Bambi, cartoons, children, children's books, Finding Nemo, grief, movies, The Lion King, YA
A study of 135 top-grossing children’s cartoon movies found that two-thirds of them depicted the death of an important character. This compares to one-half of adult film dramas that show a death.
From the Los Angeles Times story: “Rather than being the innocuous form of entertainment they are assumed to be, children’s animated films are rife with on-screen death and murder,” said the study’s lead author, Ian Colman of the University of Ottawa.
This leads me to think of popular children’s literature, which often features orphans as main characters. Harry Potter, Pippi Longstocking, Huck Finn, and Annie all have parents who are dead (or missing). A young Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents and grows up to avenge crime as Batman. Nancy Drew, the heroine of my favorite book series when I was a child, was raised by her father after her mother died.
The study authors offer this: “Exposure to on-screen death and violence can be frightening to young children and can have intense and long-lasting effects.”
I think these films and books offer good learning opportunities for children. We may want to protect children from the sad parts of life, but the study shows that it seeps in everywhere, especially through the media. Death and mayhem in children’s stories exist for a reason.
What do you think? Should children be kept from this type of content? We all watched movies like this, or read books in which children were exposed to death. Did it affect you?
If you’ve read my book, you’ll know how important Bridge to Terabithia was to me as I tried to navigate my own world of death and grief.
Kay Eichler said:
My husband and I have long joked that if one or more parents have died, it must be Disney. I recall hearing that fairy tales were written to provide messages of warnings and life lessons to children (think Hansel and Gretle). It may be that films aimed at children mean to do the same. If so, I feel it safe to say we can move from death to the next lesson.
I think the stories do serve to teach children something, to help them see how characters deal with real-life situations. I wonder how many kids actually end up applying those stories to their own lives.
Lisa Simons said:
Until you pointed it out, I had no idea. No, I don’t think children should avoid these cartoons. It’s the point of the entire story that I think resonates with kids, that somehow, even with death/grief, there is life.