April 4, 2012

Childhood movies revisited

Bring up any favorite film from childhood and it’s bound to spark a longer, nostalgic conversation. Fond memory after fond memory will be brought up and everyone will leave with that warm fuzzy feeling. But how accurate are those memories?

Toy Story
Let’s start with a favorite of many current college-aged people: “Toy Story.” The second sequel came out about two years ago, and the largest age group in attendance were those who grew up with the first two films.
In a recent televised viewing I caught the tail end of the film at Christmas time where Rex, the toy dinosaur, expresses a desire for a new dinosaur toy, “a leaf eater. That way I can play the dominant predator!” As a smaller child I didn’t catch the innuendo but in the context with the other toys desiring female toy counterparts, this time I caught it immediately.
All in all this doesn’t sound too bad. After all, few kids of the intended age group have the presence of mind to pick up on what is being suggested.
The overall message of “be nice to your toys” carries much more weight and I definitely remember trying to take much better care of my toys after seeing that movie.

“All Dogs Go to Heaven”
“All Dogs Go to Heaven” was one such movie I recalled having a much darker message.
I didn’t remember what exactly it was because my parents, after having paid attention to it themselves, deemed it inappropriate for my viewing. I decided to revisit the film and this is what I found:
Almost immediately the main characters, both dogs, are being shot at by some automatic weapon. Minutes later they enter what appears to be a makeshift casino run by dogs where the cartoon animals are clearly drinking copious amounts of alcohol, smoking and betting on “rat races.” (Actual rats running around a track.) It is stated that the main dog, Charlie, has been let off of death row and we later on learn that he was framed by his greedy business partner, Carface — a bulldog who is rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth.
The concept of Charlie being set up and then put on death row wasn’t as explicitly articulated as the drinking and the smoking, something I actually did remember.
In fact, in the following scene where Carface tries to run over a drunk (yes, drunk) Charlie on a pier after a Mardi Gras parade, I had remembered the attempt to kill but not the reason.
The movie continues with the exploitation of an orphan girl for her ability to talk to animals and predict race outcomes, sexist jokes and more attempted murders. Dogs tie each other up, try to light each other on fire and even wind up in a terrifying hell scene complete with demons.
The closing message, “be good because it pays off” is not something I picked up on as a child but I most certainly remembered it as a movie about “bad dogs.”
This is an extreme example. There are much subtler ways adult ideas make their way into kid films. When adults are the ones making the movies it’s bound to happen.
The real question is do we prefer the completely innocent films to the ones carrying adult themes?
We tend to be harsher on the newer films and TV shows because for whatever reason they are not enough like the ones we grew up with.
It is, indeed, harder to detect violence, drinking, smoking, innuendo, etc. in newer movies due to stricter guidelines. However, nostalgia appears to win out over morals when it comes to favorite childhood movies.

Camille Brown
Camille Brown is a junior majoring in English literature and double minoring in educational policy and journalism. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of her high school paper and a reporter for TKS. She spent the summer of 2012 freelancing for The Peninsula Gateway and is currently pursuing an independent study concerning the media’s influence on education.

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