Noemi C. Fetalvero

Two empty bottles

“THE brothers keep acting out what they see in DVDs, so no more Transformer,” my cousin Mike declared one day.

Celluloid creations—Super heroes Spiderman, Iron Man, and Batman, among a stable of powerful guys; and fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Jack and Beanstalk and the like; and fantasy storylines presented on TV, such as Darna and Ang Panday—still amaze children in a magical way.

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Anthropologists, psychologists, educators and psychiatrists have scrutinized these kinds of entertainment productions, particularly fairy tales.

They have concluded that fairy tales are some kind of “social genetic code, a means by which cultural values are transmitted from one generation to the next.” Some literary critics view them as “charming tales inculcating young and impressionable children with culturally approved values.”

Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim suggested ways on how fairy tales might help children cope with their existential predicament by setting the examples of characters, who are able to outgrow childhood dependencies or sibling rivalries.

Some parents say that there is just too much emphasis on violence. According to Bettelheim, these parents believe that the child should be exposed only to the sunny side of things.

However, he believes that such a one-sided fare nourishes the mind only in a one-sided way—and real life is not all sunny.

“There is a widespread refusal to let children know that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to our very own nature—the propensity of all men for acting aggressively, selfishly, out of anger and anxiety. That the dominant culture wishes to pretend, particularly, where children are concerned, that the dark side of man does not exist,” Bettelheim observed.

He concluded his report, saying that this is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form. “That a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence—that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected, often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.”