Opinion: “Kids” shows and films are not “just for kids”

Lauren Sieberg, Staff Writer

In today’s day and age, it’s not uncommon to meet an adult who watched popular “kids” shows or movies when they were younger. If I asked someone to think of their favorite childhood show or film, chances are they would imagine a tiny version of themselves, pajama-clad and giggling with their eyes glued to the television screen, maybe clutching a stuffed toy or figurine of a character from that program. However, over time, societal expectations about what adults ought to enjoy convince these people to leave their toys and DVDs on a shelf to collect dust.

I often wonder why people have the habit of judging others who appreciate these programs. Even though someone’s childhood may be over, it doesn’t mean that they have to stop enjoying the same or similar things that they loved when they were younger. Whether they are five or fifty-five, there’s still a plethora of valuable lessons a person can take from these inspiring shows and films.

Initially, adults were actually the target for most animations, as children rarely attended any formal movie showings. However, a huge shift took place when ideas to target a younger audience for profit became more popular. In 1964, Hasbro developed the first action figure, based off of “G.I. Joe,” as a way to target a young, male audience. Over time, toys aimed at female children were developed, such as the the first “Barbie” doll in 1959 and the “My Pretty Pony” (the predecessor of “My Little Pony”) figurine in 1981.

When adults started to see these toys based off of certain television shows and movies, they stopped watching them. These adults didn’t want to be associated with something children enjoyed, as they believed that it indicated to others that they weren’t “proper adults” if they watched the shows.

As someone who avoided anything that would make me appear “childish” in the past, I can understand where they were coming from. At first, I didn’t want to be associated with shows that made me seem younger or more childish than I already am. Over time, I grew out of that when I began to question the insecure feeling that came with telling someone about a “kids” show I loved, namely when I noticed the ageless themes these shows conveyed.

While some may say that adults can’t benefit from the lessons or concepts that “kids” shows provide, thousands of episodes and movies have communicated ideas directed towards an older audience. For example, Mother Gothel from Disney’s “Tangled” and Judge Claude Frollo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are two terrifyingly realistic villains who form abusive relationships between themselves and their adopted children. Both antagonists leave their victims with serious cases of Stockholm syndrome, a condition in which a captive develops feelings of deep trust and love for their captors. Each of these films can play a huge role in teaching current or future parents about how appalling verbal and physical abuse is, especially when it isn’t blatantly obvious all the time.

If these films are supposedly made “just for kids,” they wouldn’t contain jokes or references that children will likely not recognize. However, countless jokes that children don’t generally understand (especially those relating to sex) can be found in some supposed “kids” movies, like “Hocus Pocus,” “The Incredibles,” and the entire “Shrek” film franchise. If the creators’ sole purpose in these films was to target kids, I doubt they would have wasted energy and time working on clips that children won’t understand until they’re older.

One of the best parts about watching these blockbusters is definitely that they simplify difficult topics, making some daily problems easier to face. PBS’s classic show “Sesame Street,” Disney’s “Frozen,” and the 2015 live-action “Cinderella” help those struggling with the loss of loved ones. Shows from the late 1990s and early 2000s like “That’s So Raven” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” aid people of color in their efforts to stamp out racism in multiple episodes.

These shows and films convey numerous ideas that people of all ages can put into perspective. The famous Dreamworks franchises “Kung Fu Panda” and “How To Train Your Dragon” teach viewers to be themselves, regardless of others’ doubts. In 2010, the film “Megamind” starred a supervillain who comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t need to let his past actions define him. Other well-known programs like “The Magic School Bus” let the audience know that learning new things about the world around you can be exciting. Each of these ideas can be acknowledged by people of all ages because they are straightforward, timeless, and encouraging.

Simultaneously, these programs develop characters from unique backgrounds that are often underrepresented, ensuring that everyone has a role model to idolize. Women of color no longer need to be completely afraid of a lack of representation, because films and shows like “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Miraculous! Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir” feature major characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In most movies created by Studio Ghibli, a Japanese film company, female protagonists and villains make realistic and empowering representations for women in the real world, with complicated emotions and independent, can-do attitudes. On November 23rd, 2016, Disney will release “Moana,” their first film including a more muscular princess.

Two of Nickelodeon’s top-trending television shows “Steven Universe” and “The Legend of Korra” both include openly LGBTQ+ characters. Each of these accomplishments are remarkable because they stand for those who may feel that they aren’t being represented properly in society today. Thanks to these “kids” shows, a child in need of a hero and an adult reminiscing about simpler times can both find figures to relate to.

Although some have put away their favorite childhood films and stuffed toys, it doesn’t mean that they can’t embrace some contemporary cartoons and movies that are just as inspiring and nostalgic. So, I encourage everyone to take a half an hour to a few hours to sit back and appreciate a quality “kids” episode or movie. Anyone, no matter their age, can gain something from watching an incredibly crafted show or film, so get out some popcorn and enjoy the production!