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When Father Knows Less
Rumblings of the ever present ‘stupid father syndrome’, spawned from such popular TV series as “The Simpsons,” and “Family Guy,” have circled round for many years now. While annoyingly true, that these shows promote the idea that all Dads are as stupid as Homer Simpson, these shows never bothered me for several reasons. One, these cartoons are marketed primarily towards an adult audience. Two, my children have never been exposed to those cartoons because of reason number one, they are adult cartoons. But I have noticed a new theme amongst TV and movies alike that bothers me even more than the first and as I wonder about these things I wonder, does it bother you too?
In the majority of animated children’s movies that have been produced over the last five to ten years I have noticed one thing they all have in common; the defining moment for the protagonist (also a child so that our children may identify with their hero) is when he or she valiantly defies their parent and thus saves the day! Hurray! Kids know best! In a culture where rebellion is celebrated and independence rules the day, I wonder how this message will ultimately play out. Before I go on, let me offer you a few examples to make my point:
How To Train Your Dragon- Hiccup (child protagonist) rebels against his father and his culture when he saves a dragon rather than slaying it and begins a dragon loving revolution.
Horton Hears a Who- Baby kangaroo rebels against his mother telling her triumphantly, “no” when she asks for the clover (with a world of Who’s on it) saving an entire species, not to mention saving the day!
Kung Fu Panda- Po (a Panda and older son of a noodle selling bird) defies his father by sneaking off to a kung fu brawl, dumping the dumplings, and as a result is appointed the chosen one who saves the day and his people (father included).
The Incredibles- Dash (the child protagonist) defies his mom and sister’s orders to stay put, instead exploring the cave where they are hiding, discovers it is a rocket tunnel, and is able to sprint his family to safety, by extension saving their lives, thanks to his defiant spirit!
The Little Mermaid- Ariel (the teenage protagonist) defies her father by swimming to the surface of the ocean, meeting a human, making a deal with a sea witch, and walking amongst the humans, but teaches her father and his people that not all humans are bad. She was right, her father was wrong, and thanks to her defiance the ocean is a better place!
For the sake of time, mine and yours, I will leave you with a list of movies with this common theme to prove my point, but in an effort not to beat a dead horse I will leave the movie summaries up to you. Beat a dead horse? Who does that anyway? Moving on, here is the list: Tangled, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Green Hornet, Reel Steel, Fly Me to the Moon, Transformers, The Bee Movie, Ratatouille, Underdog, Spy Kids, Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey version), Elf, Mulan... you get my point, the defining moment for each of the heroes is when they heroically defy their parents and the world is a better place because they did so.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these movies, and for the moment I will assume you do too. But as a woman born and raised in the Cinderella generation (One day your prince will come and you will live happily ever after like Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine), I know the affect these cinematic themes can have on our impressionable youth and it’s not all good.
TV shows just support this theme of defiant heroism. Either the parents are idiots, or they just aren’t there. If you need proof, watch any of the following; I-Carly, So Random, ANT Farm, Gum Ball, Good Luck Charlie, Drake and Josh, Victorious, The Wizards of Waverly Place, Phineas and Ferb, the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, just to name a few.
As a parent I want nothing more than to set a positive example to my children knowing that I represent not just myself, but their Heavenly Father, who will one day hold me accountable for my role as guardian to these children who are ultimately His. I strive for truth, honor, and respect, hoping that as I live up to these codes that my children will indeed trust, honor, and respect not just me but those in authority over them. But as time goes on, I have noticed a huge disconnect between my ability to live truthfully and their ability to trust and respect me. It is as if there is no connection at all. Something outside of myself is influencing them, causing them to believe that “child knows best,” to an extent which can’t be blamed solely on selfishness, ego, and pride. Does anyone else believe the celebration of rebellion underlying children’s entertainment is having any influence on the next generation of impressionable minds?