The Magic Feather Syndrome, Or The Problem With Kids' Movies

It's a tale as old as time: Little David manages to beat a much bigger Goliath through sheer courage, belief, and a bit of luck.

The story echoes across many kids' movies today, like this summer's "Turbo" and "Planes." Both feature a protagonist who defies the odds and achieves the impossible -- what "Atlantic" writer Luke Epplin calls "the magic feather syndrome," a reference to the 1941 animated classic "Dumbo."

In a thought-provoking piece, Epplin points out that this plot formula overlaps with the "cult of self-esteem," which promotes the idea that everybody is special and should feel good about themselves.

"The restless protagonists of these films never have to wake up to the reality that crop dusters simply can't fly faster than sleek racing aircraft," he writes. "Instead, it's the naysaying authority figures who need to be enlightened about the importance of never giving up on your dreams, no matter how irrational, improbable, or disruptive to the larger community."

Dusty in 'Planes'Disney


In his appearance on "HuffPost Live," Epplin chats about the problems caused by the magic feather syndrome, claiming it gives children an unrealistic idea of success.

"They have this desire to achieve greatness, but they don't necessarily show them going through the struggles or the sacrifices that this achievement requires," he points out.

But Dena Blizzard, creator of One Funny Mother, counters that she wants to protect her three kids for as long as possible. As she tells her husband, "Listen, for the rest of their life, as soon as they leave our house, people are going to be critical."

[via The Atlantic, HuffPost Live]