Violence: TV, Movies, Music, Video Games or…Nursery Rhymes?

By Melissa Minners

            There’s no denying it, ours is a violent society, but where does that violence come from?  Parents and political activists love to lay the blame on television, citing that cartoons, even old favorites like Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker and the like, cause our children to behave violently based upon what they see their favorite characters do.  Television shows such as crime dramas, wrestling, etc. paint violence in a different light.  We see people getting shot at, stabbed, thrown from heights, etc. and they very rarely get hurt or only suffer minimal damage.

            Or is it the movies we allow our kids to watch?  Are the action flicks sending Junior the wrong message, especially when he sees his favorite hero get the snot beat out of him and still survive to return the favor to his assailant?  Are the car stunts, flying bullets, explosions and the like glorifying violence?

            We know that some rappers and hard rockers have sent the wrong message through their music, inspiring some violence among their followers.  Of course that doesn’t hold true for all music, but we could certainly say these particular genres of music have been influential in the violence category.

            Quite a few video games offer some rather extreme violence.  When Junior plays them, he sometimes is apt to forget that what he just performed on the game will have disastrous results when performed in real life. 

            But are television, movies, music and video games the only source of violence our children are influenced by?  Are these the earliest sources of violence that they will ever come across.  I think not!  I think that nursery rhymes may in fact be the earliest sources of violence our children are subjected to.  Just think about it: from the moment children are born, we’re teaching them little rhymes and singing them lullabies, laughing all the way, but never really analyzing the content.

            Let’s examine just a few of these nursery rhymes that have been passed down from generation to generation, shall we?  We all know Rock-a-bye Baby as it’s a lullaby many of our parents used to sing to us to help us fall asleep.  Now that we’re older, let’s examine a few lines: “When the bough breaks / The cradle will fall / And down will come baby / Cradle and all.” Now, I ask you, why would we sing to our youngest children about babies falling out of treetops?  Jack & Jill is a nursery rhyme about two kids going up a hill to fetch a pail of water, an ordinary chore during the time period that this nursery rhyme originated in.  So what happens there?  Jack falls down and busts his skull.  Jill falls, too, but we aren’t told what happens to her.  Humpty Dumpty is another good one.  This guy either fell off of the wall he was sitting on or was pushed, but the outcome is the same - he’s dead.

            What about the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe?  There are some definite indications of child abuse here.  How about Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater?  Well, if we examine the lines as adults, we discover that Peter’s wife had been cheating on him.  There are some definite indications of kidnapping or imprisonment in that one.  Three Blind Mice?  Well, if you don’t consider cutting off their tails with a carving knife as animal cruelty, you have some issues of your own.  Rub-a dub-dub, three men in a tub…now what exactly prompted these two men to sit in a tub together?  Hmmmm. 

            Anyone know where Ring Around the Rosie came from?  Well, it is quite possible that this rhyme was about the bubonic plague in England.  Ring around the rosie would indicate the rash you suffered as one of the symptoms.  Posies would represent the herbs carried to ward off the disease.  The ashes line would be indicative of the ashes coming from the cremation of the bodies.  All fall down - well, I think that’s self explanatory.

            Then we have the fun little song, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  I don’t know why she swallowed the fly, but I do know that there is a definite indication of psychiatric issues afflicting this old woman who eats every animal she can get her hands on from a fly to a horse.  She’s dead of course.  One could say she suffered death by food if she was actually eating anything one would consider to be food.

            Don’t even let me get started on the fairytales we tell our children.  Little Red Riding Hood contains instances of attempted murder.  In Alice and Wonderland, the Queen keeps wanting to cut off people’s heads while the disappearing Cheshire Cat and the tea party with the Mad Hatter gives one the impression that Alice was suffering hallucinations while on some sort of mushroom of a psychedelic nature.  There are indications of child abuse and slavery in Cinderella.  Poisons are used in both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.  And while we are on the subject of Snow White, what was up with her sharing a shack with seven dwarfs, hmmm?  The three little pigs survive murder attempts at the hands of the big, bad wolf.  Goldilocks gets her kicks breaking and entering at the home of the three bears.  Murder and child abuse abound in the story of Hansel and Gretel.

            So, as you see, the earliest sources of violence that our children come in contact with are actually the very nursery rhymes, songs and fairytales we tell them when they are very young. Of course, there is no denying that movies, television, music and video games contain some violence, but it is Simply unfair to blame the violent nature of our children on those media outlets alone.  So, the next time you say that such and such show or video game is the cause of the destruction of our youth, think back to the nursery rhymes and stories these young souls have been exposed to in their earliest moments in life and blame them as well.


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