I think it’s sort of a rite of parenting passage to sit down with your children and an old kiddie classic book/film, only to discover that its themes are quite a bit more grown-up than you remember. It’s something that you struggle with even if you approach family entertainment from an academic perspective, or if you make a point of avoiding helicopter parenting; no matter how deep your intellectual/historical understanding of the material, I think it’s hard not to shy away from exposing your kids to dark/scary/complicated themes before they’re “ready.”
I struggle with this and I hate myself for it, partly because — like a lot of parents — we’ve leaned heavily on older titles with our kids, and I figure if parents didn’t worry that The Wizard of Oz was too dark for their little ones in 1900, or that Hansel and Gretel were going to give the kids screaming nightmares in the 1800s, then why am I flinching inwardly and editing out the nasty bits in 2012?
These are the things I thought about while watching the new trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman. Not necessarily because I think this is a movie full of thought-provoking subtext, but because I’d like to believe Huntsman was sparked by a desire to take fairy tales back to their bloody, violent roots — and even if it ends up being just another crappy action/adventure flick (which, let’s face it, it probably will be), that desire is sort of noble, and something that might even signal a shift away from today’s bubble-wrapped parenting philosophy.
Uh, not that I’m advocating taking your kids to see Snow White and the Huntsman, you understand. But let’s talk about our role as cultural gatekeepers for our kids. How much do you edit stuff when you’re reading books or watching films that contain troublesome themes? How much do you trust your children to handle? And do you feel like we’ve gone too far when it comes to sheltering our kids from the big bad world?