Oct 11

Safe is harder than it seems


Safe and positive - my goals for Fluffy Gardens.

Children are sensitive beings and often can’t express just how sensitive they are. It’s hard sometimes as a parent (and programme-maker) to know what effect a show, even one like Fluffy Gardens, will have on their children.

For example, I bought a Bert & Ernie’s Great Adventures DVD for my daughter, Daisy. I love Bert & Ernie and all things Sesame Street and really loved how they translated to stop-motion. But the intro alone was enough to freak my daughter out ‘ the idea that, when she’s in bed, her bed could grow legs and take her out of the house?

Even as I write that, it makes perfect sense to me how that could scare the bejaysus out of a child. It could just as easily been a scene in one of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. One of the later ones, when they went rubbish. Though not New Nightmare ‘ that one was pretty good. And Freddy Vs. Jason rocked hard.

But back to children, it’s just so hard to know sometimes. There’s a show out there that I love, that really gets across the value of teamwork. But it does so as the characters rescue baby animals who have been separated from their parents. I have to wonder about the effect the show has on separation anxiety and what fears it plays into.

See how hard it is?

That’s why it’s so important to try to look at shows from many different angles, both as a parent and a programme-maker. And why Fluffy Gardens was so tricky at times (and I certainly didn’t always get it right).

Safe and positive.

Life isn’t always like that of course. But I wish it were.

2 thoughts on “Safe is harder than it seems

  1. Andy Latham

    I read in a book once that the reason people enjoy putting themselves through the torment of a horror film is the same as the reason they enjoy going to watch any film. And that reason, the book said, was that we learn from the films. Presumably with horror, we find some subconscious satisfaction in learning how to avoid death.

    Now is this something that could be applicable to a preschool show in a milder way? What I mean is, is it possibly to have some kind of show with a difficult subject that the child nevertheless enjoys watching?

  2. Jay Post author

    Well I’m not sure I agree with the horror film interpretation for starters. I think it’s more that people simply enjoy experiencing emotion and fear is one of the most basic there is. It’s the same with any genre though – if people are not moved emotionally, a film will usually fail. I’m really unconvinced that there is much to learn from horror movies. I could be proven wrong when the zombie apocalypse comes though…

    Some books for young children tackle specific fears (fear of the dark etc. and even more deeper, darker fears). They’re very helpful for parents with children experiencing those fear. But they’re a little like medicine – you wouldn’t prescribe them for children who don’t have those fears already.

    Take Monsters Inc. as an example. A child scared of monsters might come out of that film thinking monsters are funny and silly and now not scary at all. But a whole bunch of children who never even thought of monsters are now introduced to the concept of things coming through their wardrobes and trying to scare them – a fear is created where there wasn’t one before.

    As it happens, children often seem to be drawn to scary things. Perhaps there is some primal instinct to tackle fears. But research has shown that it really isn’t good for them – scary television can lead to sleep problems, nervousness and what they call ‘mean world syndrome’. Basically a child will develop the perception that the world is a mean and scary place. The result of that is a tendency to strike first.

    That’s something that applies to adults too. Many adults tend to overestimate the amount of violent crime, for example. When there are so many cop shows showing all sorts of crazies, why wouldn’t we?


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