The Degradation of Society Through the Lens of Children's Programming

Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 by Alex R. Cronk-Young

Think outside the box.

Earlier a Twitter friend linked a video of a woman talking about the fact that in Australia they've decided to slap a "For Adult Viewing Only" sticker on a DVD release of some early Sesame Street episodes. Why? Because the children play freely outside in their city streets and greet older-men neighbors with a friendly wave. We wouldn't want children thinking that being outside is safe.

Of course, Australia and censorship seem to go hand-in-hand, and this sort of ridiculousness doesn't translate over here in the states...yet. Because honestly we seem to be walking down that road more and more everyday. I've written about this before through the veil of video games. Here's the relevant parts of that article:

"We are raising our children in a scary new world of knowledge. We know about more things that could hurt them than our parents could have ever imagined. We truck out all of the gravel in playgrounds and replace it with recycled rubber; we ban games like dodgeball; and we freak out at every bump and bruise.

In our fear, we've begun to treat our children like Faberge Eggs, and just as we assume they won't be able to handle a scrape, we also assume they won't be able to handle a challenging game. Chances are, they would be better at games than we could ever be -- if we'd just stop assuming."

I've been noticing a progression toward this awful, bubble-wrapped future in a rather unlikely place; Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. As I've mentioned before, Emmy is a little obsessed with that show. The show began even before I was born, but various iterations have continued to be released. Through the nightly ritual of scouring Netflix Instant for a new Thomas DVD to watch, I've noticed there is a clear downward spiral.

None of the Thomas shows say the date of release on them, but I can tell what came first. Older episodes don't shy away from putting the trains in actual danger. They're on bridges that get washed out from a flood and are washed down the river toward a waterfall. They careen off of docks into the water and into buildings when their brakes give out. In one episode a train refused to leave a tunnel because it was raining and he didn't want to dirty his new paint job, so they removed the tracks and built a wall in front of him and left him. That's how the episode ended. It wasn't until the next episode that a chance happening gave reason for them to let him out again.

You know what happens in the newer episodes of Thomas? They chase a runaway kite. Lots of drama and tension, aye?

Look, I'm not saying we're going to end up like that Idiocracy movie, but we could definitely take a good hard look at how much we're coddling our kids. Everyone throws heaps of praise at Pixar for putting real emotion into their films and not being afraid to include genuinely sad or scary moments. As far as I can remember nearly every kid's movie from my childhood was pretty damn sad at times. I think Pixar might be one of the few studios around that haven't bubble-wrapped their movies for maximum child protection. I'm just glad people are praising them for it instead of demonizing it.

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