad case of youth going on.
Apparently Aunt Em (played by the lovely and demented Piper Laurie of Carrie, Twin Peaks and The Faculty) had enough of Dorothy’s tales of Oz, presumably because she’s a bored housewife and sex hadn’t been invented yet, so she just decided to palm her off onto the nearest wide-eyed, kiddy-vying man in white coat.
What’s more Oz is not the munchkined haven we once knew, instead we’re treated to stop motion rock faced Nome king, creepy wheelers who look like Adam Ant with trolley wheels attached to his hands and worst of all the mental Queen who changes her head like it’s a woman’s handbag.
Did this film attract much attention? Well, probably, but you just don’t see this kind of horrifying crap any more. The closest we have now is that Under the Night garden or whatever it’s called, you know , the one with the beige man with dog turd Leia hair and blue man with tumour on the side of his head. It’s like Teletubbies for the mentally deficient. I have no idea why someone thought that show would be good for children, or how parents can let their kids watch it only to complain to the authorities 5 mins later because there might have been a nipple on the news. God forbid. If only someone could just get rid of ALL the nipples so not one bairn will ever run the risk of mistaking a nipple for an ordinary human thing.
I think that the decrease in adult themes and content in children’s entertainment has been somewhat down to parents becoming stricter and more politically correct. The advent of the internet and the joining of many cultures has led to reinforced ideas about how to treat people of different cultures, beliefs and interests, this has then polarised parents, making some more politically correct and others even more prejudiced. Either way they’ll be much more likely to complain when they see something unsavoury on the telly screen. Thowse pawer chilluns! Sheyld thaer ayes!
I grew up with rather lenient views on what we were allowed or old enough to watch, my favourite films of all time are Evil Dead 2/Medievil Dead and have been since as long as I can remember, before I was even 4 years old. I suppose I’m not the pinnacle of what I think children should be or base what they should watch on my own upbringing, because at the end of the day I am not normal. I have anxiety problems and an unnatural fixation on the macabre. But that’s not to say that I don’t believe that children are able to watch rather adult films and not end up a psychopath.
I think the key to this is the BBFC laws, made ever more strict with the cries of mob-like parents outside their windows.
Keep them, they’re great.
Because that way when children defy the laws, it’s not without knowing what they’re getting themselves into, unlike in America where it seems like just about anyone can pick up an R-rated film on DVD.
Here in England, you have to go through quite a lot of effort to buy an 18 rated film, which means that the child would have had to have thought rather hard about whether or not it’s worth the effort, and that means that they can make their own informed decision at least, instead of it just being a choice of whimsy.
They’re also good to keep the pansies out of the horror section at the video shop. Not like any of it matters with the internet around anyway.
Basically, I love the BBFC’s laws, because they are made to be broken.
In the end, every situation, child and film/book/game is different and it’s up to the parent’s discretion to decide whether they believe that the material will be offensive to the child. In the same way it is down to the parent to take responsibilty for most matters relating to their child until they reach the age of maturity.
Just don’t always blame society, entertainment or other people when you weren’t the one watching your child when he/she pulled out YOUR Escort magazines from the cupboard.