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Serious Topics in Kids Shows

     When you think of kids shows, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Happy, silly, and something age appropriate, right? However there has been a trend that has gone on since the days of Mister Roger's Neighborhood. That trend, is talking about more grown up subjects. With LGBT characters and discussions becoming more prominent in recent children's shows, the question has been raised once again, should kid shows tackle serious and current topics or just stick to children? Well, this isn't anything new in kids shows believe it or not.

 

     What started with Mister Roger's Neighborhood with the episode about assassination due to the JFK assassination, caused other shows to bring up subjects outright or relate it to the context of the show. I will be talking about the top three subjects normally talked about in kids shows that are more serious than what would be expected of a kid show and round it out with my own thoughts on it.

 
 
Drugs/Addiction
 
 
     Easily the most talked about subject in kids shows that are more adult. This subject, while talked about here and there, picked up a lot of steam in the 1980s with Reagan's effort to curb drug abuse. It was in nearly to every kid's show in either a small snippet at the end like Sonic Sat AM or have whole episodes and even a special made specifically for this reason called Cartoon All Stars to the rescue. This trend continued into the 1990s and slowed down by decade's end. 
 
The replacement, as technology picked up in advancements, became addiction in general. While it is more on PBS, some shows have tackled addiction to technology, one though that has made it a bit more of a thing is the long running show Arthur. 
 
Death
 
 
     While drugs and addiction is the most talked about, Death is the second most common subject talked about in kids shows. From Mister Roger's to Sesame Street and everything in between. Since it is a part of life, it should be talked about to the point where kids can understand.
 
     In Sesame Street they dedicated an episode to the passing of Mr. Hooper's actor and made it about how while they are gone, they aren't forgotten. In cartoons, this subject is usually told by the death of a pet. However one show did bring up the death of a parent. Rugrats did an episode revolving around Mother's day and the death of his mother. A plot point in the Rugrats in Paris film was about Chuckie wanting a new mom. 
 
 
Stranger Danger
 
 
     While this was more prominent in PSAs and a few episodes, especially in the 80s and 90s, these were shown regularly in schools and at least once every other week on TV. This was due to both child safety and the hysteria of the time that kids are being taken left and right during that time frame. Shows from Care Bears, He-man, and other cartoons to Barney and The Brady Bunch have covered it. 
 
 
 
     So, back to the question, do kids shows need to be talking about serious subjects? Yes, I do believe they do. But not as a service. I do believe that as long as the subjects are handled correctly and are talked about in a way for a child to understand, then by all means, do it. But I do feel parents also have the responsibility to expand on those subjects. The episodes are more of a talking point to use to start. People say they shouldn't be talking about this stuff because kids don't need to know about serious subjects. They do need to know these subjects to either handle emotions, figure out warning signs, and/or learn acceptance. 
 
     I hope this article helps bring light the model of PSA episodes of shows into more discussion. I'm not going to try and talk politics. But discussion about the question and the question alone is welcomed. Just be civil about it please. 
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Mr Magic Posted on Feb 21, 2020 at 03:37 AM

@Ben:

It's a sad special, but it's a happy one too.

Benjanime Posted on Feb 21, 2020 at 03:20 AM

i honestly can't even watch that mother's day rugrats episode anymore, it's too gut-wrenching.

Mr Magic Posted on Feb 21, 2020 at 02:38 AM

As Told By Ginger is a very good example of a cartoon involving real issues.

ThatDudeintheHoodie Posted on Feb 20, 2020 at 07:06 PM

I felt this topic needed to be talked about. This actually got me out of my slump with writing funny enough.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 20, 2020 at 03:50 PM

Great topic for an article. The first thing that comes to mind for me, is a very well done episode of He-Man and The MOTU called "The Problem with Power". In it, He-Man is tricked into believing that he has accidentally killed somebody by Skeletor. It is the only time we see He-Man transform BACK into Prince Adam, and he decides to relinquish his powers because of his actions. The episode uses a fair amount of shadowing on the characters, which was not often used because of the time and budget limitations placed on Filmation for the cartoon.




Mr Magic Posted on Feb 20, 2020 at 03:48 PM

There was a Tiny Toon Adventures episode that involved beer.

Heck, there was a Porky Pig cartoon that involved smoking!

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