Monday, September 17, 2012

No Wonder He's Wonderful

"Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don't remember what it's like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won't do that."
-Walt Disney
I love this quote. It sums up almost everything I've ever wanted to say about youth. With an outlook like that, it's no wonder Disney was able to create the best children's shows in the history of motion pictures. If only more people could see the world the way be did. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Troubled to Bubbled

I've heard countless complaints on how teenagers these days are pathetic wimps who don't know how to work. It gets annoying. All that whining, and yet the complainers can't be bothered to look into why youth works the way it does today.
At first, childhood was like the picture above. Children dressed like adults, worked like adults, and faced the consequences of adulthood. Back in the middle ages, you could be hanged for theivery at the ripe old age of seven (Oh, but surely they never enforced that. All children were angels back in the day). Toddlers drank weak bear because the water wasn't clean. Girls were married in their teens. And of course, there was also time for play.                                                                           
Time passed. Generations rose and fell. Then came the Revolution. The Industrial one. Families moved from farms to cities. Kids still worked, but now there were factories.
14 hour days? Typical. Street orphans? Common as gutter trash. Many of them resorted to crime to make a living. Yes, they had seven year old thieves back then too.
Then came the reformers. Some were young strikers. Others men like Lewis Hine, who went undercover to take those two factory photos. "That's right, Mr. Factory Owner sir. I'm here to photograph the machinery. Now stand that little girl up against that big hulk of metal over there so they can tell how big it is."
And a lot of them were women-usually rich women-with their newfangled notions. Like females voting. They also pushed for the child's right to a childhood. The right to not work 14 hours in a dusty, smoky factory. The right to a proper home. The right to safety. The right to an education.
After a while, their ideas started to catch on. Child labor laws were passed and virtually ignored until the Great Depression when the adults really needed the jobs.
Children began to be protected. Sheltered. Pampered. And somewhere along the line, society forgot that a seven year old used to be old enough for the fields and factories and gallows. Now that's responsibility. They abided to the new rules until the world became the way it is today.
Children under twelve have their own menus in restaurants. That way they won't have to eat grown-up food. And when they're done with those chicken nuggets, they can play in the restaurant's play area. So long as they play the right way. No scaling the outside of the slide.

Forget rag dolls and sticks to amuse them. They can have toys, hundreds of them!
And they can sit in front of the TV to watch educational television. Preschool just isn't hardcore enough. They need to be studying the alphabet, the shapes, the colors, basic science, and a few random words in foreign languages during every spare moment.
Eventually, they'll realize these shows are pretty stupid and preachy. They'll graduate to sitcoms directed at tweens, always with a moral following the zany scheme. Don't sneak out of the house in the middle of the night and go to a party. Don't lie to your friends. Don't cheat on a test. Don't fall for the wrong guy.
And thank you, beloved sponsors, for allowing us to broadcast these delightful shows in sixteen different languages! Now buy their products. And while you're buying those, buy our stuff too!
Fellow 14-year-olds on a shirt
Carry a backpack with the name of a school you've never seen and students who don't exist.

Play and education are both such crucial things, why not smush them together? Have babies shove green square pegs into green square holes. If you're putting together an animal puzzle, have the animals hold up cards with the letters of the alphabet.
And then if they really can't think of a way to attach it to the stuff you learn in elementary school, they'll throw out the mental terms just to remind you how important development is.
Sharing practice! Reasoning skills! Problem solving! Social language! Self esteem! Overall growth and development! Don't let today's generation become disadvantaged in the global economy!
Seriously. I have seen that last one used.
So, has the world grown to cater to children? They do get specialized food, clothes, and media. 
But no voice. 
There's an old saying some people still use-"Hire a young carpenter but an old physician." That pretty much sums up how people looked at youth centuries ago. Not the wisest they'll ever be, but strong and hardy, perfect for manual labor. Instead of miniature adults, children are now supposed to be unformed adults. Undeveloped. Immature. Irresponsible. Everything positive with a negative prefix shoved onto the front. 
The toys and menus are outgrown. But even as teenagers, we're classified as "young". Vulnerable. Defiant. At risk, every one of us, because this gritty world is so different from the one our ancestors grew up in. 
Next time you're about to launch into that same tired rant about the imperfections of teenagers these days, stop. Think. Is the world really better? Different, yes, but better? In what way?
What did you do as a teenager? Would you like to go back?
"Just look around at the world we're inheriting
And think of the one we'll create."
-Newsies, Broadway version

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Movies

Young adult literature has come a long way. Teen music, on the other hand, has started to diminish. Justin Bieber and anybody from Disney have fans more in their tweens. We're right in the middle, so we just listen to whatever we want. The same goes for TV shows, only not as many people can tolerate cheesy Disney Channel shows past the age of thirteen. The internet is anybody's game.
What's left? Movies. I cannot not name a single good movie written for teenagers. I think I can sum them all up for you. Let's see...Outcast Kid lives life at the bottom of the high school popularity ladder with a small but loyal group of friends. Two of them, usually. Outcast is constantly bullies by Jock (if male) or School Diva (if female). They quietly crush on Jock (if female) or School Diva (if male) but don't dare talk to said crush because he/she is dating a horribly wrong, horribly attractive person.
Bells ring exactly when you need them to, cafeteria lunch consists largely of mystery meat, and everybody has enough time in between class to act out entire scenes in front of the lockers.
With a sudden twist of fate, Outcast is propeled to the top of the food chain and gets their dream date. Not surprisingly, Jock or Diva turns out to be a jerk. Outcast realizes they were actually in love with their best friend all along and everything works out perfectly by prom.
How did I do?
Sadly, most teen movies are horrible. Book adaptions are exceptions. But even those tend to fail miserably.

But not all of them do. Some become cult classics and you either love or hate.

Let's face it. Young adult literature isn't strictly for teenagers. Adults saw those too.
So what do we watch? Lots of kids movies. Many of these are adaptions as well.

And then the normal, adult movies.

What do you see here? More adaptions. Is anybody original? Yes, Disney, I'm looking at you.
Come to think of it, all superhero movies are based off other superhero movies, which were based on comics. And who were the comic books written for? Kids. Of course, nobody reads those now. Just graphic novels and manga.
And then all big movies are rated PG-13 or R, so younger, Batman adoring audiences can't see them. Adults seem to have forgotten what it's like to be too young for a movie. You think they'd make things kid enjoy, like Spiderman, into movies they're allowed to watch.
And who picked 13 and 17 for the cutoff dates? I've looked over rating systems used around the world. 12 and 16 are popular numbers. At least America's system isn't complicated. Some countries have up to four different classifications between 10 to 18. Most countries, including America, are supposed to check for identification. But I've never had to that for a PG-13 movie, even though I've always looked three years younger than my actual age and I usually go to movies with friends a grade or two below me.
Some so called "teen movies" have no teenagers at all. Jennifer Lawrence is 21, five years older than Katniss. But Suzanne Collins selected her so I have no problem with that. Robert Pattison is 26, which is actually young for Edward's 107. But then we have actors like Cory Monteith from Glee, age 30. Jason Earles from Hannah Montana played Jackson while he was 34. That's old enough to have your own teenagers. Grow up already.
With stuff like this made for us, is it any wonder we stick to the "normal" movies?