Kung Fu Panda

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.

Like.. where do babies come from?

Like.. where do babies come from?

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.)

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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

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Gran Torino

When I think of death in movies, I always think of the movie Gran Torino. Gran Torino was about an old man, Clint Eastwood, who lived in a bad neighborhood where crime rates were very high. He was a war veteran, very strong and tough. One of the teenage boys in the neighborhood tries to steal Eastwood’s car to be initiated into a gang, but Eastwood catches him in the act. The boy’s mom makes him go help Eastwood around the house to be forgiven for the bad he has done. Eastwood hated the thought at first, but let him help anyway. Eastwood grows to like the young boy, and unfortunately in the end, dies for him and his family.

The movie portrayed death as an act of honor or dying heroically for someone else. The young boy had a problem with gangs, such as getting beat up, and the boy’s sister got raped by a few people in the gang, also. Eastwood knew that this problem was never going to stop, so in order to save the family, he went to the gang neighborhood. Eastwood went without a gun, but acted like he had one. He was shot by every gang member, and the members were put in jail, never able to bother the family again. This, however, is misleading since in the real-word, people often die from illnesses or accidents. Far fewer people die for the sake of others, like Clint Eastwood did in this movie.  Although, I do think the media portrayal had some helpful concepts of death in it, such as the grieving process that people go through when someone dies. When the boy and his family got the news, they ran down to the ambulance. They all were crying hysterically. This part is a lot like the real world because a lot of crying is involved when someone dies.

This movie did support the idea that America is a “death denying” culture. Throughout the entire movie, Clint Eastwood is coughing up blood. The viewers of this movie also saw that he smoked, which was probably causing him to cough up blood. So, during the movie, every viewer knew that Clint Eastwood had some illness, and he was going to die soon. Every viewer denied that he would die in the movie. He could solve any and every problem, and he was too strong of a man to die. Every viewer hoped to see him live. When Clint Eastwood died, not by illness, but by gunshot wound, saving the ones he cared about, it was still hard for the viewers to process this. Every viewer grew fond of Clint Eastwood and denied the fact that he was going to die. Society makes it seem like the people you are fond of are not going to die, and people do not have to worry about that. People grow close to others and deny the fact that their loved ones will die someday. Society sweeps the “death talk” under the rug and decides not to think or talk about it. Society likes to think that death only happens in the movies, until it actually affects us.