I finally got to see Frozen yesterday. It was a refreshing change from Disney’s damsels in distress, good vs. evil dichotomies, and other cliches. What bothers me, is what I find refreshing, is exactly what some other parents seem to be complaining about. I’ve seen several posts, blogs, and articles claiming that children do not have the cognitive functions to understand the “subtle nuances” portrayed in a movie like Frozen. Without a clear hero or villain, these people claim that children will become confused, and disoriented. I beg to differ, as I often do.
First, I want people to remember their own childhoods. I may be a bit of an old fart, but I remember quite a bit of my childhood. I remember what I thought, and how I felt. I even remember my thought processes, in some instances, that brought me to certain conclusions. For example: In fifth grade I used to walk via a specific route every day. Along this route there was a girl who would walk home from another school. She appeared to be in her teens, and pregnant. I spoke to her often, and it was clear to me that she had some learning impairment. As a child, I thought that someone had probably taken advantage of her mental condition to get her pregnant. I tried to subtly inquire about her situation, though I knew it was none of my business. I wanted to get her help if she needed it, but I wanted to be sure she needed it first. Unfortunately, I was not able to find that information before I stopped seeing her walking. I remember feeling conflicted. I was a child, so someone else’s sexual experiences were none of my business, period. But, this girl did not seem like she was capable of making those kinds of decisions on her own. I was afraid to tell anyone, because what if I was wrong?
In our imaginative play we do a lot more than just create villains to fight. We used to create entire worlds, whole different times and places, and all new species of creatures. I used to wonder about everything. On long road trips I remember sitting in the car, then catching a glimpse of a child in another car, then wondering what it would be like to be that child. I would imagine riding in that car, then imagine what that child’s house would look like, based on what the car looked like. Then I’d try to imagine his/her room, and so on.
After what I was capable of as a child, the concept that children are incapable of cognitive thought is ludicrous.
Now look at real life. At what point is everything black and white? At what point, in real life, is there a clear hero and villain? I’ll tell you, hardly ever. Almost everything in life is a matter of perception. Sure, every now and then you have a cannibalistic serial killer that really can’t be painted in a positive light, but that is rare.
As parents it is our job to prepare our children for what lies ahead of them in the real world. If we shelter them from the truth, only allow them to see the world in black and white, and not let them see the subtle nuances that are there, are we really preparing them? No. What we are doing is setting them up for disappointment, and even failure.
We need to remember that not only are children capable of cognitive thought, they can decipher subtle nuances, too. Parents should already know this. How many times have you been at your breaking point–everything has just gone all wrong, nothing is getting done, your 2 year-old is pushing all of your buttons right up until that point where you’re about to lose it…that’s when that same 2 year-old does the cutest thing in the world, and balance seems to be restored to your upside-down world.
If we teach our children that there are no true “villains” in the world, but there are a lot of selfish people, and some of them are willing to do really bad things to get what they want, our children can not only look out for themselves, but have empathy for other people, even ones who are driven to do bad things. If we teach our children that heroes are not people who hurt people while trying to save others, or ones who “sacrifice” themselves for the “greater good,” or some BS like that, but someone who shows love and compassion when others don’t…in fact, they show love and compassion in the face of hate, bigotry, and persecution.
We must teach our children that there is no good vs. evil dichotomy. What is there for them, is life. Their lives are their own. They can make anything they want out of those lives, as long as we, as parents, don’t limit their ideas, their creativity, and their cognitive thinking.