Monday, March 18, 2013

Pop Culture: Why Kids Movies Need Villains

As the oldest of seven children, I have been watching kids movies way longer than is healthy or reasonable. For this reason, I think I can provide a pretty good perspective on that type of movie, both as someone who loved them as a kid, and someone who still watches them as an adult.

What makes kids movies great is the characters. They're quite possibly the most loveable people/animals/cars/toys in movies, and they are great at showing the children watching them the right thing to do without the annoying recap at the end found in children's television.
Pictured: the right thing to do.
But as I look back on these movies, there are some seriously evil villains doing some downright dastardly things. Maleficent turns into a dragon to kill a dude who is trying to wake up a girl that she put a spell on just because she wasn't invited to that girl's birthday party. Steel from Balto tries to kill Balto for attempting to help bring diphtheria antitoxin to a small, dying child. Captain Hook repeatedly tries to straight up stab Peter Pan (this one is moderately justified because Peter Pan did cut off Hook's hand). Jafar tries to stab Aladdin when he brings him the lamp, even though Al was bringing him the lamp because he asked for it. And the dude from The Rescuers Down Under kidnaps a child and locks him in a cage so he'll tell him where an eagle lives. There are some nefarious beings at large in the Disney universe, people.
Cody should've learned not to get scooped up in a sack by strangers. It's his own fault.
When you think about it though, it's important for children to see that there are bad people in the world because guess what? There are bad people in the world. While trust is certainly a good thing to teach little ones, an equally, if not more important lesson is that not everyone has your best interests at heart, and it's necessary to be wary of such people.

But kids movies don't stop there. They don't just have the main characters face adversity against evil and then have the ones responsible apologize and go about their business. Scar gets thrown off a cliff and devoured by hyenas, Ursula gets ship's broken prow plunged into her chest, and Gaston falls to his doom off of a ridiculously tall castle. Why don't we teach the younglings to forgive and forget?
And that's why you don't stab bear-ox-wolf-men, kids.
This has another important lesson in it. There is evil in the world, and sometimes it can't simply be stopped once, but must instead be annihilated. We didn't teach the Nazis to forgive. We punished them severely and put their leaders to death. We teach kids through these movies that good can, should, and usually will triumph over evil, and then we teach them that said evil needs to be stricken from the earth.

These sound like harsh things to teach children, and they are. But by showing them these movies we are also showing them why we have armies, police forces, and hall monitors (okay, maybe not hall monitors). Forgiveness is great and should be put into practice (for evidence, see Veggie Tales), but there comes a time when people have to fight for what's right, and that's what Walt Disney is trying to teach us when he sends the Witch to her death (via cliff-fall-off-ing, because originality isn't that important) for trying to kill Snow White because she's too pretty.

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