A Walk on the Child Side: A Note on Intent and Perception

I’ve been writing this column for some time now, but I recently had a discussion in a political theory class that I think is relevant to the kinds of columns I’m writing. In class, we watched The Lion King and discussed the implications of the film as far as political theory is concerned (that’s a whole different topic, for a whole different day). Someone in the class asked the professor if she thought we were reading too much into the film--"couldn’t it just be a kids movie?!"

 

The answer, as we discussed, is both yes and no. And the gap there is caused by the difference between perception and authorial intent.

 

Basically, just because I perceive a specific form of children’s media as progressive or something similar does not mean that the author intended it to be perceived in this way. When discussing The Lion King, we wondered if the filmmakers intended for the hyenas to depict a racial stereotype, but truly we do not and cannot know the answer to that question. All we DO know for certain is how we perceive the media when we consume it.

 

In terms of this column, my perception as an adult is very different than my perception as a child, even when it is the exact same media in question. I used to think that Spongebob was the epitome of humor, but clearly the episode of Maggie and the Ferocious Beast where the beast takes a bath in a puddle with a really big bar of soap is the epitome of humor in children’s media (side note: I’m always down to talk about Maggie and the Ferocious Beast).

 

What I’m getting at is that it’s easy to think that this column is silly or unnecessary, because the producers of children’s media probably don’t put this much thought into what they create. Maybe they do, but we don’t know for certain.

 

But what we do know is that I PERCEIVE these forms of children’s media in a very specific way, and that’s what I’m going to continue to write about in this column.

 

Have an idea for a future column or a show you want me to discuss? Drop a comment down below!