Monday, September 20, 2010

Disney's Shades of Darkness

How much is too much for a child? It's a question that anyone who makes a movie targeted towards children should heed. The answer is usually something in which hinges on age, but darkness in self-professed kids movies can often mislead parents into allowing their children to watch a nightmare inducing supplement.

Now, when I talk of something being dark, I talk of it more in the feel of the movie rather than if the movie was poorly lit or used mostly dark colors. Darkness has more to do with frightening images, scary or even terrifying moments in movies, and allusions to the big kahuna, death. The movie I watched recently that really made me start thinking on this subject is actually what is commonly thought of as one of the most pure and innocent children's movies ever made, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; the story of a princess who flees her evil stepmother and finds refuge in the home of seven tiny men, the innocent dwarfs.

When I was watching Snow White, I was amazed at how dark the movie was. I hadn't seen it since I was a child, but as I was sitting there watching it, I could only imagine that if I was watching this G-rated movie as a three-year-old, I'd probably cry in fear. When the Queen transforms into the old hag, that scene is genuinely creepy, and majority of little kids probably wouldn't be able to handle it. In Snow White, Disney portrays the scenes of villainy involving the Queen with a sense of foreboding, nothing comical about her, and same goes for the scenes involving Snow White's death and their somber tone. And while I don't feel that at the end of the day Snow White would be so terrifying for a small child that it couldn't be watched by most children, it just really made start thinking about where to draw the line on what children should, and shouldn't watch.

With a Disney movie, that is a surefire seal of approval for most parents that a movie is certified for children, but sometimes that isn't the case. I just think of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, and say, you know, perhaps some smaller kids shouldn't watch these just yet. While I grew up watching these Disney movies and stuff like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, that does not mean other children might not find the sight of a man's heart being ripped out as terrifying. While you can say age is the biggest determining factor, there is no one set age as to when something is appropriate for a child to watch and when something isn't, because every child is different. Good example, I was three when I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the first time, and my 23-year-old sister will still not watch it to this very day.

Nightmares in children's movies are common, and usually the only way to know what wont frighten a child is to show them the movie in question, but my advice would be to heed caution. Just cause a movie is rated G doesn't mean it is all right for every child to watch, and just cause a movie is rated PG-13 doesn't mean that your three-year-old can't handle the violence and thrills inherent in the material.

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