I, like many parents, have been horrified by the creeping propaganda infesting children’s culture which recently plumbed new depths in a “cartoon” depicting the sexual assault of a fairy princess by Prince Charming.
This was widely shared by organisations like Amnesty International, allegedly as part of the #MeToo movement seemingly in an attempt to raise awareness of the need for mutual sexual consent.
Of course, any parent in their right mind supports the aim of programmes and campaigns designed to improve the safety and security of our children. That isn’t my concern. What troubles me, as the title of this blog alludes, is the corruption of innocence and the erosion of childhood by the people behind this early-years targeting approach.
The cartoon in question depicts the archetypal Disney-esque Princess, a sort of mashup of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, in a deep sleep in a classic forest glade. She is then approached by the archetypal Disney Prince who first kisses and then, to use the street phraseology, clearly begins to “finger” her.
The message is clear and obvious once they over-lay the street patois and interject the chat about “meeting at a party” etc? But my biggest objection is that it would have been far more powerful and far less cynical to have made a film about teenagers for teenagers deploying the tropes, medium and platforms that relate directly to teenagers. But, I guess the issue is, they probably wouldn’t have stirred up the same controversy and outrage leading to the “buzz” the juvenile social media drivers seem to dictate.
The pressing questions I have with this cynical approach to alleged education is “where are the grown ups?” or “why has nobody stepped in to question the wisdom here?”.
The Disney Princess demographic is probably age 3-11. Like it or not, however, children are finding ways to access the internet using our devices a lot earlier than they should be. Children of that age range will see this!
Parents are most likely to be reading fairytales and stories to their children at that age. So are you ready for the “fanny banging” chat at bedtime?
Oddly, if you’re like the vast majority of parents and want to stimulate their imaginations and cultivate mysticism and magic and romance for as long as you can while gently and carefully introducing values, wisdom and life skills, you do not want teenage or other extreme propagandists dictating this for you.
It used to irritate me watching advertisements during children’s prime time tv that are devoid of male role-models, all aimed at mothers. It disappointed me watching children’s tv programmes in which Dads are the perpetual idiots and butt of all jokes or superhero movies devoid of female role models. And I thought I had seen it all when I was forced to introduce positive male characters into certain stories like Mermaid SOS while reading them to the children as THEY were asking where the boys were?
But then I watched Maleficent, the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty by Angelina Jolie, infamous for her personal family issues, and had to spend days reassuring the children that there were “good men in the world” after all, “honestly”.
The use of fairytales as moral exemplars and ways of conveying the values of the times is nothing new. If you read the classics in their original form, they echo the big issues of their age, be they the danger of strangers, the difficult relations within extended families or the impact of dangerous play, disease, war or famine. And yes, they do deal with relations between the genders and romantic love as a bastion of stable society. These classics have been adapted down the years to suit changing mores and norms. But we now appear to be going way too far too fast.
What is it saying about our society when stories aimed at 3-11 year olds depict explicit sexual assault? Well, clearly, it sends very mixed messages via a format, the fairy story that should be a safe, innocent space in a world that seems to have fewer oasis of calm and innocence by the day.
This trend towards sexualiising children and the undermining of their innocence through excessive involvement in adult matters is, in my view, considerably concerning given the fact that children are increasingly portrayed as disaffected and unhappy in virtually every opinion poll. I believe the same applies to the abuse of “wishes and feelings” reports used in child arrangements disputes. Adults are forcing children into positions where they are having to choose between parents underpinned by a mistaken belief that they are both neutral and empowered enough to make decisions that are only fit for adults. It is actually damaging to the children and completely misses the point that it is impossible for the child to be objective as they are being controlled by the parent with whom they spend most of their time and who has control over their schooling, relationships and key activities.
So what can we , as parents, do about this relentless rape of innocence?
A few quick and simple things.
- If you still have influence over your children, then please do monitor what they are watching and reading and when. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure they get a balanced picture in line with YOUR core values. Set parental controls on social media and devices and get rid of and/or have conversations about messaging that you believe is contrary to your beliefs.
- Source great stories or tales in films and books that support a balanced view and ensure these are easily available. I always had a great selection of the classics to supplement the inevitable Disney and sought out authors that I believe portrayed healthy role models. Ian Buckingham’s Legend of the Lost is a current case in point.
- Make your voice heard and complain about the buzz-feeding nonsense like the latest campaign or films like Maleficent that are nothing short of sexist propaganda.
If you’re in a a dispute over shared parenting, you owe it to your kids to make your views known about the way wishes and feelings reports etc are used and make a stand for your kids.
Innocence doesn’t last very long. Our children need their parents, the adults, to stand up for theirs.
SO make your voice heard.
Remember, (and this is an apt use of the metaphor) you need to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable.
Silence by those properly empowered to know better, actually does encourage abuse.