The golden age of cartoons is the 1970’s because after shows like Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo, Laff-A Lympics, Shazaam, Space 1999 or any of the rest finished out the morning, by noon most local stations across the country aired creature feature films. Those films consist of the black and white Universal monsters, so for parents they are are kid-safe. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and The Creature From the Black Lagoon are nothing any parent should be worried about. But in addition to these kid-safe Universal monsters, Hammer Horror color films from the 60’s and 70’s were also mixed in- which for that time pushed the envelope in terms of gore but particularly in sexuality.

 

Hammer Films on TV in the 1970’s Was Like A Live Action Cartoon For Kids

A Hammer horror film aired by a creature feature in the early afternoon after Saturday morning cartoons most often than not contained much cleavage, vamped up women, and in some instances near soft-core sexual scenes and situations- though edited for TV. That this programming was mixed in with the family friendly black and white Universal monsters and came on the heels of cartoon programming meant that it flew under the radar of parents in the 70’s. It is also significant to note that at that time there was no pre-teen channels as there are today with Nickelodeon and Disney. So when time-slotted child programming had ended, adult themed content would air. A kid could literally go from watching a cartoon to watching a made-for-TV Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood movie. But in the case of Saturday morning cartoons, they could easily transition from Hong Kong Phooey to 1971’s racy The Vampire Lovers from Hammer Studios.

The point of this is not to condone this type of programming for a 10-13 year old, but to touch upon the concept of programming made for an adult audience but that a child could elevate and come to appreciate- if you take Hammer’s sexual themes and content out of the equation. That station programming was suited for adult markets with carved out time periods for kids meant that a kid’s humor growing up would be formed by Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and MASH, rather than some unrealistic iCarly-esque world where teens ran the world and adults were background Charlie Brown wallpaper. This was a good thing.

 

In Silver Bullet the Kids Solve the Mystery but the Film is targeted to an Adult Audience

So let’s take for example a 1985 werewolf film, Silver Bullet based on a short story written by Stephen King. Stephen King is by no means a child author and he’s not writing Harry Potter books. He writes about adult themes set in a horror genre. Bad things happen: death, infidelity, ax-murders to name a few. These things are the bad elements in life but they are part of life, and so are children and adults. They inhabit the world together and when these horrible things happen they affect both children and adults, sometimes differently, but at least they’re both in the mix. So Stephen King gives us a werewolf tale, and as he did with It or Stand By Me, he tells the tale from the point of view of the children but doesn’t alter a real world environment in which a serial killer (the wolf) is gruesomely killing citizens from a small town. The 1985 film presentation does not alter the real world reality of these events either. So this is a movie with adult themes- a serial killer and violent deaths- but it is two kids, that through chance, discover a lead in the case that the adults can’t see, and which puts them in mortal danger. This is the exact kind of movie, though adult themed and R-rated, that a kid could discover, appreciate and elevate their mind to. King, nor the filmmakers, dumbed it down and reformatted it to a faux child-centric world. There is zero profanity and nudity in this film, but there are four violent deaths that, by today’s standards scale closer to PG-13 than to R, but accurately reflect the film’s R-Rating overall. But if you extract these four deaths, or edit for television, you have a very solid mystery/horror film for kids to enjoy.

 

Current Pop Culture Would Sanitize Stephen King’s Werewolf and Ruin the Story

The final point I’m trying to make is that kids today are insulted more by the current teen-entertainment industry than they are by watching the 1985 R-Rated Silver Bullet. The entertainment industry, under the complete influence of precision data analytics, have carved out and separated this pre-teen demo in ways that were never done in the 70’s and 80’s. While in strict business sense this is savvy and smart in terms of maximizing profit- billions are being made with programming that targets this demo- art is suffering as a result. 1985’s Silver Bullet has all the elements that should match a kid up with a mature but beneficial viewing experience: 2 teen/pre-teen siblings- a gung-ho handicapped younger brother and a skeptical older sister- believe there is a werewolf stalking their small town. Obviously none of the adults believe them, but with the help of a sympathetic though disbelieving uncle (Gary Busy) they set out to solve the mystery. If this synopsis were pitched to studios today the feature actors would exclusively be between 12-17, all adult actors relegated to the background like a Charlie Brown cartoon and all the teen actors would be perfectly dressed in Hollister/Abercrombie apparel. The werewolf would end up being a handsome yet misunderstood teen that the sister would fall in love with and they might all break into song and dance. Such sanitized faux-teen productions rob kids today of a grittier more realistic viewing experience that occurred in the early 80’s and 70’s.

Silver Bullet

Megan Follows and Corey Haim in Silver Bullet (1985)

So definitely don’t plop your 11 year old in front of The Exorcist or The Shining, BUT, watching Kardashians, or some Teen Choice MTV Movie Award crappola would be much more damaging than the well done R-Rated 1985 werewolf flick Silver Bullet. I believe this would actually be a quality viewing experience for an 11 or 12 year old, assuming that the helicopter parenting of today and the boxed in pre teen channels haven’t softened these little 21st century cupcakes too much.

So maybe don’t tell them to watch it, or don’t ever put the DVD in for them (assuming it’s not streamed yet). So how about this: leave the DVD laying around, and if they ask about it say, “It’s R-Rated and inappropriate for you- don’t watch”. Therefore when you leave the house on a Friday date night and order them pizza, they can do what all normal kids did in the 70’s and 80’s: watch your car turn the corner then when the coast is clear put in the movie.

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