Literally minutes ago, my eight-year-old piped up with “Daddy…  Did you forget the Question Of The Day?”  I realized two things at that moment:  First, yes, I had forgotten the MS-QOTD.  And second, the child is WAAAY too smart, and her teenage years are going to be murder.  She then told me that she had a question of the day, telling me about her friend who isn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers, and how she can’t figure out why his mother doesn’t allow it.  “It’s just fake, and I don’t even think that the Samurais KNOW any real karate anyway.  Not like Tommy did…”  (Yes, I am proud of her, why do you ask?)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) gives you a sense of pride, asking: Does the violence inherent in superhero stories make them inappropriate for young minds?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. June 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm — Reply

    it depends on how you handle it. The Boys, by Ennis, is certainly not appropriate for my boys. But Power Rangers seems to not have an affect on The Boy, except he won’t shut up about Power Rangers… much like another person I know. Still there are some cartoon shows that have some pretty intense moments that do bother my son, but he knows that if it is bothering him, or if it is too intense, it is time to turn it off.

    Of course my son knows the difference between reality and make-believe, and that is due to parents taking an active role in what their children watch, and having meaningful discussions with them about what they are watching.

    In regards to your daughter’s concern about her friend, the kid’s mother is more than likely a tool, and I bet a little investigating on your daughter’s part would prove that without a doubt.

    • June 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm — Reply

      And as a follow up… you know what is inappropriate? My son likes to watch the morning news with me so he feels informed about things he can talk to his teacher about… however, lately we’ve had to turn it off because even the morning edition isn’t afraid to show body parts and blood and guts on the dashboard — all a little too much for a kid in the morning. Exploding rubber monsters being defeated by a bunch of actors who may or may not now what they are doing seems rather tame, doesn’t it?

      • Ricco
        June 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

        “Daddy what’s a cannibal?” is not something a kid should say in the morning…

      • June 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm — Reply

        Yeesh. I guess “if it bleeds, it leads” isn’t just for the 6PM news now. And people wonder why I avoid the news…

  2. Ricco
    June 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm — Reply

    As long as they know it’s fake no, if no one sits with them and explains what make believe is we get kids jumping out of windows with capes or cutting/shooting school friends.

  3. June 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    Like Stephen said, it’s a matter of degrees. As a parent, he’s doing the right thing – setting the boundaries that he knows are & aren’t appropriate by his own experience, talking about what he & his son are watching, and generally being active participants in their media intake. Sounds like you are, too, Matthew, and frankly, we need more parents like you.

    I’ve found in personal experience that “it’s too violent” is an excuse a lot of parents give their kids to serve as a crutch for other objections. I had a kid tell me that their parents wouldn’t let them watch “Fraggle Rock” because it was too violent – if you’ve ever seen the show, you’d know what a load that is and is probably rooted in said kid’s parents having issues with any sort of fantasy storytelling. It’s probably something else that your kid’s friend’s mother objects to w/PR, like the use of Japanese kanji in Samurai or something. This was also the excuse my folks used w/the early seasons of “The Simpsons” until they actually watched some episodes & decided it was okay (they’d heard from coworkers that apparently Bart swore like a sailor). So that might be the case, in which case, it’s crummy parenting that the kids will learn to circumnavigate eventually.

    You can learn a lot of good from superhero stories as a kid – bravery, cooperation, selflessness, tolerance. Cutting it out for the sake of a few punches here & there is just short-sighted.

    And I guess we can count your daughter as part of the Cult of Tommy Oliver now, too?

    • June 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm — Reply

      My older brother and his wife used to work at this sort of children’s home and one of the rules was that they weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons because it had, and I quote, “kids using terrible, vulgar language”. I don’t mean that just the kids couldn’t watch it, but it was a rule for them as well.

      My brother TRIED to get the rule-making group to at least watch an episode or two so they would see it wasn’t nearly that bad, but they used the argument that “so-and-so says it, so that means it must be true”.

      But the news, which was bad enough at the time, was perfectly okay.

  4. Navarre
    June 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    I grew up watching all sorts of violent shows and reading violent comics. It’s had no effect on me.

    If anyone says differently I’ll rip out their F*ckin’ spleen!

  5. June 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm — Reply

    I can’t really think of a universal yes or no, since a lot of it has to do with different factors. Does the kid know it is fake and/or that it isn’t okay to fight just because it looks cool? Does the kid understand that the violence in the story is shown in an unrealistic way? Do they understand there are consequences to actions?

    My goddaughter grew up watching Power Rangers, reading comics (nothing too extreme and usually something one of us had read beforehand), etc. I even taught her some real martial arts and self defense, and she has taken classes to learn more. She’s been in fights, but very few and all have either been because she had no choice (bullies attacking at/after school) or to defend someone else.

    My niece, on the other hand, isn’t into that sort of entertainment nor (as far as I know) into martial arts or anything. Yet she is a bully (My younger sister and I aren’t close, I’m not involved in the kid’s life, not even babysitting, so I dunno as much about her other than what I hear from relatives). She isn’t even in High School and has already been essentially kicked out of two schools for fighting.

    So there are a lot of factors. I think in and of itself, it isn’t bad or harmful most of the time. But it can give the wrong ideas to kids who don’t know right from wrong, don’t have adult supervision, etc.

  6. @lantis
    June 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm — Reply

    I work with kids ages 5-10 daily, and I see them trying to play Jedi and Avengers all the time. The thing I notice most about what they are doing is that the emphasis isn’t on “hurting” the bad guy, but on doing the cool looking move. The goal isn’t really the fighting, but the looking awesome. So, I don’t feel that violence in the superhero world is a problem, so long as the child is reminded by adults that hurting people is bad.

    My real problem is that violence is shown as the go-to way to problem solve in a lot of instances. It makes the kids who read these stories believe that talking doesn’t solve anything which can lead to problems in school. It also reinforces the “he hit me so I should hit him back” philosophy that can be problematic for children. I am all for children watching things like Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles, but the creators have a responsibility to demonstrate that brains are better than brawn more often than not if they want to aim their stories toward children.

    • June 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm — Reply

      The thing I notice most about what they are doing is that the emphasis isn’t on “hurting” the bad guy, but on doing the cool looking move.

      HA! The Boy is all about this. He even has sound effects.

    • KevinPBreen
      June 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm — Reply

      I was taught that if you resort to bullies’ methods you are bringing yourself down to their level and admitting that they are right because their methods work. But for the last several decades we’ve had superheroes who revel in violence, video games that offer no solutions besides shooting, zombie movies where dealing with enemies is not an option, and even STAR TREK has gone from solving problems peacefully to just blowing things up – and the government saying its OK for us to use terrorist tactics because we’re the good guys. I was amazed and appalled to hear from a majority of fan types that Katniss in HUNGER GAMES should have just killed everybody else with her arrow skills, totally missing the point that if she had given the Capitol what they wanted, she wouldn’t have been a hero but just another victim. Give me Superman’s code against killing and the Lone Ranger shooting guns out of bad guys’ hands. Realistic? No. But symbolic of solving problems rationally. Violence is neither rational nor adult. Alternative solutions, compromises and respect for differences is much harder, but that’s what real adults do.

  7. zebsdead
    June 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm — Reply

    I can clearly recall being in the midst of a few years of Tae Kwon Do training when Tommy showed up. His form, particularly his jump spinning hook kick, was far beyond anything the others were capable of. (for the record, Jason was the best of the original five, IMHO) Now that we have that out of the way, no. The violence inherent in the medium represents the struggle of our daily lives (a ductile metaphor, but a live one), with many opportunities to redirect these battles into valuable lessons for our children, assuming, as Stephen states, that one not only knows what your child is watching, but actually discusses the themes, situations, and appropriate (if any) real-world analogues. It is appropriate, for example, to look at an adversarial situation as a chance to be a “good guy (or gal).”
    When I taught Tae Kwon Do to children, I found that the increased knowledge of violence (both in the execution and the endurance thereof) made kids far less likely to engage in it. We also discussed responses to bullying and the sparse occasions where violence would become justified in depth. In short, grades, attitudes, social interactions and overall confidence increased visibly in these children as the training progressed.
    Fantasy is always dangerous to those poorly grounded (or educated in) reality.
    Can’t believe I got all the way through this without a Monty Python reference……..

  8. Raidden
    June 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    I Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when i was a kid!
    my parents didn’t think it was too violent, they just thought it was the dumbest show in the world.
    (maybe your daughter’s friends parents use that excuse so they don’t have to have power rangers on the tv?)

  9. Raidden
    June 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    I loved* that show

  10. June 5, 2012 at 1:20 am — Reply

    The reason society as a whole demands more violence in their media stems from the decreasing level of violence they experience in their daily lives. Most people these days assume they’ll go on and never get into a fight, so they look to media to satisfy the craving for it. The Power Rangers are no different, except they’re targeted at children, who these days aren’t allowed to even get into fights as kids when they’d before most likely have done so and walked away none the worse for wear. And those thirty minutes watching others fight is thirty minutes not spent running around getting to fights.

    Plus, if parents are really concerned with a child being influenced by television, shouldn’t it be their individual responsibility to teach their kids not to be violent? They go around thinking they have to alter what the TV teaches their kids, at no point thinking THEY should be teaching their kids themselves.

  11. GerbilsnHamsters
    June 5, 2012 at 5:47 am — Reply

    Like many have already stated, it really is up to responsible parenting to direct children in the differences in fantasy from reality. My daughter is 11 months old and even she enjoys the occasional TNG episode in between bouts of tormenting our cat and learning to walk. I know she has no concept of anything that is happening in an episode, so I am OK to have that (or anything else within reason) on, while we are playing in the living room. My wife used to complain that I shouldn’t play video games in front of her, because of the violence. Some day when I know she can understand these concepts, I will curb my usage in front of her and when she is curious about it, we will have these same discussions. I would love to know any examples of any of your conversations that you all may have had with your children regarding violent/fantastical elements and how you got them to really understand that at such an early age. Help a new father out!

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