Silly Rabbit, These Flicks Are For Kids

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Films we see as children shape our tastes for years to come as well as who we are. The films we see at an impressionable age stick with us. We become nostalgic for these beloved films, no matter how dated, as we grow older and hopefully wiser. But there’s branch of children’s films that go beyond escapism. These films are often labeled “fucked up” because they possess a disturbing quality. However just because a film is disturbing does not mean that it isn’t for kids.

Consider Walter Murch’s film Return To Oz (1985). This sequel to the Judy Garland classic was bankrolled by Disney yet possesses some of the most nightmarish creations in any children’s film ever. What’s disturbing about the film isn’t the rollerblading villains but the implied electro-shock therapy that little Dorothy has endured to rid her of her Oz fantasy. Return To Oz is a film about a child’s need to escape the horrors of reality and how the rational world of adults thwarts the attempts to fulfill those needs.

Like The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T (1953), Return To Oz functions as an allegorical interrogation of childhood neuroses. These neuroses are denied in reality and must therefore be explored and resolved in fantasy. The “fucked up” part of these movies is that they present the legitimate problems faced by children as escapism for children. But this is no different than an adult’s melodrama or action movie wherein the anxieties of a grown-up are externalized as entertainment that, at its best, facilitates reflection.

Labeling one of these films as “fucked up” or as inappropriate for children is to deny a child an entertainment that speaks to them in a far more profound way than a Pixar animation or some Marvel movie. Being scared and anxious are not bad things in the relatively safe environment of watching a movie at home with a parent or guardian. Films like Return To Oz or The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T deserve a life beyond being cult fetish objects. These are the films children should see.