Children often have a way of asking questions that seem so basic to them but when reflected upon by adults can lead to something profound. This was the case this morning in my house while going through our daily routine of having breakfast and getting ready for school/work. While my 5 year old was enjoying a bowl of cereal he was also trying to decide what cartoon to watch before he began his day. Unlike when I was his age, children today have nearly an endless supply of entertainment to choose from. Instead of having only a couple of channels that show the same programming every morning, today youngsters have wide variety of entertainment through online streaming of past and present TV shows and movies. This particular morning my son wanted to watch one of the many remakes of classic superhero shows. He has seen other renditions of this character many times before but this program was just discovered by him yesterday so it was still very fresh in my mind. The only problem is that, though it may be a cartoon, it was not necessarily appropriate for the viewership of a 5 year old. As I was trying to explain to him that the show was “a little too old for him” he shot back with his inquiry. “Why is it too old?”
This very simple, and very common question, really made me stop and think for a moment this morning. Just WHY is it too old? But also when did cartoons, a medium created for the entertainment of children, become so adult oriented. When I was a kid I watched this same superhero fight the bad guys and save the world but without “darker”. It really made me think of how cartoons, especially those with characters that have been fan favorites for many generations, have progressed. There has always been a moderate amount of violence, that’s not really what I’m talking about. I understand that there is a very real life battle between good and evil and that many cartoons merely mirror that. That has been the case for decades. What I am talking about is the relationship between a, presumably, children’s cartoon and a late night cable drama. In many cases, when you take out the super powers of some of the characters, these two genres are interchangeable.
As I thought more on this subject I realized that cartoons and comics have been around been around for quit a while but unlike my
generation, previous generations have “outgrown” them. I am in my 30’s and I admit, I LOVE SUPERHEROS! So do many of my contemporaries. Just look at the amount of films that have been released from Hollywood starring the classic superheros. This isn’t an altogether bad thing. After all, superheroes have a lot to teach us about what is right (though some are questionable) and teaches us that there has to be somebody to stand up to the “bad guys.” There really are a lot of great lessons to be learn from SOME of these cartoons and comics. However, as my generation has gotten older, so too has the need for more mature content. The cartoon industry then adjusts to fill that need. So instead of having “children’s” characters we now have more “adult” characters.
But how do you explain THAT to a five year old?