Why content is crucial

Editor’s Note: This is Westside Christian High School senior Jillian Ramos’ first column for the Review, and she will be a regular columnist for the 2013-14 school year.

I have a confession to make: I like kids’ shows.

I mean, I really like them.Jillian Ramos

Mostly cartoons. There’s so much rich storytelling that can be achieved with animation, as I’ve discovered with shows like “Transformers: Prime,” “Young Justice” (which ended much too soon) and, yes, even “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The beauty of kids’ cartoons is that there are so many lessons that can be learned, even as a young adult, from these beautiful, unmistakably fictional worlds.

Even children’s movies and books are a safe haven. To this day, I have several peers that find solace in a kids’ book series and enjoy Disney movies almost as much as they enjoy summer blockbusters like “Pacific Rim” and “Man of Steel.”

Sadly, many of the powers-that-be in children’s media aren’t as careful as one would expect. Demi Lovato, who struggled with bulimia herself, had to hold Disney Channel officials accountable for an eating disorder joke on the show, “Shake It Up,” before they apologized. A few episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” have made light of suicide in an attempt to try and utilize adult humor. In fact, much of kids’ media throughout history has joked about this very serious subject. Even “The Legend of Korra,” a show I hold near and dear to my heart, crossed a line when it implied that cheating on a romantic partner was OK in the development of the title character’s dating life.

I’m not trying to police the executives of kids’ channels, and I’ll even admit that some of my favorite stories have problems of their own. But those in charge of children’s shows need to realize how much power they have.

They are shaping a generation. They have the opportunity to instill honorable characteristics into their impressionable young viewers, and to teach them about life and things like hope and friendship in simpler forms. They have so much power, and they could put it to good use.

When I have a child, I want him or her to grow up with the kids’ media that I cherished. I want them to have faith like the Pevensie children of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I want them to find their own strength the way Mulan did. I want them to know that they’re important and that they matter, even if they first have to learn it from Optimus Prime or Bumblebee.

While the messages we receive from media obviously aren’t picked up straight from screen to behavior, they can still affect the way we think and act. This applies even more to kids, no matter how smart and intuitive they can be. What a popular cartoon communicates can either build up a generation or chip away at it. Adults, especially in the entertainment industry, need to be careful about the characters their children look up to, because, for a period of time, they have more power than even their parents. It’s time for storytellers of all media to acknowledge the existence of this power and put it to good use, so we can raise this younger generation to be even better than those that precede them. As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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