I just saw “Coraline” this weekend and really enjoyed it; even though it definitely had it’s creepy moments. It did get me thinking, though both about Cautionary Tales and “child-approriateness.” I found some moments definitely creepy for me, particularly when Other Mother turned into some sort of half insect-like spider monster being, but she still looked like the mother. Anyway it was scary, and would probably frighten a child; but the point of the tale was to remind children to appreciate what they have and to see the truth in people, not the facades. The consequences of Coraline’s falling for the “perfect world” of Other Mother is imprisonment and she learns what happened to the other children who accepted the lies of the perfect world. I think back to the fairy tales of the past, and how many of them carried the warning of “obey your parents” or “obey the church” or you’ll run afoul of witches, demons, monsters and other worldly dangers.
If you read Chinese mythology, as well, many of their tales told to children involve wandering ghosts and vengeful spirits designed to keep children safe by presenting dark consequences for disobedience. So I suppose my question is… do we have a place for cautionary tales for children, how “scary” is appropriate and how much is too much? Should scary stories wait until children are old enough to be told “this is make believe?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts, or even your thoughts on the age-appropriateness of Coraline?