It has been pointed out (by Cracked with After Hours) that movies, and children’s movies in particular, tend to have the moral lesson that a lie is better than the truth. It is better to remain a child forever than to have adult responsibilities. It is better to live with your head in a dreamworld than to grow and wake up.
This moral lies in movies like The Never Ending Story, Peter Pan, Patch Adams, Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Gremlins, Toy Story, and Life of Pie, among others. For instance, children growing up and moving on from toys, or stopping from treating them as living things, is evil in the Toy Story universe. The whole idea of Andy growing up in the third one leads to an apocalypse.
The unspoken question raised by this revelation is, should people leave behind their childhoods for adult responsibility? Sort of like The Matrix, but backwards. Wake up from explosions and fight scenes to live in a world of having a job and being mature.
It’s a little obvious why the movie industry, and the people who have chosen to make movies for a living, would have a bias in this argument. If your job is to imagine stuff and pretty much be a child, why would you change it? Look at John Lasseter or Matt Groening. They are happy with what they do. They are being paid to remain children.
Then again, not. While they are keeping a childlike wonder and sense of fun about the world. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” This is exactly what these creative people are doing. They are growing up, and still keeping being an artist.
However, it seems like a dangerous argument to be putting across. The only way to achieve happiness is to not grow up. To become successful as a creative person.
Which is fine for those who want to be creative people, who want to grow up and make movies, or be whatever sort of artist. Maybe they will grow up to not grow up and constantly live in the dreamworld that is the real world of The Matrix. But what about those who enjoy movies just for the sake of movies, and don’t have dreams to be anything. (Or at least anything creative.) Just to live life and spend time with people.
There is the argument that those who create art have no responsibility to send a responsible or all encompassing message. Instead they should simply be honest about how they feel. That is what good art is, after all, someone creating a powerful work that inspires feelings in others. It makes people feel connected to something. It allows people to travel away from their life to live elsewhere for a while. To escape.
None of that requires the artist or art to be responsible or mature. Not that they can’t be, but if the goal is to make an impassioned work that is full of spirit, they don’t have to be.
Indeed, as Neil Gaiman argues, escapism is a healthy thing for those who need to escape from some awful place or prison. He says that through books (art as well) you can gain knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armor: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
But if those skills and knowledge and tools only give you one option then is that not limiting, no matter what the option? On the other hand, that is a ridiculous claim, there are so many movies and books and works of art out there that there will always be more than one option.
On the other, other hand, is that a valid solution to the meaning of life or happiness? Being a child, or at least seeing the world from childlike eyes. The fact that so many people do it means that it is a fanatically sound solution, provided you can make it work.
But surely there is some merit to finishing a book or movie and then facing ‘reality’. To put aside childhood things and grow up. To be responsible and mature. To be a grown up, an adult. Is it not a good thing to outgrow things sometimes?
Possibly. But not for us at Phrasely Weirded. We will make sure to never grow up.