Children are introduced to television shows and movies at a young age, especially now, taking into consideration that said methods of entertainment can be viewed on applications that one downloads onto portable devices, such as cell phones and tablets.
Oftentimes, a parent will grant the use of their cellular device to their child in public in order to refrain them from misbehaving, to keep them distracted. Apart from providing amusement for young ones, however, the films that are watched also provide education for them. Although the act of giving intellectual, moral, and social instruction is thought to be a good thing, children can also be exposed to negative concepts and theories during the process.
To further explain, a majority of children’s shows include a protagonist, which children are prone to like, and an antagonist, which children are prone to feel opposingly. The feeling of distaste towards the villain is not necessarily the bad thing, due to the fact that their actions are not those of which a child should act in accordance with; the portrayal of the villains is the issue.
Cartoon villains are typically considered odd and different in many aspects when compared to the rest of the characters, including their physical appearance, their way of speaking, and sometimes their lifestyle in general. The stereotypical pattern observed can lead children to dissociate themselves from real people who identify with the characteristics of the antagonists in the cartoon shows, based on the assumption that they, too, are immoral and wicked beings.
It has been repeatedly acknowledged that a villain has a scar, a burn, or another type of conspicuous deformity. For a visual of this concept, picture Scar from The Lion King and the Joker from Batman. Both characters are almost represented by the infamous scars on their faces; they can be identified by describing the scars alone.
In a purposefully manner, Scar is the name of the villainous lion whose eye was left with a mark subsequent to an affair. On a more disturbing note, the Joker is known to have scars stretching from either side of his mouth to his ears, leaving the man with a permanent ominous smile.
Apart from scars, a few different forms of spoiled appearances can be seen through Captain Hook from Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Gargamel from The Smurfs. Similar to Scar, Captain Hook is given that name in view of the fact that as a replacement of his left hand, the pirate is given a hook; Captain Hook does not have a left hand. Although Gargamel does not have a hook for a hand, his hunched back is the abnormal feature that differentiates him from the others. As described, said antagonists are marred by imperfections that are clearly seen.
With unfortunate frequency, not only does the way in which the villains in children’s shows and films speak differ from those who are considered the heroes, but wrongdoers are sometimes also of a darker complexion. Typically, one or both, the accent used and the pigmentation of the skin in cartoon villains, are associated with non-American qualities; this creates a sense of ethnocentrism in that Americans are better people than those who are not Americans.
The evil mammal, Scar from The Lion King, can be used to support this stereotype just as well as he did the first. This is due to the fact that in spite of Mufasa and Scar sharing their father, they do not share accents. Mufasa, whose actions are acceptable and adequate, speaks in an American accent; Scar, whose actions are corrupt and amoral, speaks in a British accent, all the while the two large cats are brothers. From Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz and his brother, Mayor Roger Doofenshmirtz, depict just about the same anecdote.
Dr. Doofenshmirtz is the antagonist of this series, and although Mayor Doofenshmirtz is not the protagonist, he is thought to be one of the good people in the cartoon show. In accordance with the last example, the two men are brothers but the evil one speaks in a German accent, while the nice one uses an American accent. The use of non-American accents for these caricatures would not have been as big of an issue if characters, other than those wishing to do evil to others, had ethnic accents, especially those related to them.
As mentioned previously, darker complexions are also associated with villains in some films for children. In addition to having a Spanish accent, El Macho from Despicable Me 2 is of brown skin, both of which are very obvious to the ears and to the eyes of the viewers. In this movie, there were many Mexican stereotypes put to use when it came to the life of El Macho. He was a former luchador and later moved on to be the owner of a Mexican restaurant, which included dancing and eating chips with salsa. These ethnic stereotypes do not go unnoticed, and can impact a child’s view on good and bad people.
As a result of how villains are characterized in children’s shows, a child’s mind can be affected negatively in multiple ways. For starters, a child whose accent or skin color resembles that of a villain in a movie or show that they are watching may feel bad about themselves, even confused considering it is possible they encounter the occurrence more than once.
Not only does the image of villains influence children who identify with them, but it also influences children who do not. Those youngsters who cannot make a connection between their qualities and the qualities of the villains may get the impression that they are, in a way, above those who can make that connection.
Taking into account that there are people who are considered physically impaired, constantly seeing a disfigured villain could lead a child to fear these people; a child may be afraid of someone who wears an eyepatch, someone who rides a wheelchair, etc. In addition to that, it is probably more common for a child to come across someone of a different nationality, meaning they will hear a foreign accent. This could just as well strike a feeling of fear in the child.
In conclusion, producers should keep in mind that what they decide to put in their films, and what features they decide to give their characters, can very well make a difference to those who are watching, especially if their products are aimed at a younger audience. The villains used as examples could have given the same malicious impressions without the use of physical or racial differences. Briefly stated, a producer’s portrayal and a child’s perception of protagonists and antagonists can shape the child’s judgement of themselves and of others, for better and for worse.