Saturday, August 13, 2005

Innocence, Corruption, and the Screening of Childhood
by Marc T. Newman, Ph.D.

In his book, The Disappearance of Childhood, cultural critic Neil Postman notes that since the 1950s the line separating children and adults has blurred, often to the point of being indiscernible. Children are now depicted not as kids, but as mini-adults. Postman places much of the blame on mass media, primarily television, for providing cross-generational access to what had previously been considered "adult secrets" -- about social problems, sexuality, crime, etc. How the media depict children can tell viewers a lot about societal attitudes toward children -- movies, for example, can both move and mirror culture.

There have been a number of films with children in starring roles this year, but I find it noteworthy that the only ones who have a childhood distinctly different from adults occur in movies set in quirky rural locales or fantasy landscapes. Some films have children becoming mini-adults as a result of circumstances beyond their control, but what is most disturbing are the films in which the disappearance of childhood is communicated through the vulgarization and sexualizing of children in common modern suburban settings.



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