Violence, Kids, and Soviet Animation
From today's news:
Screen violence tied to boys' aggression: study
By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Boys aged 2 to 5 who viewed an hour of on-screen violence a day increased their chances of being overly aggressive later in childhood, but the association was not seen in girls, researchers said on Monday.
"This new study provides further evidence of how important and powerful television and media are as young children develop," study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute said.
"Of 184 boys (in the study), 25 of them had serious problems with aggression and for each hour on average per day they had watched violent TV, they were three times more likely to be in that group" than those who did not watch violent programming, Christakis said in a telephone interview.
While living in Armenia, I got to see many Soviet-era animated programs, some of excellent quality. This was a direct result of the communist-era laws that compelled film and television studios to devote a percentage of their production for children's programming. One noticeable difference between their cartoons and those produced in the West was the lower level of violence. Sure, the Russians loved their Nu Pogodi (I"ll Get You) antics of the Wolf and Hare, the USSR equivalent of Tom and Jerry, but most of the made-in-the-USSR toons were gentler and, perhaps, a bit kinder than the cartoons I watched growing up in the USA.
And because I watched and loved seeing Popeye knock the bejeesus out of Bluto on a daily basis, not to mention the Three Stooges every Saturday morning, I have mixed feelings about the Reuters story above. I like to think those shows didn't warp my young mind and, so far, I've never had the urge to actually go postal and do anyone real harm, except perhaps sometimes in my strange-but-harmless imagination.
I once read that the Japanese consider Tom and Jerry style cartoon violence to be much more disturbing and harmful to children because it is so fake. If you've ever seen Japanese anime, you know that when a person gets shot, there are consequences. It is shown to be painful, there is blood and injury that doesn't disappear in the next scene. Not so when Jerry whacks Tom with an anvil or frying pan. Tom's head pops back into normal shape and the chase continues.
My five-year-old son, Ron Armen, loves to watch the Power Rangers and Transformers, though his watching time is strictly rationed by Irina, his mom, more for consideration of his eyesight than the programs' content. I know he acts out the martial arts moves that his favorite TV characters do on screen, but he doesn't use those moves to whup the five-year-old neighbor kid down the block. I am very skeptical, too, of studies like Dr. Christakis has done because I know that statistics can be presented to emphasize a politically-correct agenda and thus please the sponsoring parties involved. I think that out of nearly 200 American boys, for 25 of them to have problems with violent behavior is not that surprising, sad but true. It's just hard for me to believe that most of the blame can be directed towards television programs.
And back in Armenia, kids now get to watch imported Tom and Jerry cartoons, including all the flying anvils, crushing boulders, and face-flattening frying pans. Their lack of spoken dialogue makes them great exports to non-English speaking countries like the former USSR.
Here's a wonderful example of some Soviet-era animation, and it's a science-fiction piece, too. I love the Cosmic Cat!
Technorati tags: science fiction,movies, films, Russia, Soviet Union, animation, cartoons, violence, kids, children