Disney makes a lot of great movies for families. Growing up, my friends and I learned a lot from Disney films like never giving up. In fact, I think most parents relied on Disney to teach their children about life– you know, things that are awkward for adults to explain.
Anyways, Disney does a fine job demonstrating life principles and moral concepts. But, what about the idea of death?
Truthfully, Disney is not the greatest presenter of death. Most beloved Disney movies have violent depictions of death. These movie titles include: The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Bambi, Tarzan, and The Incredibles. In Tarzan, for example, the villian Clayton entangles himself in a mass of vines in an attempt to kill Tarzan for thwarting his plans. Clayton slashes away mindlessly with a machete to free himself. Unknowingly, a vine ropes around his neck like a noose and kills him. His hanging body could be seen swaying as a shadow against a tree. Such image misleads children to believe that all death is horrific. The fact that Clayton’s death is covered up and shown as a shadow conveys the idea that death is taboo and it should not be embraced. The images support the idea that America is a “death denying culture”.
But death should not be seen as scary. And not all deaths occur as tragic accidents (unless you are in a Final Destination movie).
A kid-friendly movie which depicts death in a more helpful way is Kung Fu Panda (Sorry, Disney fans.)
In the movie, the death of the wise Master Oogway (it means “tortoise” in Chinese) is metaphorically represented, which opposes other literal approaches. In the scene, Master Oogway announces, “My time has come”, which shows a personal acceptance of his fate. This acceptance shows the younger audience that death will happen to everybody and that it should be embraced.
Master Oogway used the peach seed as a metaphor for the cycle of life and the eventual coming of death. One can not force the peach seed to grow on its own; likewise, you cannot force death to stop, because it is not something you can control.
Before Master Oogway ascends in the form of flower petals, he gives Master Shi Fu his cane. This represents the leaving of physical materials once one dies (Fun fact: “Shi Fu” means, “master” in Chinese, so his name is “Master Master”!) The movie shows death to be peaceful. Although it is not a clear physical explanation of death, the emotional approach to death is well-explained here.
Do you think cartoon films with dramatic deaths are better for kids? Or do you think the ideal, normal types of death would be more beneficial for children? Maybe neither? Tell me why!
Here is the clip of Master Oogway’s gentle passing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE1_q754Xxk