Oh, where has all the imagination gone?
Last night, I was watching Finding Neverland and I was struck by how much fun it looked like the boys were having with their imaginations. Most of the kids I know would very rarely improvise pirate costumes and create these elaborate stories bout their adventures. The most I’ve seen of modern imaginations is manifested in very realistically based games such as “school” or “house.” And these manifestations are not regular occurrences.
As much as I love television and movies, they have greatly stunted the growth of many imaginations. Video games are even worse. They allow the player to enter the world of someone else’s imagination and play there for a while, but totally eliminate the need for the player to develop their own imagination. A majority of children today prefer to have other worlds presented to them on the screen of a TV rather than cultivating new worlds in their heads. This summer I worked as a nanny and when I tried to get the girls to stretch their imaginations, they were at a loss. I had to lay out what they were doing and what they were supposed to imagine. They had no clue how to make up a game outside the realm of the familiar.
I was not one of these children. Growing up, I, along with my friends, created a world full of original imaginations as well as our favorite fictional characters. Rather than just being entertained by our favorite characters from books, TV, and movies, we interacted with them. They were our friends and family, our playmates and confidants.
Even the books that encourage imagination have fallen by the wayside until very recently. I was very sad to learn that many of the elementary schoolers in my acquaintance have not read Where The Wild Things Are. The advent of the cinematic version of this book is both a blessing and a curse. Allegedly, this movie will help sell more copies of the book, but at the same time they kind of ruin the mystique and imagination surrounding the stories.
As a child, I wanted to be Max and go out to where these odd creatures roamed. I wanted to take part in the “Wild Rumpus.” I had no tangible visualization of what this would be beyond the illustrations, I just knew that is would be great fun (at least it was in my imagination). Now, children can turn to one person’s interpretation on film and not have to try to imagine what the Wild Rumpus would be like.
It makes me pity the current generation, because they are being robbed of these opportunities to imagine books into their won reality. While I really do enjoy books being turned to movies, I still go back to my own versions in my imagination. I still see my own versions of Bella and Edward when I read Twilight. I walk through my Cair Paravel when I read The Chronicles of Narnia. Even after seeing the movie, I will still see my own Wild Rumpus when I read Where The Wild Things Are.
Imagination is a wonderful gift that is becoming stunted and suffocated in American Society. When kids complain of boredom, parents should hand them a book or give them a destination to pretend to visit instead of sitting them in front of the TV or video game. TV is all well and good, but imagination is something that is with you forever.
So, Let imaginations grow! Let the Wild Rumpus BEGIN!
(previously posted on 10/15/09)