We all have certain films that define our individual childhoods. I grew up glued to the screen as I watched Fred and Ginger whirl across the dance floor, Gene Kelly woo women with Frank Sinatra as his wingman, in addition to nearly every Disney film my parents could get a hold of. These films played a huge role in the development of my interests, and I often forget that not everyone grew up viewing and experiencing the same media my parents exposed me to. I realize this is a fairly obvious observation, yet I constantly talk about movies such as Lion King and Fantasia as if they are stable ingredients for raising a child. This not being the case, however, I have gradually come to understand that Disney and childhood are not directly correlated for everyone.
I admit I am a little behind on fully coming to terms with this, but a conversation I had the other day really made me reconsider how I discuss certain films from my childhood. I was commenting on how I once had an argument over which Fantasia was better (for the record I am a huge supporter of Fantasia 1), and how I just couldn’t believe that my opponent didn’t remember Fantasia 1 well enough to enjoy it as much as Fantasia 2. My friend stood there thoughtfully, and after a while admitted she struggled to remember the majority of her childhood and what movies her parents showed her. As I sat there slightly dumbfounded (as movies take up most of my memory), my other friend kindly stated, “Well, why should you have to remember everything you watched as a child? People grew up on very different things.”
Like I said, a fairly obvious statement, and yet I almost always forget it. One of my friends spent her childhood glued to Japanese cartoons, whereas I watched Winnie the Pooh and Robin Hood. My family always watches Little Women right before Christmas, and my sister-in-law insists that nothing brings about the Christmas spirit like Looney Toones. Everyone develops strong attachments to what they were exposed to and what reminds them of their childhood, and these movies and TV shows all instill the same form of nostalgia in us all despite their differences. I try so hard sometimes to force fondness for a certain Disney character or old movie on all my friends, hypocritically brushing aside any mention of something I did not experience as a child. Whether we realize it or not, and as we have discussed already in class, media greatly influences various aspects of our pasts and can have significant effects on our views of the world today. A simple melody, a snapshot of a storybook, movie, or TV show we loved as kids can flood us with countless sensory images from the past, instantly transporting us back to days of after school cartoons and whimsical words unfurling across the screen. These snapshots differ for all of us, but they bring the same feeling of warmth and simplicity experienced as kids. I am fully aware of the controversy many animated movies harbor that I was not aware of 15 years ago, and I am extremely open and fascinated to learn about the ways in which these forms of media shape our minds so early on and create unrealistic and possibly detrimental expectations. I will, however, never forget the fond worlds of memory these animations and films create for me–worlds of sticky fingers and scuffed knees after an afternoon of scooters and Beanie Babies.