Violence and Death in Kids’ Movies

Arguably one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history

Arguably one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history

An interesting recent article in The Atlantic explores the prevalence of violence in G and PG-rated movies. It details the results of a study which compared the most successful animated children’s movies from 1937 to 2013 with the two top grossing films for adults from those years. The result? “Two-thirds of children’s movies depicted the death of an important character while only half of films for adults did, [and] the main cartoon characters in children’s films were two-and-a-half times more likely to die, and three times as likely to be murdered, when compared with their counterparts in films for adults.”

More specifically, they discovered that “in children’s movies, parents, nemeses and children were most likely to be killed off first, while in adult-geared films the movie’s protagonist was most likely to die first on-screen.”

cinderella

Cinderella loses her father and mother as well, but offscreen

So why is there so much death in entertainment for kids? Parents.com offers one explanation: “It’s natural for children, at various ages, to worry about being less loved than a sibling, starting school, and perhaps worst of all, being lost or abandoned. “Nothing is scarier than the thought of getting separated from your parents or having your parents die,” says Lawrence Sipe, PhD, a professor of children’s literature at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in Philadelphia. Rather than instilling these fears in children, fairy tales actually help kids face the fears they already have — and vanquish them.”

What do you think? Were you disturbed or fascinated by death in stories when you were a child? And is there a difference between secondary characters being killed as opposed to the protagonists, who are often children themselves?

Thanks to Assistant Director Josh for the Atlantic article! 

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