I took my 4 year old son and my wife (or did they take me?) to the movie UP! over the weekend. First off, I am loving the glorious 3D action that is making it’s way back into theaters. It is good to see the industry figuring out that if you don’t enhance the experience, it’s far easier/cheaper to just download the movie and/or wait for Blockbuster to release it. The 3D experience is one worth paying for, and seemingly only available in the theaters. [Note to self for future post: Why can’t you have 3D at home? And is it possible to have it in games?]

I didn’t start this post to talk about 3D though, but a small surprise about the movie – which led me to thoughts about gaming, kids, and all that jazz. Does the expectation of certain entertainment mediums skew our views on how it is perceived? More after the break.

*Warning – Spoilers follow for the movie UP! – Don’t read if you don’t want to know*

In the first 15 minutes of Disney’s UP! the following happens. Geek explorer boy meets Geek explorer girl. They have a shared dream. They grow up together and get married. Their dream (following their favorite explorer to South America) always takes a back seat to what is going on in their “real lives”. Wife gets pregnant. Baby is never born (dies(?) before birth). Life goes on. They get old. Man remembers their initial dream, buys tickets to South America. Plans on presenting them to his wife at their favorite picnic spot at the top of a hill one afternoon. Wife collapses while walking up the hill, goes into hospital, wife dies. Their dreams are never realized. He gets old and cranky, about to get removed from the home they built together, and decides to realize the adventure for him and his late wife. Cue balloons, and the typical whimsical adventure ensues..

While that is hardly shocking by any means, I did have to take a couple ‘abacks’. Unborn babies? Dead wife? My son kept asking during the film where the wife went. It’s hard to explain to a four year old that she died, and why she did, amidst a packed movie theatre with 3D images flying at you. It really caught me off guard. I was prepared to go see a fun, adventurous Pixar flick with flashy graphics and colors and an underlying strong social message for my kid. I got more than I bargained for, but I wasn’t disappointed or aghast – death is a good topic to discuss with your children. I was just “shocked” because it was so unexpected.

I am sure you will love to judge my parenting after my NEXT line – but my son has seen Batman (both newer versions), Transformers, Spiderman 1, 2, and 3, etc. Yes he is only 4. He loves super heros and giant talking transforming robots. When death and violence is presented in those movies he doesn’t question it – it is just the good guys stopping the bad guys from doing bad things. I always go into those movies a tad reserved that the violence may be over the top, but they are generally good at not showing a lot of blood or excessive violence – unless you count oil leaking from giant robots. That, however, begs me to think if I am just desensitized to the violence and can’t realize what impact it is having on my kid. Hey, I grew up in a time where I didn’t wear a helmet on my bike, would watch Friday the 13th movies when I was 7 (without parental permission, of course) and I turned out okay. 

With some taking the extreme route I am starting to wonder if I need to be a bit more careful about the choices I make for my kid. 

My son also has a Nintendo DS, and about 10% of his game collection is math and science fun, with the other 90% involve something hitting/shooting something else repetitively. He plays those games without a second thought from dear old dad. Again, it is expected, so it doesn’t surprise me. Now, if he was playing Transformers 17: Rise of the Sequel on DS, and halfway through the game a Megan Fox ran across the screen in a thong, I would probably be taken aback as well. Not because our society is so less desensitized to sex than violence, but it would just be.. unexpected.

Rambling, I noes. Sorry. I suppose my point is this: Is “shock” value in any entertainment derived from the preconceived un-expectations, or the “shocking” act itself?

6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. One word…or do hyphenated words count? And…do the words we say preceding the word that’s meant to be “one word” count as well? In which case when you say “one word-…Word!” isn’t that three words? Er…anyway.

    Three words (or a whole lot more…crap, screwed it up again). Never mind the word count, check out…I-GLASSES.

  2. It’s always interesting looking at life through your child’s eyes. I think it’s just something you have to address with each little one, teaching them as they are able to learn.

    I know, that sounds like a copout, but really, I don’t think that anything else works. I raise my kids differently than my sister raises hers, and I’d like to keep it that way. Parents just need to do their jobs, and take the blame if their kids get screwed up.

  3. Necro-posting because I thought the whole thing had to do with Up so I avoided the spoilers. 😛

    It’s kind of funny that you were surprised by that. Perhaps you’re not the right age to have asked, “What happened to Bambi’s mommy?” when that movie was around? Cartoon movies have been demonstrating the harshness of life for a while.

    I think in this case your “shock” comes from your desire to protect your offspring. Completely understandable. But, you’ve recognized something a lot of other parents don’t: you did dangerous stuff as a kid and lived to tell the tales. Most of the kids you know are the same. Yet, there’s a desire to round the corners and pad the hard spots (or ban violent egoshooters) so that kids don’t get hurt. As you’ve found out, kids are more resilient than we might give them credit for, and it’s good for parents too discuss issues, like violence and death, with their kids.

    This isn’t to say that “anything goes” is the best parenting policy, but there’s a balance between being reasonably protective and letting your kids actually grow up.

  4. Our little girl got a beautiful Betta fish for her third birthday recently. She named it and loved to watch it. It died a few days later, probably as a result of a few different things, but I largely blame myself.

    I probably mourned the fish more than she did, and though she still doesn’t quite understand what happened, it was a good opportunity to teach her a little about life and death. I’m not looking forward to the day when my grandfather dies (we recently visited him for Father’s Day), but I hope that the fish experience will help her understand a little.

    Kids bounce back. It’s harder for us as “grown ups” sometimes. How much of that is innocence, and how much is just the will to move on and learn something new?

  5. @Psycho: It did give away a few spoilers of the movie, and I would have hated to have ruined it for anyone. I’m 35 and remember the whole Bambi thing – but as of late the cartoon shows I have seen have steered clear of that. The Incredibles, Cars, Monsters Inc, heck, I have seen them all and they haven’t had many ‘shock’ moments.

    I always look back and wonder how I survived as a child – considering how protective things are now. I often ponder if that will have any long term societal consequences too.

    @Tesh: Ah, the dead fish life lesson. I remember I had a goldfish (it was a big one, more like a Koi) when I was growing up. I came home one day and Golddy (yes – very original) was gone. My mom told me that she was getting too big and that my parents put her into a nearby pond. I was adamant we go see her – and I was certain that she would jump out to see me. I would go to the pond, and Golddy would never jump out. I was hearbroken.

    Of course, later on in life, my Mom admitted to me that Golddy actually died and she didn’t have the heart to tell me. While I am certain it was good intentioned – even sitting here at 35 years old I don’t think I ever forgave her for that! (lol) and to be honest, it is a strong memory I will always have. No, I don’t need therapy for it, but I think the way it went down is what makes it a strong memory for me.

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