>Media and Monsters

>Many of you know that I am the proud father of a bright three and a half year old son (but I’m biased, I know). It is as much for his sake as anyone else’s that I do what I do. The influence of media on people’s minds starts at around 18 months. My wife and I have tried, to the best of our human abilities, to take the hard road in raising him.

Many people fall into the trap of letting their children watch too much television, because it’s easier than perpetual playtime. I’m not condemning, I know how tempting it is to let them sit there quietly.

I’ve settled on a compromise. Children’s movies, if not always perfect (and no subtitute for imaginative play), are often repeated again and again. This gives willing parents the chance to discuss themes with their children and weave lessons into daily life. It is important for this reason that children’s programming be suitable for adults as well, and not limited to shapes and colors.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=fitmedia-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B00005JKDR&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrMy favorite is “Monsters, Inc.” In my opinion this is Pixar’s best film to date (though I’ve yet to see the critically acclaimed “Toy Story”). It is solidly entertaining and well developed at every point, and holds my attention and his attention alike. It has been a spark for imaginative play (with my help) and a reference for concerns.

The basic plot of the movie revolves around a company (Monsters, Inc.), which harvests children’s screams as a source of energy (i.e.: instead of coal). “Scarers” travel through portals from the factory floor through the closet doors of human chidren to scare a scream out of them and collect the power.

Ultimately, a child gets loose in the monster world, and it turns out that monsters are more afraid of us than we are of them. Despite their jobs, the main characters are portrayed as good-natured and heroic, in contrast to the antagonists who have compromised their morals to get ahead during the “scream shortage.”

In the end, the hero discovers an alternative energy which is ten times more powerful and does not require scaring children. So innovation triumphs over tradition and bureaucracy. And this is a kids’ movie!

The reason I thought to do this article was that just tonight, Monsters, Inc. allowed me to talk to my son about monsters in his closet. I was able to comfort him with the thought that most monsters are nice and reasonable. I even “worked out a deal” so they wouldn’t come through his closet.

Sure this kind of parental guidance requires imagination on my behalf. Sure it’s not always easy, but it will be worth it when he grows up to face his fears with a clear head rather than paranoia.

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Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley

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