More about Making Great Work for Children

Tolkien's work appeals to both kids and adults, why can't more entertainment?

Tolkien’s work appeals to both kids and adults, why can’t more entertainment?

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how children are a great audience for live entertainment that isn’t being served well, and a lot of people responded supportively to this idea.

Thinking more about that, one of the reasons that not enough of this content is being produced is that there’s a false assumption that if it’s “for” children, it isn’t “for” non-children. Being almost entirely non-children themselves, the people who produce this kind of content want to program for people like themselves, and so they avoid producing shows that younger people might want to see. This is probably the core of the problem.

But let’s see if we can blow that up. If it’s for kids, is it inherently not for adults?

Maurice Sendak, Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Tolkien all share a belief that we make a number of false assumptions when we assume that a certain kind of content is “for” children and not adults. Tolkien said “… the common opinion seems to be that there is a natural connection between the minds of children and fairy-stories, of the same order as the connection between children’s bodies and milk. I think this is an error; at best an error of false sentiment, and one that is therefore most often made by those who, for whatever private reason (such as childlessness), tend to think of children as a special kind of create, almost a different race, rather than as normal, if immature, members of a particular family, and of the human family at large.”

Well said, old boy.

Surely, not all live entertainment content is for kids, though probably less of it is “wrong” for them than people imagine. On the other hand, there’s absolutely no reason that all content designed to include kids shouldn’t also include anybody else.

It’s the failure to believe such a thing possible that leads to both the shortage of content for kids at all and the mind-numbing mediocrity of most of what does get made.

It just doesn’t have to be that way.

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