Today, I was talking with a friend about kids and their perceptions of and attitudes toward violence and anger.
Tonight, Amy and I watched Cinderella — her first movie, and years after I’d seen it last.
She loved it, generally, but was upset by the way the mice kept attacking the cat and vice versa, and the way the king kept jumping around and flailing his sword and throwing things. (She also wanted Cinderella and the prince to stay in the palace and not go walking / dancing outside.)
My friend was talking about how her child has mentioned how other kids talk — talking about punching or wanting to punch people, or choking stuffed animals, slapping them in the mouth and eyes, and that sort of thing. How it makes her think twice about saying even something as innocent as “We’ll just bonk him on the nose” about the scary ghost imagined downstairs.
We agreed that we want our kids to know they’re worth standing up for — to know they are allowed to defend themselves. But that it’s not okay for them to start a fight, and that it’s best to try to resolve conflicts without physical violence. That it’s not okay to throw or break toys, or hit people, but that it’s fine to punch a pillow or bang a blanket.
In real life, of course, cats catch and eat mice. But they don’t talk or wear clothes or try to trick one another or use forks, dishes, or other “weapons.” It’s nice to see a hero outwit and defeat an enemy… but why is the cat an enemy, and not just a natural predator? This cat is named “Lucifer” and is clearly portrayed as a villain.
How would you talk to your child if they were upset about the mice and the cat in this movie?
(Fortunately, she didn’t notice the “leave the sewing to the women” line in the one song.)
And the king — well, I guess it reinforces, negatively, what I’ve tried to teach Amy about how to handle frustration and anger and impulsiveness in general.
I know, it’s just a kids’ movie, and they had to add stuff to make it movie-length and all… but these are the things my kid noticed and was upset about. Good thing we chose Cinderella and not one of the movies that has any “real” fighting in it.