What Are Children’s Movies Really Teaching Your Kids?

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Popping a movie in for children, much like reading them a book, can lead to more than a simple and heart-warming children’s tale. Literature and it’s storytelling film relatives have long been a bastion for ideas, whether in your face or sweetly concealed. What this means for many kids movies is that many have an agenda or a message — one could even throw the word propaganda around if they were feeling really paranoid. It only makes sense. Adults write these films and they know that other adults will see them, too. Besides, if you cannot change the mind of a firmly rooted adult, turn to the child.

Having a message, agenda, or an allegorical angle does not make a film bad; being political or religious need not be a criticism. After all, anything and everything is arguably concealing a message of some sort, even if the message is simply “buy chocolate” or “be nice to your friends.” The films listed are chosen because there can be little controversy as to whether or not they’re about broader topics than the basic storyline. There’s plenty of arguments out there for other films, some of them far-fetched, some of them reasonable, but here are just eight with an obvious message.

1. The Lorax

The 2012 film version of Dr. Seuss’s famous lyrical picture book is arguably even more on the nose about the environmental message than the original book. The film follows the story of young Ted who leaves the city limits of Thneed-Ville and obtains the last Truffula seed in his attempts to impress his crush, Audrey, who loves the idea of the trees. The city itself has creepily over-modernized replacements for nature, such as glowing, upgradeable electric trees and bottled oxygen.

The film touches even more heavily on the downfall of the Once-ler, an amusement at times, while also drawing children to invest more heavily into the fish, bear, and bird characters. Not that they weren’t already cute enough to care about in the book, of course. Another thing the film touches on is the idea of apathy and blind acceptance, using the adults and fellow citizens of Thneed-Ville to get the message across.

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