Thursday, October 25, 2012
To Scare or Not to Scare
Everyone know how fairy tales end: “And they lived happily ever after.” On the other hand, the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, as originally written, were dark rather than sunny, as were the folk tales on which some of them were based. Thanks to the popularity of the horror genre, we are now seeing movies and television series that put the grimness back into stories that had been sweetened for the palate of the innocent back when I was a kid.
On the one hand, realism demands that bad things happen in 21st century stories. Our family subscribed to Jack and Jill magazine in the Fifties, and I remember the outraged letters from parents when it dared to publish a piece about a non-anthropomorphized duckling that got separated from its mother that ended, “And there the fox found it, for that is the way of the wild.” (Amazing what one remembers for sixty years, when so much useful information is as lost as the unfortunate duckling.) On the other hand, current “political correctness” (oh, how I hate that phrase, even when I agree with the opinions it supports) demands that we discourage competitiveness in children with the philosophy of “everybody wins” and an objective of “nobody gets scared.”
I’ve now seen two or three times a trailer for the Christmas movie Parental Guidance, in which Billy Crystal as a babysitting grandpa (Bette Midler plays the grandma) is outraged to find there are “no outs” in his grandson’s Little League baseball team—an inning lasts until everyone has had a turn at bat. The grandkids are of the Barney generation, brought up on the principles of the friendly purple dinosaur. I found this in Wikipedia:
"His shows do not assist children in learning to deal with negative feelings and emotions. As one commentator puts it, the real danger from Barney is 'denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities. For along with his steady diet of giggles and unconditional love, Barney offers our children a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away.'"
The reference for this quotation is Lyons Partnership v. Ted Giannoulas, 179 F.3d 384, 386 (5th Cir. 1999), citing Chala Willig Levy, "The Bad News About Barney", Parents, Feb. 1994, at 191–92 (136–39).
Sounds like somebody got sued over this. But I digress.
I’m baffled by the coexistence of today’s kids protected from negativity and today’s adults, especially young adults who will soon be the next generation of parents, reveling in vampires, zombies, and other paranormal villains.
I recently helped my granddaughters, 8 and 5, reenact The Wizard of Oz. I remember the older one being bored when I tried to share the movie with them, but now she’s just learned to sing “Over the Rainbow” and would like to see it again. (My VHS tape had a fatal accident; I’ll have to get her a DVD for Xmas.) The little one was too scared by the witch (as her father was at the same age) to take part in our skit unless we followed a version they’ve seen, I guess as a TV cartoon, in which the witch is not destroyed by a pail of water, but joins Dorothy and her companions on their journey to the Emerald City, where she asks the wizard to grant her wish to learn to dance.
Oddly, I remember reading somewhere that Frank L. Baum, the creator of Oz and author of quite a few additional books about it before someone else took over the series, deliberately did not put monsters or terrifying events into his stories. How ironic that generations of children have found the movie version of the Wicked Witch of the West far more frightening than any movie monster. The Wicked Witch doesn’t scare me or any other adult, as far as I know. I’m not enamored of the plethora of horror movies, new and old, in theaters and on TV in honor of Halloween. I don’t find being scared enjoyable. Not only don’t I read scary books or watch horror shows, but I avoid rollercoasters and would never take up extreme sports like skydiving. But only intense and unconditional love of my granddaughters could have made me willing to act out the bowdlerized version of what happened on Dorothy’s visit to Oz.