Growing up, I was obsessed with Disney movies. We only had one TV channel at my house, so when my parents allowed us to have some screen-time, my younger sister and I usually spent it with the princesses. Now I write about kid's movies for work, and so often, I just can't believe that the material I'm watching is considered kid-friendly. "Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive," I've told myself. "All these parents wouldn't take their kids to see inappropriate movies, right?"
As it turns out, I'm not going crazy. A study released last week found that the main characters in cartoons are more than twice as likely to be killed off as the main characters in adult films. These animated deaths are often gruesome, as some of the most common are by shooting, stabbing, and animal attack. Studies have shown that movie violence can lead to aggression and violent behavior in real life. Plus, experts worry that some of the shocking deaths of the villains teach dubious moral implications, like that killing bad guys is okay. "Rather than being innocuous and gentler alternatives to typical horror or drama films, children's animated films are, in fact, hotbeds for murder and mayhem," study leaders Dr. Ian Colman and Dr. James Kirkbride reported.
Researchers came to this conclusion by analyzing 45 top-grossing animated kid's movies from 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 2013's Frozen. And the grown-up movies they compared them to? That list includes What Lies Beneath, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Pulp Fiction.
In a way, I'm not too surprised by this. After all, my parents deemed Bambi too violent for my sister and I to watch when we were little, and I'm still not over (spoiler alert!) Mufasa's death in The Lion King. I also distinctly remember being traumatized by a scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame where the villain locked people into a house and burned it to the ground. (I actually wrote about how upset I was in my Pocahontas diary afterward.)
This doesn't mean you should outlaw animated films in your house. But at the same time, don't just pop in a DVD and assume it's safe because it's marketed to children or because it has a certain MPAA rating. Instead, check out Common Sense Media for expert guides on what's appropriate for little ones. And then watch along with your kids, and decide what is appropriate for them on an individual basis. That way, you're there if they have any questions or reactions to what they just saw. Pop a bowl of popcorn and turn it into a family movie night while you're at it!