Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Innocence of Children

Dear Muse,

Have you ever noticed how many adults want to keep children "innocent"? We seem determined to keep them away from the "real world" as long as possible. We want to keep them away from drugs, alcoholism, sex, profanity, shallowness, disillusionment, and the other trials and disappointments that come with maturity. Although I can appreciate the motive behind this action (preserving "the golden age" of childhood, as author Kenneth Grahame might say), it often seems like we're fighting a losing battle. Still, which is worse: encouraging this naivete with kids, or going to the opposite extreme of putting them in adult situations?

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

I bring up the child-adult issue because I recently watched two music videos that went to the opposite extreme: Said the Whale's "Loveless" and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' "That's What's Up." Both videos feature children who act like adults (the former as a life montage; the latter as a day in the life). However, the way they act is distinctly different. "Loveless" manages to portray kids in a way that detracts nothing from their childishness. "That's What's Up", on the other hand, fails and fails hard.

What do I mean by this? First, watch the Youtube videos:

Next, ask yourself: Which video made the kids seem like kids? Which made them seem like adults?

Maybe I should clarify what my problem is. I'm one of those adults who supports the whole "keep kids innocent" shtick. I believe that kids should act like kids. For this reason, I'm for "Loveless" and against "That's What's Up."

Where "That's What's Up" goes wrong is in never allowing its kids to be kids. From the get-go, the kids in the video dress and behave like jaded, disillusioned, superficial, shallow 20-30 year-olds with relationship issues. (Don't believe me? Look back at the opening dialogue between the boy and the girl, and ask yourself whether any real child would ever sincerely say that to another child.) All the kids in "That's What's Up" act like this - even the 6-year-old boys who ostensibly drink beer. (Really, Edward Sharpe & co.? Kids and beer? Kenneth Grahame would turn over in his grave.)

By the time the boy and girl protagonist dash off to a playground, the wrong imagery has already been set. They've acted so much like adults throughout the rest of the video that they can't properly pull off real child-play at the end. All I see is two adults acting like kids, not two kids acting like kids. I think it's sad that these two can't evoke basic childishness.

But then why does "Loveless" succeed where "That's What's Up" failed? The answer is simple: the video lets its children's childish nature shine through. Whereas the children in "That's What's Up" indicated "adults acting like kids," the children in "Loveless" are "kids pretending to be adults." While they go through a "life" montage, they never seem part of a serious adult world. It's more like they're playing a great big game of "Life." (The fact that they use a toy microwave, get engaged with a Ring Pop, raise a baby doll and wear wigs to indicate "old age" reinforces this idea. Even their marriage is childish: "You may now high-five the bride!") They're kids through and through.

Also, even though the boy and girl in "Loveless" go through adult motions, these motions are never disillusioned, jaded or superficial (unlike with "That's What's Up"). Whatever they do seems innocent and pure. Thus, I find the children in "Loveless" refreshing and much more charming than those in the other video.

We may be fighting a losing battle in trying to reinforce "the golden age" of childishness - but it seems far worse to put kids in adult positions and have them grow up too fast. ("That's What's Up" made that crystal clear.) Still, if both videos carry some message about how important it is to celebrate childhood, I vastly prefer "Loveless"'s way of showing it.

What do you think?

                                                                          'Till next time,