BMJ Week: Do you know what your kids are watching? Study finds children’s movies rife with MURDER!

By Seriously Science | December 18, 2014 6:00 am

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It’s that time of year again: the British Medical Journal‘s Christmas Edition is out, featuring some of the most hilarious research published since… well, since forever! All this week, we will be featuring the best of this and past years’ BMJ Christmas research articles to get you in the holiday spirit.

Today, the focus is on kids’ animated films. I never really realized how dark and violent some cartoons were until I watched them with my toddler. Apparently, these researchers had the same experience, because they set out to quantitatively measure how much death occurs in kids’ vs. adults’ films. By comparing 45 animated films and 90 dramatic adult films, they discovered that important characters, including parents, in children’s animated films were more likely to die compared with characters in adult films.  The form of death was also often gruesome: “our sample of animated films included three gunshot deaths (Bambi, Peter Pan, Pocahontas), two stabbings (Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid), and five animal attacks (A Bug’s Life, The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo, Tarzan), suggesting grisly deaths are common in films for children.” Do you have suggestions for movies that don’t require you to explain the nature of mortality to your 3-year-old? Share them in the comments!

CARTOONS KILL: casualties in animated recreational theater in an objective observational new study of kids’ introduction to loss of life

Objectives To assess the risk of on-screen death of important characters in children’s animated films versus dramatic films for adults.

Design Kaplan-Meier survival analysis with Cox regression comparing time to first on-screen death.

Setting Authors’ television screens, with and without popcorn.

Participants Important characters in 45 top grossing children’s animated films and a comparison group of 90 top grossing dramatic films for adults.

Main outcome measures Time to first on-screen death.

Results Important characters in children’s animated films were at an increased risk of death compared with characters in dramatic films for adults (hazard ratio 2.52, 95% confidence interval 1.30 to 4.90). Risk of on-screen murder of important characters was higher in children’s animated films than in comparison films (2.78, 1.02 to 7.58).

Conclusions Rather than being the innocuous form of entertainment they are assumed to be, children’s animated films are rife with on-screen death and murder.”

Bonus figure from the full text:

Survival curves for parents of protagonists in animated versus comparison films

Survival curves for parents of protagonists in animated versus comparison films

Related content:
How to make people think random Disney characters are creepy.
Scientists finally explain why your grandma will never find “Borat” funny.
NCBI ROFL: A scientific analysis of kids in a candy store.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: BMJ week, rated G
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    TV is bursting with situation comedies. Do we hear laughter in the streets?

    • Bearpants112

      I did, until my doctor gave me some pills for it.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        The plural of “laughter” is “slaughter.”

  • ejhaskins

    Well you could simply NOT make films of traditional folk tales. many of them are quite gruesome — but then they were NOT for kiddies’ amusement but were more often cautionary tales.

    • Sarah Levin

      They sure were for kids. Kids new those tales years ago. We did not segregate childrens literature in the past.

  • Eric Maier

    We watched these films as children and never worried about the dark aspects. Most of us probably didn’t even think about it but enjoyed the movie for entertainment’s sake. We need to stop treating our children like they are going to break and let them learn about life or we will be creating a future in which they are unable to cope with aspects of life. I think they are more resilient than adults give them credit for. I bet that 99% of adults today think that they turned out fine and I bet that almost all of those watched these movies.

    And if you don’t like that answer, turn off the television and go hiking or something.

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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