Should We Scare the Shit Out of Our Kids?
October 22, 2013
(The 2013 Nostalgia-Ween opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Why do we like to scare the shit out of our kids?
(Clips from various forms of media are shown)
NC (vo): In particular, I'm talking about kids' movies. (A clip of Barney the Dinosaur is shown) Yeah, we got a lot of things that are bright, bubbly, and don't have anything the least bit threatening in them. (Back to film clips) But then we have movies like Return to Oz...
(A scary moment from that movie is shown)
NC (vo): Coraline...
(Scary moments from that movie are shown)
Other Mother: You're going to stay here...forever.
NC (vo): Matilda...
(Scary moments from that movie are shown)
Miss Trunchbull: Would little Brucey come up here, please?
NC (vo): And, of course, a countless amount from several Disney animated features.
(The Headless Horseman laughs while Ichabod looks inside him and freaks out. The Disney Logo is shown above that scene, along with the NC humming that Disney logo tune. Back to various movie clips. To avoid reminding readers what the clips are all the time, here's the list of the main forms of clips shown throughout the video: Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Fantasia, Return to Oz, Para-Norman, Coraline, and Monster House. Other films that will be mentioned or shown by NC later will pop into the mix throughout as well)
NC (vo): Some of these films have warranted PG ratings, but others, mostly in Disney's case, still seem to get away with a G rating, meaning scenes like this...
(A scary scene from Snow White is shown, showing Snow White running through a scary forest)
NC (vo): ...or this...
(A scary scene from Pinocchio is shown, showing Lampwick turning into a donkey before Pinocchio's eyes)
NC (vo): ...have been deemed child-friendly for boys and girls of all ages.
NC: Bullshit! This fuck scares me even now!
(Back to film clips)
NC (vo): So why are so many scary moments not shied away from in so many kids' films? Isn't the idea of showing your kids a movie either to educate or just keep them happily entertained for a bit? Scenes like these, most kids would either cry or piss their pants at! So why are they in so many family movies? And more importantly, how come we're really not that bothered by it?
(Images of various Grimm's Fairy Tales are shown)
NC (vo): Going way back to the famous Grimm's Fairy Tales, most stories intended for children seemed to focus on the extreme dark and the extreme violent. Yeah, when you read the original Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, you'll find they're pretty fucked up. But at the very least, albeit in kind of a twisted way, they were used to scare many kids into remembering whatever life lesson it was trying to teach. Don't trust strangers, don't be too selfish, etc. So scaring kids to get a point across isn't anything new.
(Clips from Snow White are shown)
NC (vo): While some claim that Disney's renditions of these fairy tales is what sucked out the harshness from future tellings of it, still take a look at some of this imagery from, say, Snow White, their first animated feature.
(The scene of the Evil Queen being slowly turned into the Old Hag is shown)
NC (vo): This is still pretty intense for little kids! (Clips from Pluto's Judgement Day are shown) And, like I said before, Disney has never been a company that shied away from the scary moments. But what makes these moments even stranger than something like Grimm's Fairy Tales is that these aren't used to teach kids any lessons. They're usually there just to emphasize how threatening the villains are or how frightening the world can be.
NC: Hell, in some kids' movies, even that's not needed!
(The famous tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is shown)
NC (vo): I still don't know what the purpose of that freaky tunnel from Willy Wonka was all about! The director said it was just to give a hint that there was something kind of off and creepy about the chocolate factory.
Wonka: Are the fires of Hell a-glowing? (Jump-cut to him screaming) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!
NC (vo): This isn't a hint, this is a fucking jackhammer of terror into your head!
(An image of a kid being scared by Santa Claus is shown)
NC (vo): But even then, the truth is you can get across fear to a child with very little. Because they're so young, it doesn't take that much to intimidate them.
(Back to film clips, with one clip from The Polar Express being put into the mix)
NC (vo): Yet so many films go to such extremes to make sure you don't forget the frightening moments, even if it's not teaching anything and the rest of the movie is completely upbeat and friendly.
NC: So, why have them in there?
(A scary moment from Who Framed Roger Rabbit is shown, before showing posters and images from the two Alien movies)
NC (vo): Well, I started to think back to when I was little watching some of these scary scenes. Every once in a while, I hit something that was a little too intense for me, but to be fair, that was usually a PG-13 or R-rated movie.
NC (vo): But the quote/unquote "family-friendly shit-your-pants" moments I found I was scared by, but I still kept watching them. Not only that, I found I watched them a lot. I loved Return to Oz as a kid, I adored the Headless Horseman, I really enjoyed those creepy Disney moments I both dreaded and looked forward to at the same time. Never once did I ever turn off the TV.
NC: So I started to ask myself, "What did I like about them?"
NC (vo): I found there were three things I felt when watching those moments. One was an adrenaline rush.
(Various images of kids playing are shown)
NC (vo): Kids like to be excited. That's why they imagine adventures to go on and new dangers to go up against. It's thrilling and fun, it's all part of being a kid.
(Back to film clips)
NC (vo): And putting yourself in these extreme dangers leads me to the second emotion I felt: hope.
(As NC speaks, the scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, showing Eddie Valiant defeating Judge Doom, is shown)
NC (vo): We're always used to seeing the heroes in great peril, and the greater the peril, the more you want to see the hero get out of it, and the more menacing and scary the things the main character has to go through are, the more you'll appreciate the happy ending that most kids' films delivered.
(Clips from several Don Bluth movies, mainly An American Tail, are shown)
NC (vo): You can see this a lot in many Don Bluth movies. It was rumored that he used to say you can show anything to a child as long as it has a happy ending. And oddly enough, I think there is some truth to that. An American Tail, for example, has a lot of scary imagery and a lot of intense moments. In fact, it's the majority of the friggin' movie! But by God, doesn't it feel so good at the end when it's all over? Isn't that family reuniting just the most joyful thing you ever saw after being put through so much hardship?
(Scenes from Robert Zemeckis' version of A Christmas Carol are shown)
NC (vo): But the secret to making that work is balancing the scares out, and sometimes, too many dark moments can work against a movie's intentions. Disney's Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, while not an awful movie, relishes so much in the dark moments that it often forgets to let us enjoy the happy ones. (Images from the book are shown briefly) Christmas Carol is a dark story, but it balances it out with plenty of scenes relishing in the joyful spirit of humanity. Here, the dark moments are so heavy that the joyful moments are almost glanced over, so it just turns into overkill.
(Clips from Coraline are shown again)
NC (vo): Now something like Coraline, oddly enough, balances it out better because, despite the character certainly having her selfish moments, we can see what a good-hearted soul she is and how much she loves her family and what they mean to her. And on top of that, there are plenty of upbeat, whimsical moments, too. So even though it has many scary elements, it still delivers a pleasant but also intense experience.
(Back to clips from An American Tail)
NC (vo): Even Fievel in An American Tail, he's a very simple, positive, upbeat character. He's the one you follow and pulls you through all these tough, scary things you have to get by.
NC: And I guess that brings me to the final emotion I felt whenever I watched a scary moment as a kid: the appreciation of being challenged.
(A mixture of both the film clips, and clips from preschool shows, are shown)
NC (vo): We're never gonna run out of bright, simplistic stuff for kids. It's all over the place, and with good reason. We want to see our kids live happy and optimistic lives, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. But when something does come along that's different or even a little threatening, there is kind of this intrigue.
(Images of what's about to be mentioned are shown)
NC (vo): As a kid, you ask yourself, "Why isn't Secret of NIMH talking to me like how Barney talks to me? Why isn't ParaNorman talking to me the same way Dora the Explorer talks to me?"
(Back to film clips)
NC (vo): I think there's definitely times, whether kids realize it or not, when they want something more dangerous and even questioning put in front of them. Kids know there's things they're not going to understand early in life. That's why they ask their parents so many things. They ask because there's a curiosity to find out about them, and often times, we forget it's an emotional journey.
(Various children's books, and images of kids being scared and emotional, are shown)
NC (vo): These aren't the same challenges that a lot of learning programs are putting forward, like learning letters and numbers, it's challenging kids with feelings that they've possibly never felt before, and bringing those feelings into their awareness. If anything, they show it's all right to be afraid, that it's a normal part of life, and the more you can understand it or even confront it, the better off you'll probably be.
(Back to clips of Coraline)
NC (vo): Now does this mean every kid should see something as intense as Coraline? Well, it depends on the kid. Every kid is going to be afraid of something different and is going to deal with it at their own pace. What a certain three-year-old could watch with great excitement, a certain seven-year-old could still be closing their eyes at.
(Images of roller coasters are shown)
NC (vo): It's like roller coasters. You can usually tell by looking at them which one you can probably handle and which one you probably can't. But you're still given that option of subjecting yourself to that fear.
(Back to film clips)
NC (vo): You know what? Kids should, too. Parents can, of course, help out their children in discovering what they're ready to take on and what they're not, but it's important to teach that being afraid is not something to be ashamed of. Scary moments are just another part of life, and how we deal with them is very, very important. Scares are healthy for children, as long as it's moderation. It can be used to challenge, educate, and even strengthen. If we choose to keep all the fearsome threatening things away from our kids, they'll never understand how the world works. So little scenes like this dropped in every once in a while, if carefully done, I think are actually very welcomed additions. They force kids to question without being paranoid, allowing them to be cautious without being terrified, making them realize that there are scary things in the world, but there's also a lot of good things, too. So, as long as frightening moments is being done for one of those reasons, I personally say there's absolutely nothing wrong with scaring the shit out of your kids.
(The Headless Horseman is shown throwing his pumpkin at the camera)
NC: Especially if we all know that these things are not gonna scare us years later. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remem--
(The Headless Horseman suddenly appears again and laughs, causing NC to shriek and run out of the room. The credits roll)