Friday, June 27, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Sixty-Nine

To Erik: Do you think we're creating an issue when we make movies regarding something originally child-focused (like a teddy bear, X-Men, Transformers) and make it a movie for adults?

This is in response to my previous post about children seeing movies rated "M" for "Mature."  And it's actually something I've thought about, but never really managed to ask myself the right way.  So kudos to the asker for prompting this.

In short, no.

In long, no, but there's more.

One of the best things about some pop culture icons is how well they blend into pretty much any genre or medium.  For example, let's look at Batman.  You could have a masterfully done cartoon show such as Batman: The Animated Series, and then later follow it up with something cornier but still action-packed like The Brave & The Bold.  You can have a goofy television series and movie starring Adam West, and then produce something like Nolan's recent trilogy.  Video games can range from the Arkham series to him running around as a LEGO person.  His comic books can be all-ages material to something gritty written by Frank Miller.

And they're all equally valid.

Does a character like Superman, Spider-Man, or Wolverine work as well?  I'd say it's harder for the first two than the third one, but that's not to say it can't happen.

So let's take a childhood property that hasn't been rebooted yet.  There has to be something I can dig up...

Jem?  Nope, they just cast that.  Teddy Ruxpin?  I'm...pretty sure Ted was slightly riffing off that.  The Mr. T cartoon?  ...okay, I'm just going to pretend I never brought that up.

Come on, there has to be something out there waiting for a chance to relive its glory days.


How this hasn't had movie or new cartoon series a'la Thundercats I'll never know.

Anyway, you could easily take something like Herculoids and make it whatever you want.  It could be a cartoon for kids where the characters learn about sharing amidst action, like My Little Pony.  It could be a cartoon series marketed to boys.  It could be a short-lived SyFy series, or even a movie.  It could be a CG-production movie a'la Avatar.

I'm just now realizing that one of those creatures looks like it has an artichoke for a neck.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.

Now, any of those would be valid.  I think the secret is in how they're marketed.

For instance, I was a huge Robin Williams fan for a while.  He was in Ferngully.  He was in Hook.  He was in Aladdin.  However, that doesn't mean that my parents let me immediately seek out everything else he did.  Twelve years old might be a bit young to understand everything happening in Dead Poet's Society, Awakenings, or Good Morning, Vietnam!

I'm sort of circling the main point, but I'm coming back around to it.

You can make whatever kind of media you want from a pop culture subject, but again, it's the marketing that counts.  When you have Heath Ledger doing quite possibly the most disturbing Joker ever put on film, maybe you need to rethink stuff like this:

Yes, I know your kid loves Batman and probably wants toys, but buying them something from a movie they can't see is pretty cruel.  I mean, what about something like the Alien franchise?  You wouldn't take kids to see that, so why would th- oh god, something's about to be linked, isn't it?

What the f-

...everything about that was wrong.  EVERYTHING.

But it does illustrate the point that marketing R-rated material towards children isn't anything new.  Robocop, Rambo, and even Terminator 2 had toy lines for kids.

I think that, as a society, we need to re-examine what we let children be exposed to.  We need to keep things that we don't want our kids to see away from them in any format, not just the original movie or television show.

For example, let's go back to Batman.  You're telling me that Batman isn't popular enough that you can't market a toy line with a whole bunch of neat villains without relying on the Nolan films?  Tie some toys in to the comic books, or the cartoons, or a video game, but don't provide that bridge to children to something that they really shouldn't be seeing.

Because they'll do their best to see it.  

Of course, I guess part of it is also "why do things need to be rated R to begin with," not just whether they're marketed right.

Some things seem designed to be all-audiences.  Superman.  Spider-Man.  Mario.  Sonic the Hedgehog.  They can all be ruined by trying to make them darker, edgier, and for more "mature" audiences.  You can tell a great story without making things dark and serious.  Superman and Superman II is still considered to be two great superhero movies, but they aren't only for people old enough to shave.

On the other hand, I wouldn't recommend a cheerful, PG-rated version of The Punisher, so I guess that just reinforces that some things don't transfer well.

I've lost a bit of my point again, but no, I don't think it's a problem to necessarily take something from someone's childhood and make it something more mature audiences would appreciate.  I think the problem mostly lies in when you forget to keep the lines separate so the rated R production suddenly doesn't find itself embedded in Saturday morning cartoons.

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