Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah bad language yada yada. The giveaway is right there in the title.
Bambi (1942 Disney Movie)
Billed as “a great love story”, Bambi is actually a Quentin Tarantino movie dressed up as a children’s fairy tale. Imagine a magical forest full of happy little animals twittering in adorable little chipmunk voices and scampering around without a care in the world. Here, we meet Bambi and fall in love with his inquisitive nature, delighted by his clumsy attempts to navigate this enchanting new world…
…until five minutes later a terrifying figure steps out of the shadows and violently massacres Bambi’s mother in cold blood.
I mean sure, it’s meant to be symbolic of environmental destruction or the orphan’s journey or the fact that Walt Disney was a sick fuck or whatever, but five year olds don’t exactly have a nuanced understanding of symbolism.
To a five year old, that scene says: WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT SOMEONE WILL COME ALONG WITH A SHOTGUN AND BLOW YOUR MOTHER’S HEAD OFF. YOU WILL BE DESTINED TO WANDER THE WORLD ALONE – FOREVER.
The sight of Bambi gently nudging his mother’s lifeless corpse with his quivering little nose signalled the immediate end of my childhood. By the time he was almost incincerated in a forest fire and torn apart by a pack of vicious hunting dogs I was too numb to care.
Watership Down (1978 film)
If Bambi is “a great love story” then Watership Down must surely qualify as the Love Actually of children’s movies. Not only do we get to know and love an ensemble cast of whimsically-named bunny rabbits, we also get to follow them on an emotional journey to their increasingly gruesome deaths; as they get killed by hawks, caught in snare traps, shot by farmers, maimed, mutilated and torn apart by large predators.
Needless to say it doesn’t have quite the same cheery ending (or the Colin Firth eye candy). You’ll need a bereavement counsellor on speed-dial for this one.
Black Dog – Pamela Allen (1992)
If Bambi is the literary equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino film, Black Dog is in many ways similar to the surreal dysfunctional mindfuck that is David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.
Readers be warned: this is a book about depression, suicide, self-harm and co-dependency – all dressed up as a fluffy dog story for kids.
I made the mistake of reading this book to my three year old, and to say that it “raised some difficult questions afterwards” is kind of like saying “Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights had an average-sized cock”.
Here’s what happens: a girl and her black dog are best friends. When the girl becomes obsessed with a beautiful blue bird that sits in a tree outside her window, she neglects her canine BFF for months, completely ignoring him and his attempts to engage with her. He physically and emotionally withers under her total indifference, and in a grief-stricken attempt to regain her attention he THROWS HIMSELF OFF THE TOP OF THE TALLEST TREE HE CAN FIND.
The black dog barely survives and suffers extensive injuries. The girl lavishes him with attention because he is hurt, and before you can say “dysfunctional relationship”, he is happy again.
It’s fucked up.
There are three reviews for this on Good Reads.
One of them includes the phrase: “The illustrations are what can only be described as terrifying. Proceed with caution.”
Another simply reads: “I don’t get it…?”
Neither do I, mate… Neither do I.
The Story About Ping – Marjorie Flack (1933)
When I purchased this I was labouring under the misconception that it was going to be a feel-good story that my kids would rather enjoy; this being a classic children’s book and all.
I was wrong about that. So wrong.
The Story About Ping is about a man who savagely beats a family of small ducks with a large whip. One of those ducks escapes because he is tired of being savagely beaten with a large whip. He misses his family and wants to go back home but he is scared that he will be savagely beaten with a large whip. Homesickness wins out and he eventually makes the journey home, only to be savagely beaten with a large whip.
Actually, to be clear: he chooses to return home and be savagely beaten over the slightly less desirable alternative, which was to be eaten by the random people who capture him midway through the story. Better the whip than the wok. Poor little Ping has some pretty shit life choices to make.
That’s it. That’s the story.
WHY THE FUCK HAVE WE BEEN READING THIS SHIT TO OUR CHILDREN FOR THE LAST 80 YEARS?
The Little Match Girl – Hans Christian Andersen (1845)
Aaaah, they don’t write children’s stories like this any more… It’s a shame that our mollycoddled, cottonwool generation of kids will never know the joy and whimsy of The Little Match Girl – and by “joy and whimsy” I mean “misery and death”.
The little match girl wanders barefoot through the snow all day and night trying to sell matches. She is afraid to go home because her father will beat her. Someone stole her slippers and she hasn’t sold a single thing all day. She is cold, hungry, alone and in the early stages of hypothermia. To add insult to injury, it is New Years Eve and she can smell delicious food coming from all the houses around her.
I won’t drag this out, suffice to say that the ominous foreshadowing makes good on its promise:
But in the corner, leaning against the wall, sat the little girl with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. The New Year’s sun rose upon a little pathetic figure. The child sat there, stiff and cold, holding the matches, of which one bundle was almost burned.
The “happy ending” is that she is DEAD and never has to suffer again (this was literally the author’s intention – death as a happy ending). These are the messed up fables we grew up on.
Kids today get saccharine fairy stories like Frozen, with good prevailing over evil and ice skating and tiaras and happy princesses yelping “Do you want to build a fucking snowman?” or whatever.
A generation earlier, our classic stories ended with FROZEN DEAD GIRLS in the advanced stages of RIGOR MORTIS. Is it little wonder we are so utterly fucked up?
Forget about Toy Story and Happy Feet, we grew up on fairy tales full of cannibalism, murder, infanticide, death, poverty, starvation, abuse, neglect, ghosts who wanted to kill you, witches who wanted to eat you and whopping big giants who wanted to stomp the fucking shit out of you.
That shit will scar you for life.