Sanitizing Childhood

A version used on the CBeebies channel was altered so rather than “couldn’t put Humpty together again” all the King’s horses “made Humpty happy again”.

Labour MP Tom Harris told the Independent on Sunday: “For goodness sake. Obviously children will find it far too violent, distressing and horrific that Humpty should not be put back together again.

This is one of many example of the way my daughter’s childhood is being sanitized before my very eyes.  Other examples include changing the lyrics to various songs in our Mommy and Me class because other moms have objected to “violent lyrics” (Little Bunny Foo Foo–the Bunny “bops” the field mice on the head) to the doctor telling the monkeys “no more jumping on the bed” instead of the “that’s what you get for jumping on the bed” that I heard as a child.  This doesn’t even begin to touch upon the Disneyfied versions of fairy tales where the Little Mermaid marries the prince instead of committing suicide and becoming sea foam or where Cinderella’s stepsisters aren’t punished for their behavoir instead of having their eyes plucked out.

Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are meant to be cautionary tales.  They are meant to warn us of the dangers in the world; that not every one is kind, that bad people are punished, good people are rewarded and that sometimes shit happens.

There is no benefit in santizing them.  Children are fairly bloodthirsty creatures…they like watching bad people get what’s coming to them.  My third graders LOVED Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which I found terrifying and creepy.  Making Ms Muffet make friends with the spider takes all the color and interest out of a nursery rhyme.  Who cares?  Making stories boring doesn’t make children want to read them.

I for one won’t be handing Elanor sanitized stories…she’ll be getting the fairy books (Red Fairy, Blue Fairy, etc) with the original bloody fairy tales.  I devoured them, as did most people I know who have read them.  Sure, she’ll get the Disney versions, because they have their place in society (and are too pervasive to ignore) but that’s what the good old Venn Diagram was invented for.  Personally, I can’t wait until she’s old enough to have the same reaction I did the first time I saw The Lion King…”wait, that’s HAMLET!!!” (a really crappy Hamlet, if not a bad cartoon with catchy songs).

Let’s give kids credit for being able to handle far more than we’re giving them credit for…and let Humpty Dumpty have the natural end of an egg that has met pavement….

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