The Hidden Meanings in Kids’ Movies by Colin Stokes (Transcript)

Full text of The hidden meanings in kids’ movies by Colin Stokes at TEDxBeaconStreet conference. 

“The director of communications for the non-profit Citizen Schools, Colin Stokes thinks deeply about the media he shares with his two young children”. –

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You know, my favorite part of being a dad is the movies I get to watch.

I love sharing my favorite movies with my kids and when my daughter was four, we got to watch The Wizard of Oz together. Totally dominated her imagination for months. Her favorite character was Glinda, of course. Gave a great excuse to wear a sparkly dress and carry a wand. But you know, you watch a movie enough times and you start to realize how unusual it is.

Now, we live today and are raising our children in a kind of children’s fantasy spectacular industrial complex. But The Wizard of Oz stood alone; it did not start that trend.

Forty years later was when the trend really caught on with, interestingly, another movie that featured a metal guy and a furry guy rescuing a girl by dressing up as the enemy’s guards. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Now, there’s a big difference between these two movies, a couple of really big differences between The Wizard of Oz and all the movies we watch today.

One is there’s very little violence in The Wizard of Oz. The monkeys are rather aggressive as are the apple trees. But I think if “The Wizard of Oz” were made today, the wizard would say, “Dorothy, you are the savior of Oz that the prophecy foretold. Use your magic slippers to defeat the computer-generated armies of the Wicked Witch.” But that’s not how it happens.

Another thing that is really unique about “The Wizard of Oz” to me is that all of the most heroic and wise and even villainous characters are female.

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Now, I started to notice this when I actually showed Star Wars to my daughter, which was years later and the situation was different. At that point, I also had a son. He was only 3 at the time. He was not invited to the screening. He’s too young for that. But he was a second child and the level of supervision had plummeted.

So, he wandered in and it imprinted on him like a mommy duck does to its duckling. Is he picking up on the fact that there are only boys in the universe, except for Aunt Beru and, of course, this princess who is really cool but who kind of waits around through most of the movie so that she can award the hero with a medal and a wink to thank him for saving the universe, which he does by the magic that he was born with.

Compare this to 1939 with “The Wizard of Oz”. How does Dorothy win her movie? By making friends with everybody and being a leader. That’s kind of the world I’d rather raise my kids in. Why is there so much force, capital F Force, in the movies we have for our kids and so little Yellow Brick Road?

I know from my own experience that Princess Leia did not provide the adequate context that I could’ve used in navigating the adult world that is co-ed.

You know, there was a kind of first-kiss moment when I really expected the credits to start rolling because that’s the end of the movie, right? I finished my quest, I got the girl, why are you still standing there?

The movies are very, very focused on defeating the villain and getting your reward and there’s not a lot of room for other relationships and other journeys. It’s almost as though if you’re a boy, you are a dopey animal and if you are a girl, you should bring your warrior costume.

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