Kid Flicks Slowly Killing off Parents
Written by Markella Mildenberger
Who doesn’t enjoy a great, adventure filled and morale boosting movie these days? With all the negative, life altering circumstances surrounding the world, it’s nice to let go of reality for a couple hours and delve into a great movie, especially with children. It’s a great way to enjoy and explore imagination and challenge their intellects, with limits of course. Our family enjoys a movie night once a week, we all slip into our pajamas and robes, pop a bowl of popcorn, grab a cozy blanket and curl up with each other as our four year old debates over which movie he would like to watch for his weekly treat.
Over the last few years I have had the privilege of sharing these moments and enjoying the ritual we have created. However, there is one ritual among our movie nights that I could do with less of. Had it not been for my son, it would have taken me a much longer time to notice what was right in front of us, right in front of so many families watching “family” movies together. A large number, and when I say large, I find it alarmingly large; of these family movies have eliminated a parent. I certainly don’t have a problem with single parent homes, in fact I, like many people out there was raised in a single parent home, as was my husband and so many of our friends and relatives. A single parent family is certainly becoming more frequent in the twenty first century, and many of us have adapted to this, as have our children. So, “who cares”, you ask? Our kids care. My son was the one asking the questions, each time the opportunity presented itself in one of the movies, he was quick to ask where the mother was, what had happened to her, did she die, did she leave, was she sick? Why did Chicken Little’s father look at the picture of his mother on the wall and sigh? Where is his mother? We can only assume.
When we look at the films without one parent, or both, we are lead to assumptions. Generally speaking, the parent has died, so we can assume. There hasn’t been separation by divorce, there isn’t a parent working out of town, most of the time the missing parent is hardly given a mention, maybe a fleeting glance or a quick memory from one of the characters, and that’s it.
Is this what the movie industry has reduced parents to? Not worth the mention? We forget how brilliant our children are. They may not mention the missing parent, or they might ask questions. We are so concerned about all the other subliminal messages on television, in their movies, the sexual innuendos, the controversial graphics in some of the films in the 1990’s, the violence, the inappropriate language. When have we mentioned that movies are largely eliminating the need for parents? What kind of message are our children receiving from this?
I started sifting through the collection of movies that we own, to see how many I could find with this “eliminated” parent underlying the film. Here is what I discovered;
Bambi– His mother dies and he in turn must be raised by the Great Prince of the Forest
Peter Pan– Peter has no desire for any parents, but the theme of having Wendy is that The Lost Boys need a mother. Further, Wendy and her brothers escape to Neverland with Peter to be free of their parents, only to realize they miss them and need them. Peter remains in his realm of childhood without parents.
The Fox and The Hound– Tobys mother is killed early in the film. Where was his father to begin with? He is raised by some area animals and an elderly woman.
Beauty and The Beast– Belle is close to her father. There is no mention at all of her mother.
Ratatouille– Linguine’s mother dies, this is the only mention of her. Linguine is Gutos illigitamate son, Gusto dies, but his story is present throughout the film.
Finding Nemo– Nemos mother Coral, dies early on in the film. This is the only mention of her.
Chicken Little-The only mention of his mother comes when Chicken Littles’ father gazes at her photograph on the wall and sighs. There is no mention of her otherwise.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs– There is significant memory of his mother, but again we can assume her death as she becomes a memory and her presence is eliminated.
Snow White– Snow White has no parents. We have no story of her family, just that she is cared for by the Seven Dwarfs.
The Lion King– Simba’s father is killed in the middle of movie. There is more significance surrounding his father.
How to Train Your Dragon– There is again no mention of Hiccups mother. Hiccup is raised by his father.
The Princess and the Frog- Her father is not present at all in the movie, just as a memory, but the story of his dreams is preserved and themed throughout the movie.
Toy Story- Andy’s mother is present in all 3 movies. There is no mention of his father.
The Little Mermaid- Ariel’s father is present throughout the movie, but there is no mention of her mother.
The Sword and The Stone- Arthur has no parents and is forced to live with his brute of an Uncle.
Dumbo- There is no mention of Dumbos father. Dumbos mother is present throughout the movie.
Lilo and Stitch– Both parents have died and Lilo is raised by her older sister.
The Tale of Desperaux- The Princesses mother dies in her soup early in the movie. Her father, the King is so distraught he cannot even cope and speak with his daughter.
Kung Fu Panda- Po has a clearly adopted father, but there is no mention of a mother.
My list continued and continued. See for yourself, search children’s movies on the internet, of the ones that you have watched start to make your own list and see how many of them have quietly eliminated a parent.
I was rudely awakened to the effect this had on my son when watching Bambi one evening he said to me, “ It’s ok that mommies die because we have daddies and they are stronger anyway, like Bambi’s daddy.” To say that wasn’t a dagger right into my heart would be a lie, but I quickly recovered and we discussed the importance of both mommies and daddies and how sometimes, one parent might not be able to be around. Thanks a lot Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks….and all the others that are making our kids grow up faster than they should.
I certainly don’t think removing everything from our children’s lives will solve anything, and I also don’t believe that sugar coating or pretending death or divorce doesn’t exist is appropriate either. What I do believe is that as parents who are involved in our children’s lives, we need to actively discuss these issues with our kids. I certainly don’t want to be remembered with a sign and a small glance and every once in a while a quick memory. I don’t see too many children’s films reflecting how close a parent and child relationship is, how deeply parents love their children and how that bond translates into their lives.
As mentioned, a few movies here and there aren’t the issue. It’s the frequency they are produced and the quantity and the rationale? Why is the story so much better by getting rid of a parent that is barely worth a mention?
I know it’s the parents that buy and rent the movies, who make the ultimate decision if their child will watch the movie or not. Film makers beware, although children press to see the movie, it’s their parent’s wallets that you’re really after, don’t forget about that.