I know that people like to blame movies and video games for bad behavior, but I think that is incorrect. Partly because if are letting your child watch movies made for adults or do not explain that what happens in a game is not real, you are already heading down the bad parenting path. But mostly because after seeing some of the things that are targeted toward children, I don’t like what I am seeing.
In a show my daughter was watching a high school girl was working on a science project. She locked two of her friends in a cage. It was supposed to look like a hamster cage. The experiment was positive/negative reinforcement. Push a button and get a shock. The humor was supposed to be that they kept pressing the same button thinking that it would produce a different result. The two boys would surmise that THIS time they would be expected to push a different button so they should push the same button and not get shocked.
In the end, they ended up being shocked into unconsciousness. Their “friend” later sees them and thinks they are sleeping so she walks away. She doesn’t unlock the cage, she doesn’t check vitals even though she knows that have been exposed to electro shocks, she just leaves them there. So kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture and serious physical injury are things that friends do to each other? These are serious crimes we should not be teaching kids that these things are funny. A child locking another in an old refrigerator and walking away wouldn’t be funny.
When an anvil falls on a talking animal, it is easy to think that it is not real, but when it is people hurting each other with a laugh track the lines are blurred. It is even worse when it is teen stars that, like it or not, become role models.
When a kid on TV misbehaves things always work out in the end. Take the family car without asking, get in a crash and at the end, all is forgiven. How often do you see kids on TV get punished? It always seems to end with the kid learning a valuable lesson and the parents hug them in the end.
How is that a good lesson for kids to learn? Do what you want, break the rules, and in the end, all will be forgiven. Things do not always work out in the end. Some things have serious consequences. It takes less than a second to destroy your life or take away your dreams. One thoughtless prank and suddenly you have a criminal record. On a documentary at a high school, some kids wrote on the window at a classmate’s house. One wrong term took it from teasing to a hate crime. She was almost expelled from school. These things happen in real life, but rarely on television.
Even kids movies have bad messages. Just because it is animated does not mean it is something your kid should be watching. We tend to look for a happy ending and that is all that matters, but I think there are more subtle messages in the plot that are often overlooked.
In the recent release Wreck It Ralph, the title character is a “bad guy” in the video game. After 30 years, he is tired of being seen as his game persona and would like to have a level of acceptance
There is a bad guy support group. Like some support groups they have a group affrimation. The Wreck-It Ralph bad guy affirmation: “I am bad, and that’s good. I will never be good and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be, than me.”
We might as well call that the bully mantra. It is okay to be a bad person. In the bad guy group therapy session, Zangief from Street Fighter II has come to terms with being a bad guy. After all, if he isn’t around to crush people’s skulls, who will? He doesn’t consider himself a bodyguard of M. Bison or that he is a strong champion that a fighter must defeat to win the game. Instead, he is okay with his duty as a bad guy and that it is his lot in life to bust skulls. All of the bad guys in the group are okay with being bad guys and wanting to change is bad.
This is a horrible message. If you are a bully, stay a bully. Don’t try to be better or improve yourself. Just stay a bully and bust skulls because if you don’t, who will? Ralph has been in his game for 30 years and he hasn’t bothered to make a home for himself. He just sleeps in the junkyard pile of bricks. Is the lesson to be defined by what you do? You will never be anything more than what you do for a job? I don’t want my kid to think that. Don’t make friends with the other people in the game, be a bad guy all the time.
And then he hops into a new game where he meets Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman). She is shunned in her own game so what is the first thing she does when she meets a new person? She makes fun of him and steals his medal.
That is a great message. When people make you feel bad, making other people feel bad will make you feel good. While stealing is wrong, it is okay if you really want it. Or it is okay to take something that belongs to someone else as long as it helps you or you can get away with it.
It is only when the people that bully her smash her dreams does she say that she was only “borrowing” the medal and that she was going to give it back. There was absolutely no indicator she had any intention of returning his property. It was “I got your medal, screw you hahaha.”
Maybe it is the way our society is going. Entertainment is being more superficial and selfish. There are fewer and fewer real role models for our children to look up to. More than ever, it is up to parents to know what their kids are watching.
I get what the message Wreck it Ralph is trying to get across but I don’t like how they tried to express it. The best thing to come out of the movie was the opportunity to talk to my daughter about how they went about solving their problems and how they could have done things differently. As parents we should always strive for our kids to learn their morality from us. Because if you don’t teach your kid how to be an adult, TV will.