How bad is it to make toddlers cry for the sake of art (photography, movies, etc.)

This train wreck of a thread has been diverted by political fighting and questions of honesty from what could have been, in my opinion, a reasonably interesting discussion.

The impetus for the thread was a woman who took a bunch of pictures of crying and otherwise distressed toddlers for a series of photos. Some of the toddlers were made to cry using techniques such as giving them candy and then taking it away. The message of these photos, and the reason for the train wreck in the other thread, was that these children’s misery was somehow reflective of America under George Bush’s presidency. You can find the photographer’s own website here, where all the pictures are on display.

Some folks in the other thread, including me, suggested that similar techniques are used on child actors to get them to cry, and a citation provided by tomndebb suggests that this has happened with some regularity in Hollywood.

But i don’t want this thread to be about the politics, nor do i want it to be about the quality of the final product. What i’m interested in is this:

In your opinion, how bad is it to intentionally make children cry for the purposes of creating art such as this?

In the other thread, i suggested that the whole thing was something of a tempest in a teacup. That’s not to say that i would necessarily do it myself, nor that i think it is especially admirable, only that i can’t get very worked up about it, and certainly wouldn’t categorize it as child abuse, at least not as it was described by the photographer.

So, opinions please.

I don’t like it. I agree it’s not child abuse, and the artist is probably right that it’s not causing permanent psychological damage, but it still seems pretty mean to me. I’m not going to boycott anybody or anything over it, but I’m against it, if it were up to me whether it was to be done or not.

I don’t the take away a toy method is that big of a deal. It’s not a nice thing to do but I can’t see getting too upset about it. Now the GQ thread on this subject listed instances where older kids were made to cry by threatening them in some way (to abandon one kid at a workhouse, and to shoot another’s dog). That’s not okay at all. I also don’t like the idea of a parent pretending to leave their toddler to make him/her cry.

[Fill in the blank] makes Baby Jesus cry. :frowning:

“OK, now… ACTION!”

Babies cry. It’s in the job description.

It’s like we build up emotional callouses- something that makes us cry the first time it happens, barely causes us to blink an eye once it’s happened ten times. Someone taking your candy away from you at age 3 will make you cry, but at age ten you’d just be a bit upset. We NEED to build up an immunity to the small stuff, so that we can handle the big stuff when we get older.

With this logic, she’s actually doing the kids a favor. :slight_smile:

Seriously, while I think it’s a mean thing to do, it’s not like the kids are permanently injured. What the artists did isn’t even illegal… so why the big deal?

I was going to post pretty much exactly what Revtim said, but (as astute readers will note) Revtim already said it.

Chalk up another vote for “I don’t like it, but I wouldn’t kill anyone over it.”

As I said in the so-called “train wreck,” to talk about the toddlers “crying” neglects the very important question of whether or not the babies are suffering, which they are not. Toddlers may cry because they are suffering, but they may also cry simply because they can’t have what they want, and because they’ve learned that a little wet eyed action often works to get what they want. I also expect that the toy or ice cream that’s taken away is eventually given back, and that the children in question are hardly denied those things on a regular basis, just for the four seconds needed to catch their misery on film.

If the child isn’t actually suffering from anything more than delayed gratification, it’s hard to support the assertion that it’s mean, cruel, or bad.

As I said in the earlier thread: it’s mean, and it’s cruel.

There are plenty of meaner and crueler things in the world, I grant. That doesn’t mean we can’t call this particular thing mildly mean and mildly cruel.

It’s no more torturous than jingling your keys to provoke a smile. Sometimes you need footage like this (not necessarily the Bush thing, but movies and stuff with no political agenda). Toddlers don’t know how to act for the camera. Should they never be in movies or TV shows again?

Well, aside from using words like “mean” and “cruel,” which are merely substitute words for “bad,” how can you support your claims if the children aren’t harmed in any way? Have you ever raised a toddler? Is it “mean” and “cruel” to make the child go to daycare, or to stop eating the dogfood, or to not let her watch The Aristocats for the fifth time that day, because it makes her cry? If you do have a toddler, you know that the tears are nearly constant, are rarely an index of actual need or sorrow, and are quickly forgotten when the next distraction comes along.

I wouldn’t worry about it all that much. However, it occurs to me that taking candy/toys away, waiting for screaming, and then giving it back might train the kids to scream for things in order to get them. Since parenthood is all about training the kid out of that expectation, I don’t think I’d be too thrilled about it.

She’s not my favorite visual artist, but it’s good work and this whole brouhaha is absolutely fantastic.

I’ve really enjoyed the debates on the meaning of art, the treatment of children, politics, the whole shebang. I’m betting that people who haven’t looked at a piece of art this year – much less a work created by a living artist – are weighing in on this project

One woman remarked that pain and suffering weren’t appropriate subjects for fine art - bwahaha! Has she ever BEEN to a museum?

Assuming the kids were miserable for maybe 10 minutes in order to complete it, that’s not a huge sacrifice on their part, and certainly not “damaging”. They’ll probably think it’s cool when they grow up and realize they were art.

The political part makes me more squeamish, I’ve always disliked it when people take young children on protest marches.

I’ve been wondering if I’d let my own children participate in such a project, and I probably would’ve (assuming I liked and trusted the artist). Actually I’ve tried to photograph them mid-sob, to remember what it was like. As a tiny infant my dd looked like a big tomato-head when she bawled, while my son has an Elvis sneer when he cries.

All that said, I hope this doesn’t inspire a legion of copycats and imitators who feel compelled to push the envelope even further.

That’s why you’ll never been a big-time super-villain, Palazzo, despite your nifty underground base. Your violence threshold’s too high. Me, I’ll slap a nun for protesting when I still her jelly donut.

Well, from what my daughter’s manager told us, the trick is to get the baby not to cry.

Look, letting babies cry is not cruel, it might even be good in some situations. When my daughter was about six or nine months, she’d get up at 2 am every damn night. Our pediatrician told us to let her cry - it was painful, but we did, and she eventually slept through the night with no harm done. She cried a lot longer than any kid would for a shoot. It’s no big deal.

My thoughts exactly. As a parent of a toddler I “made them cry” so often for such minor things just to get through the day (the word no could win an Oscar for my daughter) that I don’t see another cry as anything other than incidental. And, being a human parent, sometimes I was wrong and I really shouldn’t have made them stop what they were doing. And the reason wasn’t even Art, it was to get them out the door three minutes faster.

But if you are going to take the toy away from them to get them to cry, keep it!

Why would you need to do that to a baby? Babies cry by themselves. Or they don’t, like my nephew.

My nephew doesn’t seem to have crying figured out. You could give him his water bottle and take it away as many times as you want, all he’ll do is scrunch up his face and make coughing noises (he’s not coughing as in ill, just makes the noise when displeased). He can be tired, hungry, peed, shat, and still all he does is scrunch up his face, wiggle and cough. When he’s sleepy he makes coocoo noises that my SIL took for crying until Mom identified them as being “singing himself to sleep, his Da did the same”.

Other kids, wait long enough and they’ll cry. That needs patience? Yeah, well…

Excuse the double post, please.

“Illegal”, “bad” and “immoral” are not equivalent terms.

“Legal”, “good” and “moral” are not equivalent terms, either.

The question in the OP was about ethics, not legality.

A strategy which otherwise would never occur to them. :wink:

You’ll note that I said we try to "train the kid out of that expectation. Of course kids naturally scream to get things; it’s the positive reinforcement (giving the toy back) that’s the problem. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to teach my kids that throwing a fit will not get them what they want, and eventually this will result in a kid who doesn’t scream or whine to get what she wants (though it may take until age 16!). So I don’t want to turn around and train them that screaming will work. It would undermine all that effort!

OK, I wrote that reply too quickly. Please excuse the poor grammar and punctuation. Preview is my friend…