My boss’s children have turned into my most fascinating case study.
Over the weekend, Kate took Aaron and his older brother “Jacob” to see Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway. During intermission, Aaron asked Kate, “Mom, is Mufasa really dead?” Answering honestly, Kate said, “Yes, Mufasa did go to heaven.”
Aaron then says, “No, Mom, in real life, is Mufasa really dead?”
Kate is a bit puzzled at Aaron’s question and probes, “What do you mean in real life? This is a show, it’s only pretend. People pretending to be animals from The Lion King.”
Aaron replies, “No, mom, I mean in real life. From the movie.”
To recap, although Aaron is watching real human people perform the roles of Mufasa, Simba, Scar and other Lion King characters, Aaron equates reality with the animated Lion King movie. The movie was his first experience with the brand and the characters, and therefore what he believes to be “real”.
Aaron’s situation is understood by an article from Phillip Nikken (Journal of Broadcasting Media, Fall 1988). He says,
Young children make little distinction between the real and unreal on television. They are more apt than not to see television as a part of reality than as a representation of it.
On a slightly older note, Kate’s other son, Jacob (age 7) reveled in the first act of the Broadway production of The Lion King. Once the curtain went down and Jacob was forced to sit still (read: entertain himself) for the fifteen minute intermission he asked, “Mom can I have your phone? I’m so bored.”