The Medium Is The Message = No Kids?
Random thought concerning the (maybe) reproduction crisis. Does mass media have representative amounts of children anymore? I vaguely recall media of the 80s/early 90s showing a lot of children around everywhere.
Somewhere in the 90s most of the kids disappeared. I think it started with the downfall of the 80s family sitcoms, which were supplanted by Seinfeld and Friends, two extremely child-lacking shows. This isn’t a bad thing, there’s a lot of target demographics out there.
But when I think of children in media now, they seem to be almost gone? It’s not just a few shows or movies, it’s the vast majority. No one has time for children. They are a distraction from whatever is actually important in life. Children are very costly in terms of time and energy, and portraying children realistically would necessitate including them in the structure of a narrative. Most narratives don’t want to bother, they have other stories to tell.
Importantly, people who are portrayed doing anything interesting or meaningful in life also either don’t have children, or have the children shuffled off to the side. Adults have no rewarding interaction with children on-screen that shows them as something that enriches the adult’s lives and their work.
Even WandaVision… wait, is it too soon? Spoilers incoming.
(spoilers for WandVision in this offset paragraph)
WandaVision—which is ostensibly about Wanda’s desire for a family and the joys of home life with loving children—even WandaVision had basically 0 minutes of interaction between Wanda and her children, and instead focused on her relationship with Vision, her struggles with accepting reality, not abusing her power, and shooting light beams at bad guys.
In fact, in most of the media I do see, children are primarily a way to motivate the main character either by being threatened, kidnapped, or outright killed. Children are a liability, a weakness that can be used against you, with no upside to justify that weakness. Obviously real parents of real children understand the upside, which is why the threat is compelling for them… but for people without children, what exactly is our motivation to create such a soft underbelly for our enemies to exploit?
Maybe this is just my particular media bubble? But compared to older works that had children stuffed willy-nilly into the world, newer works are stripped bare of children. People live happy, exciting, amazing lives without the burden of children. Those that do have children don’t get little out of it aside from complications and heartache. When most of our relationships are parasocial, and most of our interaction with the world is through a screen, how are our views of what a normal life looks like altered by a deficit like this? I suppose it varies by the person, but I suspect it has to have some effect.
Death Is Bad is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.