Friday, August 24, 2007

The Disneyfication Of J

Back in the day wild horses could not drag J to watch a Disney flick. She totally detested Shrek. Lion King fared only marginally better. The general theme was one of disinterest and boredom. Those were the days when she listened to Brahms and could recognize Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

J was the also the one who made me listen to jazz and swing and start enjoying it. But for her I would have never known the music of John Coltrane. We watched Paper Clips together and for days afterwards she asked me questions about the Holocaust and tried to imagine the number of people measured by a paper clip for each victim. The idea of reducing a human life to so trivial an object was unconscionable to her. That was then and this is now.

A combination of factors including but not limited to a stint at a below par day care center, friends with Disney themed bedrooms and DVD collections to match have been the undoing of J's musical tastes and much more. She no longer perks up at the sound of good music as she once used to. She has no recollection of musicals and concerts we have been to within the last couple of years. I know I am a demanding parent but the child has never let me down. It has always worked out.

Since being subject to continuous play of Happy Feet, High School Musical and Over The Hedge, something has fundamentally changed for my child. I have this wholly bizarre conspiracy theory about how Disney et al are out to pulverize the brains of the children so their minds can be controlled and manipulated as desired by purveyors of consumer goods and services even when they become adults.

My friend D called me a "super crazy mom" when I told her about the conversation I had with J about the deleterious effects of watching Disney flicks at the rate nearly forty hours a week. This has been a sensory overload for her to say the least being that there has not been a television in our household for the last four years. I told her that she was suffering from loss of memory (as in not being able to recall the Ravi Shankar performance we had watched two years ago and the Latin Jazz concert about a year ago) because her brain was being pulped slowly and steadily by Disney fare.

If she did not stop while she still had her chance she would enter a persistent vegetative state and would have to be institutionalized. Needless to say, in that state she would not be able to recognize family and friends or even know what her name was. Before long J was shedding copious tears and looking seriously concerned about her future.

I know this is one time-strapped single mom against the system but I am not ready to throw in the towel yet. Since the time we watched
Supersize Me, J has not asked to go to a fast food joint. The fear factor is high enough to keep temptation at bay. I do indulge her occasionally but it is nowhere close to "industry standard"

I will need to watch for change in patterns after the brain pulping conversation and hope for the best for both of us.


Anonymous said...

my 2 cents..

Ouch.. that really sounds like the heights of parental pressure.. and poor J has no clue what she should be feeling guilty about. I totally agree about the Disneyism of today's children (including mine).. but any attempt to change that should be more subtle.. like.. say the TV is broken...and then just "let the good stuff" happen to be around.. you can take the horse to the water... and how different is this from the indian parents dragging their children to kathak , sanskrit etc classes.. forceful induction.


Heartcrossings said...

Sharda - I think there is right and wrong way for each parent-child situation. The problem at hand is J's declining taste in music and cinema due to over-exposure to Disney outside the house.As I said there is no TV and she knows that there will not be one either.

The good stuff is all around her as long as she is at home or with me. That has not and will not change.

Unless she is made aware of the damage being done to her system, there is no reason for her to stop enjoying the junk media diet that she is on. Its fun, its addictive and brain numbing. Why would anyone child shy away from it of their own accord ?

When the external forces get very powerful your response needs to be even stronger if you hope to counter it.

The soft approach you suggest will not work for me because I have very little time with my child and have to get the most out of it. Making a strong impact I have found is key in the last six years.

ggop said...

I'll be interested in both the music and food aspects. I remember never liking classical music as a child and preferring very mediocre Bollywood music instead. I never understood why my father criticized the genre and thought there must be something cool if parents don't like it much.

Are Disney numbers more "catchy"?

As for food, good luck. Did you see the blurb in the NYT about the Stanford study where kids rated anything in fast food wrapping tastier than other food?

J can buck the trend but I wonder if she feels isolated from her peers because of her esoteric music tastes.

Suchi said...

Do you always have such grown-up conversations with your daughter? :) Not being sarcastic, just seriously impressed.

I do find Disney and other popular media to be very bad for children. The Disney books, in particular, completely distort fairytales that weren't great enough to begin with.

About the music, I think, with enough time, J will eventually come around. A good grounding will always help. Maybe you need to allow her some controlled exposure to popular music so that she does not get enamoured by that which is forbidden--it happened to me with coffee[grin!]

The food aspect is very important to correct and control, me thinks. So many of our bad food habits originate from childhood.

Heartcrossings said...

ggop - I think its perfectly natural for kids to like popular music or a catchy tune and there is nothing wrong with that per se.

J has played kids music cds over and over again until I've started to hum the songs myself. It is something she's taught me to enjoy.

My problem with Disney fare is the subliminal message they convey to kids. More than that, it has a a positively brain numbing quality - specially when played back to back. This is what J has been exposed to and the effects are telling.

Her state had become like that of one who is so addicted to junk food that they cannot stop eating it. They are so full from it that they have no appetite of any real food. As a parent, you grow alarmed and do whatever it takes to cure them.

Suchi - I am too lazy to figure the best way to communicate what I want to a six year old :) That's why I say it the way I think about it. She understands maybe 60% but that's enough to get the message across. Later, I'll check with her to see if there was any fundamental misunderstanding (that has happened too !) and correct that. After a while, she gets it.