Monday, April 18, 2011

The Narnia Debate: or, Kids vs. Adults

"Make 'em think, Blondie." Even kids'
films are trying to tell us something.
But can we figure it out?
The other day I was reading this post over at Erinn’s blog and yesterday, it popped into my head again. You see, up until yesterday I’d been firmly convinced that being an adult runs circles around being a kid. Sure, I know all the usual arguments: lack of responsibility, freedom of imagination, ability to wear awesome Elmo backpacks without irony... but I was still convinced that being an adult was several hundred times better than being a kid.

And then yesterday I sat down to watch Disney’s latest movie Tangled, having heard how wonderful it was, and my sister said to me, “Wow, now I want to watch old Disney movies.” Without thinking I replied, “me too.” At this we shared a look; what were we thinking? We were two mature, intelligent and – though I say so myself – not unattractive young women... and all we wanted to do of a Sunday afternoon was sit down and watch kid’s films. At first I was dreadfully embarrassed, but then I began to think to myself... maybe being a kid isn’t so bad after all.

And, because being a kid isn’t so bad after all, I’ll admit that after a few hours we sat down and re-watched Tangled, and enjoyed it even more than the first viewing.
There comes a low point in every person's
life when they realise it is no longer socially
acceptable to wear an Elmo backpack.
Even ironically.
But during my second viewing I began to follow lines of thought I’d tried to block out the first time round. Being a Literature student my brain has, for years, been geared to analysis and deconstruction, to the point where, according to my sister, ‘I can’t just enjoy watching something anymore, because I have to look for meanings in everything.’ Perhaps that’s true. But I couldn’t stop myself from trying to pull apart the threads of what was, in all honesty, a really great film.

And that’s when I realised... sure, being a kid is great, but isn’t being an adult better? Every day we are bombarded with ideas buried in texts and images. As children we don’t have the capacity to break down these ideas or think about what a movie or a book is trying to tell us. For instance, I had no idea growing up that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles actually preached, to some extent, Christian theology.

"Something tells me patriarchal ideology isn't quite
dead yet."
And yet... in this dilemma I will hereby nickname ‘The Narnia Debate’, you have to ask if it really matters. Does the fact that books and movies try to mould our impressionable young minds and espouse ideas we disagree with necessarily detract from the fact that they’re just great stories? Looking at Narnia with the innocence of a child all I saw was an incredibly awesome story about a bunch of kids, an enchanted world, and a few dragons thrown in for good measure. Sure, as kids we’re impressionable, but I can attest to the fact that after reading and re-reading Narnia as a child I wasn’t even remotely persuaded to join a church or go to a Sunday school. Re-reading Narnia last year I picked up on so much I hadn’t when I was young. And yet, against all the odds, I still enjoyed the story of Narnia.

"Who says you can't still get a great story out of us?
"No, seriously, who said it? The pointy end of
my sword would like to meet them."
At the end of the day I wouldn’t want to be a kid again. Even if I’m unaffected by the ideas a text advocates, I still appreciate the ability to deconstruct; to see the way people want me to think and the way they go about trying to achieve it. Best of all, at the end of the day – and despite the belief that breaking down a text means you can’t enjoy it – I can still recognise a great story when I see it, and enjoy it even more, perhaps, because I understand what it’s trying to say to me.
What about you? Are you nostalgic for the Days of the Old School Yard? Or are you all for being All Grown Up?


  1. Ahh.. kids movies rock. I love watching them with my kids-- it's the perfect excuse!

  2. So true. I used to use my sister as an excuse (I still remember going to see Happy Feet in the cinema!) but nowadays she's 'all grown up' too. Luckily she still loves a good cartoon as well. :)

  3. I have to admit, I'm a pretty immature adult, which in my mind is totally fine. What saddens me is the overly mature kids. I mentor an at-risk 10 year old. Somehow the powers that be think watching Disney movies with me and hanging out at playgrounds once a week is going to stop this kid from joining a gang. She's a cool kid, but some of the stuff she says is way more R rated than anything I would even think. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, being a kid is fun so stop trying to grow-up so fast already. But that might not work so well. So I take her to watch movies like Tangled instead and hope she figures it out on her own.

  4. I kind of agree that kids should be left to be kids as long as they like. It's sad when they're exposed to all sorts of 'adult stuff' they don't have the capacity to deal with at that age.