Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back to School

Well, first off, a big giant huge thank you to JohnOk again, for helping me figure out the vagaries of the Blogger template. I know just enough to be dangerous, so I was very frustrated that I couldn't get the links sidebar to show up. But now it does. So that makes me happy. (well, that and the fact that GSN is rerunning all the episodes of The Amazing Race, which I am obsessed with, and season three is starting...RIGHT NOW!)

But on to what I was actually thinking about. Which is the primacy of children's oriented entertainment in the mainstream. I have next to me, on my purple couch, a copy of the July 29th, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly. It has a picture of Daniel Radcliffe on it, dressed as Harry Potter, natch. Now, the new movie doesn't come out until November, but the new book just came out three weeks ago. Now, I'll say straight out right here that I am a fan of Harry Potter, both the books and the movie (yes, I preorder the books, yes, I see the films opening weekend, opening night if possible). And I'm not disturbed that Harry Potter rates the cover of Entertainment Weekly (though I sort of wish they'd had a picture of the author and not the actor portraying the character). But I've been struck, in the last five or six years by the interest generated by something directed at kids excites in the adult population. I'm not sure when it started, but I don't remember, in college, being particularly interested in kid's stuff. But when I moved to Cleveland, my then-SO would get up on Saturday mornings and watch The Tick. And got me hooked. On that, and the X-Men, and some Canadian cartoon in which all the characters were anthropomorphized computer programs. And then Toy Story came out, and every adult I knew (because god knows I didn't know any kids at that time) wanted to go see it. And we did. In droves. And we went to see ever Pixar film. And we taped Wallace and Gromit off of PBS. And we read Harry Potter and Philip Pullman and Lemony Snicket.

What is the pull these have over adults? And it's specific to adults of a certain age. CultureMaven Dad surprised me by reading the first Harry Potter book, "just to see what the fuss was about." Now, granted, he wasn't much impressed, but he doesn't read science fiction or fantasy, but he was struck enough by the hype to want to read the first book. I wonder if it has anything to do with a desire to hold on to some sense of innocence from our childhoods. I mean, does a single childfree adult need to stay au currant with 10 year olds? Are we going to have a scholarly discourse with them on the portrayal of good vs. evil in Harry Potter? On the vilification of organized religion in the His Dark Materials trilogy? Are we proposing a symposium on the nature of friendship as portrayed in Pixar films? A conversation about the origins of nonsense in literature from Aristophanes to Wallace and Gromit?

All of these, I might add, worthy conversations. I actually do believe that good children's literature endures and has appeal to adults. I think very little is produced. But I'm fascinated by the fact that, for the first time that I've noticed, that it's really entered the mainstream consciousness.

I think there are two things at play here. First, adults who are in their thirties and younger tend to be more open to kids stuff, maybe because we have such fond memories of popular entertainment from our own childhoods. Second, it's sort of a scary world out there these days. And while the best children's lit does reflect this, there's a clear demarcation between good and evil, light and dark. That's a comforting thought, that somewhere it's easy to tell who your enemies are, and where good will triumph at the end of the day.


Post a Comment

<< Home