Do Children’s Movies Help Children Learn Just As Much As Books?

By Elise O’Keefe

Although movies are a fun time to rewind, I would encourage you to also think about the benefits of movies and TV Shows. They are not just a time to relax, although they are enjoyable for most, but a time to learn lessons and explore new content that can expand your knowledge. 

Let’s take Inside Out as an example. I was about 12 or 13 when this movie came out. At the time, I loved psychology. My mom, who majored in psychology, had surrounded me with that kind of content since I was young. She told me about everything from Sigmund Freud to explaining mental illnesses like bipolar or DID. I was eager to learn, and I always had questions. So naturally, when Inside Out came out, my mom wanted to go see it. Her friend had told her that it explores themes of psychology that are advanced in an understandable way. I was excited to go see it because my peers had told me they enjoyed the film as well. If you haven’t seen the movie, there are spoilers ahead! 

After seeing the movie, my mother and I talked about it. I had noticed how they show the emotions arriving in the “headquarters” or the prefrontal cortex starting with basic emotions (the character Joy) and becoming more complex as Riley aged (adding Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear to the “control panel”). As more emotions appeared, life got more complex. I had also noticed that as Riley aged, there were more buttons on her “control panel.” As humans age, there are more advanced and multi-part emotions we experience. I also explained to my mom how I thought some emotions were missing. In the movie as well, they stress the importance of ALL emotions. We may think of Joy as the most important since it is arguably the best emotion to feel but during the movie, the directors prove this wrong. Joy starts off the movie by telling Sadness not to touch the memories since she will “mess them up”. As the movie continues, Sadness emerges as a crucial character. Riley is able to see her love for hockey when she reflects on her feelings of a game she had lost, which were not feelings of Joy. The movie’s emphasis the importance of letting yourself feel sadness or other emotions besides joy because otherwise you can’t grow or appreciate the true moments of joy. 

However, let’s take Lord of the Flies as another example. I read this book when I was about seven, and overall, I enjoyed it. When I arrived to my ninth grade English class, we read it as part of the class. I was fascinated by the complex psychology that each character brought (such as how each main character represented the id, ego, and superego). I was able to dive deeper into the psychology presented in this book during my English tenpage on one of the psychological theories shown in the book and it amazed me how these complex concepts were presented in simple wording. Of course, in order to fully understand quite how complex it is one needs an understanding of the topic, but it can also be explored without knowing the vocabulary. 

In the Lord of the Flies, the main characters each represent one of the parts of Freud’s theory of the id, ego, and superego. Jack, the seemingly kind and mature boy who turns evil and barbaric, is supposed to represent the impulsive part of decision making, or the id. Ralph, the composed and compromising character is supposed to represent the realistic part, also known as the ego. Simon is supposed to represent the angelic, rule abiding and selfless part, also known as the superego. I could write (and I did) pages about these characters, but the main point is how the author incorruptated complex themes in a way that is understandable to all ages. 

Using these two examples, it is clear that both books and movies can cover complex themes, like psychology. Although both of these movies had very complex themes, you may think about some that do not. Books or movies don’t need to handle the themes of psychology discussed previously to still be important. Life lessons can be conveyed through a simple story, whether on paper or on a screen. The point of this essay is to show you that movies can include these themes traditionally thought to only be found in books and that watching a movie is just as beneficial as reading a book in the context of learning important topics and life lessons. 

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