My recent posts on the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender has reminds me of the fact that the lines between children’s entertainment and adult entertainment are often artificial. I was about four years old when I watched the film adaptation of Watership Down. People will often emphatically say that Watership Down is not for children, but it sure held my attention. Yes, it is serious and violent, but also beautiful. A four-year-old is capable of understanding the beauty of the film.
When I was eleven I went with a freind to a video rental store (you see, we used to have these stores where you could rent VHS tapes, which were like DVDs except more like a cassette… oh never mind.) We were looking for an action movie, preferably rated R (these stores were not very particular about ratings systems) when I saw Watership Down. Somehow I convinced my skeptical freind to rent it. When we got home and popped it the VCR I wondered if I had made a mistake. My recollections were sketchy; I couldn’t remember the movie itself as much as the effect it had on me. What if it turns out to be stupid? What made me think that a movie I enjoyed at four would would engage me as a middle-schooler? Worse, what if my freind thought it was stupid?
When the movie ended my friend turned to me and said that was awesome! I agreed. A couple of weeks later I read the book, which was even awesomer, and have read it a few times since.
As a teenager I noticed that many “family” movies were not in fact marketed towards families as a whole but towards families as a random collection of atomized and somewhat stupid individuals. You have some potty jokes for the 6-10 year olds, some cleavage shots for the teenage boys, and double-entendres that only mom and dad would get, resulting in a steaming pile of crap that “the whole family can enjoy”.
I then formulated Dpmonahan’s Law of Children’s Entertainment: if an intelligent adult can’t enjoy it then it isn’t worth showing it to kids. As I aged I realized there are corollaries: 1) if a kid really likes something, adults should at least be open minded to it, and 2) if an adult would not allow a kid to see or read something, he should ask himself if perhaps he should not be watching it himself: sure, an adult has more maturity and discretion, but he is also better at self-justification.