Thursday, July 16, 2015

a return to animation incubating, on how the stories we consider safe enough to tell children reveal the values we think should be most sacred (captain obvious alert)

Hoping to get around to writing about animated stuff before too long.  Have meant to catch the new Pixar film but have instead managed to read a couple of reviews and some interesting dissents.  The dissents are interesting for what they fault the movie for but we won't get into that just yet.

But what's interesting is those faults that have been found seem to be a doppleganger to the faults I found with Legend of Korra.  Actually, I now tend to think of that lately ended show as Legend of Entitlement. There will be more to be said about the series later on but out of a sense of fair play Wenatchee's planning on revisiting the series before revisiting the problems with the cartoon.

Years ago someone incredulously asked why on earth anyone would take a children's cartoon seriously as if it had artistic statements to make.  America being the kind of country it is some of our classic novels are stories for children. Take Huck Finn, for instance.  Or To Kill a Mockingbird. Like it or not many a classic narrative in American literature has emerged from within the genre of stories for children. That "could" signal that American culture is juvenile all around and that our idea of classic music includes stuff written by British boys who transcended the constraints of boy band material .... but that's for some other time. 

But let's not presume it's a bad thing that American classics can so often be stories for children. Take this idea, floated via Slate:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2015/07/go_set_a_watchman_by_harper_lee_reviewed.html
...
Or was it always just a coming-of-age book? Despite the book’s success, or perhaps because of it, Lee’s fellow Southern writer Flannery O’Connor saw it as kid’s stuff; in her archives at Emory University, where I am the curator of literary collections, O’Connor dismisses Mockingbird as “children’s literature.” In his groundbreaking Love and Death in the American Novel, critic Leslie Fiedler argues that classic American novels—from Huckleberry Finn to the Leatherstocking Tales—are “notoriously at home in the children’s section of the library, their level of sentimentality precisely that of a pre-adolescent.” He means that there’s a certain prepubescent innocence in American literature, once devoid of women except as puritan ideals, but that this innocence married to Gothic horror created the power and paradox of our literature. I would go further: like Huck Finn, children’s literature speaks not just to a book’s young characters and readers but a relatively young country wrestling with a tangled history of race and caste.

For Mockingbird changed literature, especially children’s literature. Fiedler’s provocative comment that “our classic literature is a literature of horror for boys,” [emphases added] though published the same year as Mockingbird, seems out of date exactly because of Mockingbird’s success.
It's not far-fetched to propose that in American literature in particular, and possibly for a majority of Western cultures, at least, the following precept is worth considering--if you want to find out what ideals are incontestably sacred to a culture look at the stories that are shared with children and made for children.  It's impossible to altogether escape a didactic impulse in stories for children. The ideals we impress upon children in the stories we tell them are oftentimes the ideals they grow up to see us perpetually failing to live out in the real world, and for which various types of more adult stories are told. 

There's more on this idea incubating but it'll take some time, plus it's summer and sometimes it's more pleasant to not be at a computer screen on an early summer evening.

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