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Cartoons and You | Bigger on the Inside

TeenTitansTogether
“Teen Titans”, like many cartoons that appeal to older kids and adults, has its good points…and stuff that we talk about with our kids.

 

It’s no secret that most cartoons are for kids these days—in fact, there are many people who, upon seeing animation, believe that any given cartoon must be for kids. Not so…

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Cartoons are awesome!!!

I’m routinely told by other adults, “I don’t watch cartoons anymore.”  Their loss, I say!  Cartoons are some of my favorite entertainment, and I love kids’ cartoons.  In fact, when the kids wander off and I still have them on, I get a pleading look and a semi-desperate question from my husband, “Do we have to keep watching this? The kids are in bed…”

Jen Schlameuss-Perry writes on the intersection of faith and science fiction, comics, and other geek media.
When newcomers to the Doctor’s TARDIS first board the time-and-space travel machine, most of them say a variation of, “It’s bigger on the inside!” From without, it looks like a normal British police call box, but on the inside it’s infinite in size. This is not unique to the TARDIS—nothing transcends time and space like stories! Books, TV shows, movies, video games, comic books, music—they all contain way more than what appears at face value. This blog will glance into the deeper world of various media; particularly those consumed by kids. It’s not my place to tell parents what their kids should or shouldn’t watch or listen to, but I will tease out themes (be they useful or harmful), trends and faith images for your consideration. —Jen

The first cartoons were made for adults.  Naturally, they had appeal for all ages, but the jokes, references and subject matter were pretty grown up.  Even now, cartoon movies consistently add jokes “for parents” that are just plain messed up. My eldest son recently warned me that there were some very inappropriate things in the Disney movie, Cars (apparently, he thinks his mom is as virginal and innocent as the BVM). He was shocked at what he now understood.

Besides the fact that cartoons are some of the best stuff on TV, I’m at a particular advantage for liking them. Many parents, trusting that “it’s a kids’ show” will let their children watch cartoons without giving any thought to their message or content. Time and time again, I have been surprised, disappointed and, at times, horrified by some of the stuff marketed directly to children.

An Opportunity For Discussion

My kids aren’t very young—they’re 15 and 12—so we aren’t watching pre-k shows. The shows that are directed at their ages (and younger kids, too) include themes and issues that older kids are likely dealing with in school and social settings, like dating, relationships, attraction to others, parties, moral dilemmas, and problem solving. Except that some of the ways that these themes are presented are not what I want modeled for my children (especially since one is getting to an age when dating is an actual possibility), I’m always glad for the opportunity to have a chat about what they are seeing, what we believe, how they feel about it and how they might deal with it if they find themselves in this situation.

A Case Study: Teen Titans

I will illustrate. Have you seen Teen Titans? The art is gorgeous, it’s about superheroes, so that’s good, and it’s aimed at an older audience. It’s really good.

Then, there’s Teen Titans Go. The art is brightly colored and babyish, it’s fast paced, loud, and has a lot of physical comedy—it’s clearly for little guys.  And, it’s hilarious (particularly the episode “40% 40% 20%”). And it’s super inappropriate at times. The Titans, who are supposed to be heroes, behave in very unheroic ways; in fact, there are several episodes where they are more the bad guys than the villains are.

Talking about it

When we were just beginning to get to know the show, my 12-year-old commented about how oversexualized it was (naturally, he didn’t use those words). I agreed and we talked about why the writers might have put that in, what effect it might have on kids, and whether it was a good show for us to watch.

Sometimes my husband and I are conflicted (even with one another) about which shows we would not like the kids to watch—some of them are on the edge of being unsavory, but don’t quite hit the mark. Others are blatantly immoral and have been banned. (Still others were banned for just being stupid.) We have always been selective about what media enters our house, and we still are, but as the kids grow, and ride the school bus, and are in the locker room (proverbial and literal), I can’t keep their little ears and eyes as protected as my son seems to think mine are.

Does that mean we chuck all of our standards? Certainly not. But when we come across something that isn’t in line with the values our family tries to live, we are sure as heck going to talk about it.

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Pastoral Associate

Jen is a massive fan of all things Sci-fi, Superheroes and Cartoons. These things, more than any other, occupy her mind & keyboard as she ponders them through the lens of her Catholic Faith. Jen is a Pastoral Associate for a Catholic Church, a wife, and mother of two boys.

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