Why We Need Scary Children's Movies
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Why We Need Scary Children's Movies

Fear and Triumph Belong in Children's stories

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Why We Need Scary Children's Movies
Imbd.com

If you have not seen "Kubo and the Two Strings" STOP. Go see it. Come back and read this article when you are done. "Kubo and the Two Strings" is a delightfully detailed and thoughtfully told story about a one-eyed boy named Kubo who goes on a classic, but nuanced 'heroe's journey' to protect himself from his maternal grandfather. I am an avid reader of movie reviews, often before I see the movie. I held off on reading reviews for "Kubo" because I was so excited. When I went back to read the reviews the most consistent comment was that the film was quite dark and sinister for a 'children's movie.' The concern is warranted when you consider that Kubo's maternal grandfather ripped out one of Kubo's eyes as a child and his two wraith like aunts pursue him relentlessly for the other eye. Family out to kill you? Yeah, it's pretty dark.

But, consider the role of fantasy for a minute. Fantasy is an augment of reality and you have only to crack open one or two fairy tales to realize that everyone has a scary stepmother, everyone faces ogres in their lives and victory goes to the heroes and heroines who are loyal, loving, courageous and clever. We need scary children's movies because those movies, those stories, put the scary stuff, the dark stuff, in its place: showing children where dark stuff comes from and how good and light can eventually triumph.

When Kubo is first told that he must avoid the night because with it comes his grandfather's wrath and his aunt's violence he responds: 'But, Mom, they're family!" To which she replies, "No, Kubo. They are monsters! They killed your father and took your eye and they want the other one as well. I cannot let that happen." Even as a young child, Kubo has an inherent sense that seeing 'family' as the enemy is wrong. This inherent sense holds true throughout the film as Kubo is never in direct combat with either his Aunts or his Grandfather until the very end, and even when that showdown happens, he chooses mercy and love over vengeance. Showing how to solve family problems in a kids movie? Not bad.

Laika, the production studio, drew heavily upon Japanese mythology and eastern spirituality to depict a thin place where the spiritual and earthly realms mix and meld. There is great respect paid to memory as a powerful force which keeps people and things alive beyond death. There is a wonderful ritual of paper lanterns which symbolize departed one's spirits moving on into the next world. Even birds are carriers of memory into the next world. These ideas lend a kind of ritual and remembrance to a western view used to honoring the individual memorializing only those of great accomplishment or triumph. Children have questions about death, loss and family members and exposing them to different viewpoints of these crucial topics can help them reflect more on topics which may have scared or worried them in the past. Helping kids process deep topics? Not bad.

There is great triumph in Kubo that some critics have observed as inconclusive. However, I think the uncertainty of the film's end allows children and adults to continue a conversation about loss and family and remembering and being brave. The juxtaposition of the light vs. dark is abundantly clear in the film showing children that it takes friends, light, courage and love to ultimately win over hate. The answers may not be definite, but the conversation can continue, darkness can be fought and it doesn't have to be done alone.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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