Like I said in the intro to this series, I started posting about children’s media last year with an enormous discussion of the Disney Princess franchise. Since then, I’ve gotten several comments to the effect that people are either embarrassed to “admit” that they still watch cartoons or that they think it’s cool that I’m not embarrassed to watch them. Well, firstly, I’m flattered. Secondly, I want to make some that might help put this in a different light.
- The idea of “children’s entertainment” or media specifically for children is a relatively new historical concept. Diana has a more in-depth discussion about the ways in which children’s literature has developed and changed over at Part-Time Monster. Storytelling for children in other media formats has its origin in children’s lit. If I was going to really analyze the subject it would probably take several months, so I’ll leave it at this for now.
- Most movies or television shows that are marketed heavily at children are written and produced as “family entertainment.” That means it’s made with the understanding that adults are going to watch it too. So there’s a lot of content in “children’s” programming that is there for adults to enjoy as well.
- Adults in their 20s and 30s are becoming a huge market for animated film and television. That became noticeable back in the 90s, but it was already happening. Even before that, that demographic was already an enormous market for comic books. A lot of Sourcerer’s audience are comic fans. That’s another form of storytelling that has been traditionally (and erroneously) perceived as something for children. Twenty-somethings are often experiencing financial freedom and independence from their parents for the first time. Many of them have disposable income to spend on movies and memorabilia for themselves — as opposed to older adults who usually have more financial responsibilities and have to be more discerning in what they buy even when their purchasing for their own kids. Thirtysomethings are the demographic most often in the middle. A lot of us have young kids, but we’re still involved in collecting memorabilia for ourselves. Again, that means that there is going to be a LOT of content in “children’s” media that’s actually targeted at adults.
- Western culture tends to idealize childhood. It’s treated as a fantasy land where nothing serious or painful ever happens, so media for children has little inherent value to us beyond it’s capacity to teach moral or social lessons. I have a whole bunch of other things to say about that particular issue, but I’ll let you chew on it for now.
- Either that or we glorify “growing up” and view childhood as a temporary, annoying stop-over on the way to bigger and better things. I think children deserve respect, and while we need to make sure that conversations with kids are age-appropriate, it doesn’t serve any purpose to treat art for kids as less meaningful or potentially valuable just because it’s written for a young audience.
I think being embarrassed or apologizing for enjoying cartoons is about as silly as this Trix commercial. And that’s all I’m gonna say this week.