Rediscovering the Magic from Your Childhood Favorites
As adults, it’s a lot harder to enjoy the movies and stories we adored in our youth. However, there are a few ways to try.
We all know how hard it is to still enjoy the stories we loved as children. I had a literature professor back when I was an undergrad who delighted in ruining everyone's favorite fairy tales by telling us how they were originally written. Time has a sticky way of changing the way we see and experience media.
We learn that the king in Sleeping Beauty actually forced himself on her when she was asleep. He’s much older and hairier than Disney’s handsome prince, so there goes that story.
We learn that in the true story of The Little Mermaid, Ariel didn’t end up with the prince, so there’s another love story out the window.
We realize that Beauty and the Beast actually has some very questionable signs of romanticizing Stockholm syndrome. It’s debatable, but there are some pretty compelling signs.
Oh, and if that’s not enough, the good-natured father Zeus in Disney’s Hercules had sex with pretty much every member of his family.
Here’s another one that I can’t corroborate as well. I looked through the visual history of Saint Nick on The Guardian and various other news websites, but most of them focus on early images of Saint Nicholas and when companies like Coca-Cola started using good old Santa Claus as a mascot to market dreadfully unhealthy soda.
However, according to my British Literature professor back in college, the modern image of Santa Claus — a round older man dressed in red — actually came from a very old painting of such a man giving candy to children. While the artist captured a seemingly innocent moment, the man was actually notoriously known in town for hiring children to perform sexual acts and he would tip them with candy. According to this very disturbing telling, the man who the modern Santa image was based on was a pedophile.
I can’t corroborate this story since my Googling efforts came up empty on finding facts to back me up here, but it’s a prime example of how childhood favorites get ruined as we get older. Even if it’s not true, it’s a good example of how misunderstandings can ruin our glossy memories.
Subsequently… it’s pretty hard to return to your favorite movies and stories from childhood.
It's not easy to get those same feelings of excitement you did when you just didn’t know better or just didn’t know the full story.
It’s particularly fun when you’re a literature student and your professors cheerfully ask how they can ruin your favorite fairy tales, it can be pretty funny (in an entirely dream-crushing way) to find out the true stories behind the time-tested favorites in children’s media.
Crank your suspension of disbelief up to eleven.
Go right past ten. Crank it up to eleven. Simply knowing what suspension of disbelief is helps me enjoy things more. Knowing that it has a term and mindfully applying it to myself during the viewing experience goes a long way.
When you’re a child, it happens automatically, subconsciously even. As an adult, you’ve got to repeatedly force yourself to stop finding holes in the logic of fairy tales and children’s movies.
Try to relax when you watch and don’t think too much. Let the story unfold, let the fallacies happen, and don’t poke holes in things.
Embrace the nostalgia, but don’t let it make you sad.
As proper college freshmen, my childhood friend and I spent several weeks binging our favorite Disney movies on weekends after we finished all of our unholy assignment workloads. We both worked and took overloaded course schedules to graduate faster, so college was a pretty rigorous experience for both of us. We needed to unwind with some ridiculous Disney musicals.
At first, I just felt sad because I couldn’t get into the stories anymore.
Instead, think about how these movies and stories made you feel in the past. Remember how much it excited you as a child. Think back to the times when you didn’t see the cliche tropes coming from miles away.
Look for all the adult jokes snuck into children’s movies.
This is tremendously fun; there are so many things we hear or see as children, don’t fully understand, but we just roll with it and let it pass us by.
Then as adults, we realize that there are a lot of dirty jokes in Disney movies and other children’s cartoons. As far as non-Disney media goes, I’m particularly fond of The Fairly OddParents for slipping in adult humor here and there.
Try and get into the true history or myth.
Yeah, it’s dark, it’s not the Disney version. However, what you find instead might be pretty interesting.
For example, let’s look at Anastasia, a movie made by the short-lived Fox Animation Studio. I know Fox isn’t exactly the best respected news company, but their animation studio hit a homer in with Anastasia.
I went down the Wikipedia research rabbit hole and ended up reading a ton about the various Anastasia imposters who appeared over the years. It’s actually quite fascinating, particularly the story of Franziska Schanzkowska, or Anna Anderson.
She was the best known Anastasia imposter, but in reality, she wasn’t a grand duchess, but a Polish factory worker who struggled with mental illness.
The movie Anastasia was partially inspired by Anderson’s claim. The movie’s protagonist really is Anastasia, but she goes by Anya, has quite a lot in common with Anna Anderson. At the beginning of the film, Anya is leaving the orphanage she grew up in to go work at a fish factory, which seems to be a nod to the fact that Anderson was a factory worker prior to claiming to be Anastasia.
Subsequently, learning a little more about the history can be a fun way to enjoy your old favorites in a new, different way. Some of the facts or parallels you discover are very fascinating.
If all else fails, celebrate the absurdity.
If you just can’t rediscovery the magic, learn to enjoy the media in a new way. Embrace how things don’t make sense.
Just laugh at the fact that all these ancient Chinese soldiers are singing in Mulan. And yeah, Dimitri and Vlad are just two surprisingly well-dressed men who were squatting in the St. Petersburg palace in Anastasia.
Regardless, if it makes you enjoy the movie, just start wondering how the heck their clothes still look reasonably clean or how all those soldiers knew how to sing.
In most of these cases, it’s going to be a different kind of enjoyment than you felt as a child.
It might not be quite as magical, but rediscovering some kind of joy in your childhood favorites can feel wonderfully nostalgic. It’s still possible to enjoy your childhood favorites, even if everything in life is different now.
It takes a bit more effort, which may not seem as fun. However, I firmly believe that deriving some kind of enjoyment from old favorites is better than losing the magic completely.