Science Podcasts

Special episode

Wed, 24th Dec 2014

Cartoons are deadly (for lead roles)

Popeye (c)

Whether it’s an outing to the cinema or gathered in the living room, films are a great way to spend time as a family at Christmas. If children are involved, the choice of title will often be made with them in mind. Reservoir Dogs might be shelved in favour of Shrek, perhaps. We tend to assume that films aimed at children are less likely to involve complex, frightening or upsetting themes, such as death. Not so, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal which found two and a half times more death in children’s cartoons than grown-up films. Khalil Thirlaway talks to James Kirkbride from University College London to find out more.

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What's complex or frightening about death? Life is complex, frightening, and frequently upsetting. Death fixes all that, for ever. The only problem is that if children aren't brought up to fear death, they may turn into jihadists (adding to the fear and complexity of other people's lives) or atheists (bad for business).

AFAIK only one character has ever died in The Simpsons (Snowball 1 was reported dead but actually snuffed offstage, before the first series). No other cartoon is worth watching.  alancalverd, Thu, 25th Dec 2014

Did you not see the Reaper Madness episode?

Death enters the Simpson house attempting to take Bart but the family goes on a Benny Hill-style chase to elude him. However, Death eventually manages to pin Bart's shirt to the wall with its scythe. And as Death sentences Bart to an eternity of pain, Homer kills him with a bowling ball (in revenge for killing Snowball I and President John F. Kennedy), but when he does, he learns that no one can die since Death is dead. The scene then cuts to two examples of a world where no one can die: Frankie the Squealer (last seen in “Insane Clown Poppy”) being repeatedly gunned down by the Springfield Mafia and Moe hanging himself from the ceiling with no success. On trash day, Marge tells Homer to take the dead Death to the curb which Homer says he will without enthusiasm. Homer does, but puts on the robe, inadvertently turning himself into the new Grim Reaper. At first, he refuses to reap souls, but when the cloak begins to crush his crotch, he complies.

He kills many people on God's list (and some who are not) until he is asked to kill Marge. Homer does not want to kill his wife (or himself, an alternative he is given but quickly rejects), and he tries to plead to God that he wants to get out of the job after leading Him to believe that he killed Marge. God agrees, but He finds that Homer tricked Him by substituting Patty's body (which God initially mistakes for Selma's) for Marge's. The annoyed deity tries to punish Homer with a deadly sunbeam but gives up after a chase, proclaiming that He is "too old and too rich". Marge thanks Homer by giving him extra pork chops. Homer then jokes that he will make sure to not kill Marge every week from now on. cheryl j, Sun, 4th Jan 2015

You spoiler! I've just been given the Simpsons compendium of all the plots for the first 20 series, but you seem to be ahead of me (or possibly deeper into the addiction).

Anyway, it's some way short of Eastwood's  "Fistful of Dollars" which used to bear the crown for having 46 violent deaths before the opening credits. And I seem to recall "Exodus" disposed of Pharaoh's entire army in a short scene. They don't make them like that any more.

alancalverd, Sun, 4th Jan 2015

Well, it's sad, but starting from early January 2015, cartoons are even deadlier than suggested, both literally and metaphorically. Charlie will be remembered by all who want to express their ideas freely and I'm sure scientists are among those who benefit most from that freedom and help to maintain it for future generations. GeVe, Sun, 11th Jan 2015

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