Stop Calling Kids Movies “Cute”

So last week I finally watched Paddington with my family. I loved it. It’s clever, whimsical, beautifully-shot, and explored serious themes in a sensitive way. In short, it’s a good movie.

You’ll notice one word I purposefully avoided: cute.

*Climbs onto soapbox*

We should stop calling art for children “cute.” Here’s why:

  • It sets a bad precedent. Let’s be honest. When most people describe a kids’ movie or book as “cute,” they don’t actually think it’s good. They usually mean it’s insipid or simplistic, but it’s just for kids so who cares. Talk about setting the bar low. Do you have any idea how easy it is to create something “cute”? Start with a talking baby animal, give it bright colors and a jazzy song, throw in a happy ending and message about believing in yourself, and you officially have a “cute” work of art.

This sets all the wrong incentives for creators. There’s no sense in putting all the time (and therefore money) needed to make a good work of art. As long as it’s “cute,” you’re set. So all the labor-intensive good art gets replaced by the mass-produced “cute” art. And we all suffer for it.

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Art in a Dark World

I’ve had art on the mind lately. This past weekend was the Anselm Society’s yearly kickoff event. Anselm is a fantastic organization dedicated to a “renaissance of the Christian imagination” by building up artists and the churches that support them. I’m involved with the Society as one of their official member artists. I’ve also been helping my local church’s Kalos group–a collection of artists from the church who meet to discuss each other’s art and the role of art in their faith. In other words, a big percentage of my “ministry time” out in the world relates to arts.

All this art time got me thinking. We live in a world of danger and oppression. With terrorism and rioting and unrest and injustice. With wars and rumors of wars. Our country, more hostile to religion by the day, has two major parties that are retreating from “Christian values” as quickly as possible. Problems from homelessness to poverty to sex trafficking are happening just behind my back.

With all that in the world, is art the best way to spend my free time?

Obviously, all those problems demand time and attention. But even as we fight all of those battles, we can’t forget about the arts.

If you don’t believe me, consider The Secret of Kells.

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