Why is the depiction of death discouraged in US children's programming?

Why is the depiction of death discouraged in US children’s programming?

When the action-figure hero guys mow down enemy hordes, why do the hordes have to be robots (G.I. Joe)? If an anime series gets imported here, why do they have to rewrite the dialogue so that the characters say of a guy who got involved in what’s obviously a deadly car crash, “Looks like he’ll pull through” (Speed Racer)? Do other Western countries have the same reluctance?

I grew up in Hawaii during the mid-Seventies, where uncensored, subtitled Japanese youth programming was imported for local television. Uncensored means we got everything: bodily function jokes, freaky-ass monsters, maybe even a nippleless cartoon boob or two, lots of violence, and… death, a logical result of all that violence. You blow up scientific complexes, people die. Wave around your hyper-disintegration ray? People die. Attempt to conquer Japan by selling exploding fountain pen ink? People die. I never questioned all this death, nor was I particularly disturbed by it, and I didn’t grow up to be a serial killer. Honestly!

Any theories from the Dopers?

(I’m not sure which forum to post this in. It’s entertainment-related, but may not have a definite answer. At the same time, it’s hardly a “great” debate. Sorry if it ends up getting moved.)

My theory: Americans are pussies.


What Miller said.

and because God said thou shalt not watch quality programming.

The hierarchy of American TV violence was determined by experts who had painstakingly studied children’s psychological development. A child can handle depictions of extreme violence a few years before they can handle depictions of death connected to said violence. But seeing a nipple will cause intense lifelong psychological scarring.

Fantasia had nipples!

Which only proves my case! There was no threat of nuclear holocaust before Fantasia was made; after the Fantasia generation grew up, the Cold War really got into full swing.

If only it had stuck to extreme deathless violence against marching brooms, the world would be in a much better state today!

Well, from what I’ve heard, they used to allow killing in cartoons. My father recalls Race Bannon machine gunning quite a few people in Johnny Quest…and, to be blunt, some of them were even white people.

It must have had something to do with that whole 50s/60s pre-Vietnam ethic, where Men were Men, atomic power brought great promise, the U.S. Military and Government weren’t “evil,” and the heros thundered through the skies in overpolluting, gas-guzzling, “anti-flash” painted supersonic aircraft.

By god, it was glorious

I Googled a bit and found a page about children’s development of an understanding of death, but not anything about a study for broadcast standards and practices. I wouldn’t mind seeing the study, if this is not a whoosh :), as well as a list of actual standards (“Article 24,810-B[1][d][iv]: Exposure of the aureole on female breasts is strictly prohibited in order to prevent the legions of Satan from escaping and laying waste to the Earth…”)

If there is a hierarchy of acceptable depictions, one that genuinely affects the healthy psychological development of a child, I’m just wondering why Japan has not adopted the same SaPs as well. Perhaps the fact that they have a religion that largely deals with the messy business of death might have something to do with greater acceptance of it.

…Of course, if the hierarchy is valid, that would explain the presence of shows that could only be created by a truly disturbed psyche. Ugo Ugo Ruga, which features a talking pile of feces, comes to mind.

It also had a cherub’s ass that turned into a heart. Maybe that cancelled out the psychosis waves radiated by all those nipples.

What’s so unusual about a talking piece of feces? South Park has that too.

D’oh. Forgot about South Park. Ugo Ugo Ruga came first, though. The Daily Yomiuri (I’m quoting the paper via a Dave Barry column) describes it thusly:

I should have used another example, like “tokusatsu series starring a trio of heroic demon-robots, one of which transforms into a disco-dancing ostrich.”

Please forgive me, my lord. Ia.

I dunno about that. In Japan they just watch all those programs where people get killed. In the United States we don’t have to watch that kind of thing because we’re to busy murdering and assaulting each other in real life.


If you let kids see that violence results in death, they’ll’ grow up to be adults who understand that dropping boms on Iraq means that the Iraqi people get killed, not liberated.

Not to mention asses. Lots of asses. Hippo asses, satyr asses, ass asses. Uncle Walt had a rear fetish.

Fantasia didn’t have nipples! That was the compromise they made in order to show topless female centaurs. Topless was OK as long as there was negative nippleage.

psst, Gr8Kat, try Night on Bald Mountain.

Oh, oops. Sorry, when I think of Fantasia boobies, I think automatically of the centaurs.

The depiction of death in children’s programming is officially discouraged in the United States for the simple reason that it makes children cry, and crying children are a pain to have around. It then becomes necessary to craft an elaborate tissue of lies to console the child, about how Bambi’s mom wasn’t really shot, that wasn’t a gunshot noise at all, just the sound of the door slamming on the truck to take her to the big farm, the same farm that Old Yeller went to, and they used the same truck so that’s why the door sounded the same. Keeping up this facade until the child is mature enough to handle the concept of death with silent stoicism (emphasis on silent) can be a real hassle.

Japan… this is not intended to perpetuate any negative stereotypes or cause offense in any way, but I can’t recall ever seeing a single example of post-WWII Japanese popular culture that was anything other than profoundly messed up. This is not their fault, of course; drop atomic weapons on any country and the first thing they’ll do is start worshiping giant radioactive lizards. However, I think it’s at least possible that exposing small children to programming that emphasizes death and bodily functions might just result in a population of adults that considers depictions of schoolgirls being raped by tentacles to be an appropriate and highly marketable form of entertainment. This is just a theory, of course, but I would seriously question if any other civilization in the history of the world ever had more than two explicit depictions of tentacle rape in their entire cultural output.

Speaking of breasts and the Japanese, does anyone remember that old cartoon Tranzor Z? It came on around 5am when I was a kid; far too early for any responsible adults to be awake. I recall that the one girl in the show had a girl-shaped giant robot with breasts that shot missiles from its nipples. How the hell is anyone supposed to successfully navigate puberty with a brain full of images like that?!

We also seem to be forgetting that cartoons in Japan aren’t always meant for kids… but alot of the time they get packaged as kids shows over in the US.
I believe in Japan, Dragon Ball Z is meant for teenagers but in the US it was edited and geared towards the slightly past Pokemon age group.
I could be wrong.

In Liberty’s Kids on PBS which is a cartoon about the Revolutionary War when a battle is depicted and you KNOw people are getting shot they cut to a stock animation of a rifle falling to the ground… It was cool the first three times… but now it’s just boring.

My fuzzy memory insists one of the creators of * South Park * had an advanced degree in Japanese Studies, or had lived in Japan, or something like that. It’s entirely possible he was aware of the previous (ahem) animated feces, and was paying a tribute with his Mr. Hankey character.

Yeah, the lack realism in American cartoons has bugged me for a long time. The action cartoons I watched when I was growing up were ones like GI Joe, the war where nobody gets hurt, Thundar the Barbarian, He-man, Thunder Cats, and Transformers, which I loved. But not only did nobody get killed in these cartoons, nobody even got scratched or bruised either.
Then in the, what was it, early or mid 90’s, you had cartoons like X Men, where you’d have things like Cyclops getting slammed into the wall so hard, that he leaves an indent of his body, instead of having his bones broke, and the only person who was shown getting hurt was Mr Sinister, because his body was matalic.
Not that I really watched it much, but on the newer Superman and Justice League cartoons on Cartoon Network, I have seen a death or two, and Superman did actually have his skin scratched in one episode I saw, but those are pretty rare occurrences.
Samurai Jack turned out to be a big disappointment, after all the hype that came out before the show started. One of the things I don’t like is, like most other American cartoons, he’ll only use deadly force on robots.