Home > Multimedia Essays > R&J for kids or not? Goes Gnomy…

R&J for kids or not? Goes Gnomy…

Romeo and Juliet, most people know of these two “star-cross’d lovers” from the countless portrayals in film, television or books. While most people encounter this story of love during their teenage years and it may somehow be hard for kids to fully understand what it is all about. Gnomeo and Juliet, the most recent film portrayal of the epic masterpiece of Shakespeare has become an attempt to make the classic understandable and likable by kids even though they might not see the connection between the two stories. Who knows, this might become a milestone for the Shakespearean language to reach kids of ages below teens. Would it be possible for kids to understand Romeo and Juliet, the way they should?

Gnomeo and Juliet poster

This movie somewhat deviates from the characterizations of the two lovers from the book. In the book Shakespeare portrayed Romeo and Juliet as two lovers who embodies the phrase, “You and me against the world”. Romeo and Juliet could not care less about their parents and do whatever their hearts desire. In Gnomeo and Juliet, they seek to help their parents and make them recognize their value for the family. This might be due to the fact that the characteristics of Romeo and Juliet in the book, would be too much for children to incorporate in their development (it would be bothersome for parents to go through with kids rebelling and going against their parents, that would be hell). The value of family, friendship, heroism and love were really evident due to the target audience of the movie, this may be on the contrary with the book, which may need a bit of more understanding.

For the most part of the movie, it was completely different from what one would expect. Maybe this wasn’t an attempt to make kids taste the passion of Romeo and Juliet, but rather this was just a random use of Shakespeare’s text as a concept for a movie. For the record, allusions were drawn from the book but the situations were different.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow…”

Tybalt dying/smashed.

Death was certainly a big part of the book Romeo and Juliet, but in the movie death was regarded as impossible for both the main characters. This was maybe because children would most of the time associate themselves with the hero and heroine that dying would have a big impact on their psyche, trauma is also possible.

Nanette the frog, telling Juliet that the romance would end with a tragedy.

William Shakespeare is even saying that the life of Gnomeo and Juliet should be more like the ill-fated Romeo and Juliet, but they did otherwise. Romeo was able to save Juliet, thus saving their families from ruin and ultimately ending the feud of the two sides. This might be the director’s way on letting children see what is Romeo and Juliet, making it contrast to Gnomeo and Juliet.

Does this mean that kids would never understand the value of Romeo and Juliet’s romance? Wouldn’t they be able to see that the death of these “star-cross’d lovers” was a way for their families to reconcile and let them see how child-like and stubborn their parents acted. Romeo and Juliet see each other even against their families wills because they see that the feud of their families has always been reconcilable. The movie was just a confirmation that kids would never be able to understand the true story of Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of their passion for each other and their constant questioning of the feud that’s tearing their relationship into pieces.

JM Bacayo

2 BS Management

Ateneo de Manila University

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Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. March 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I’ll move this to the multimedia essay section, if you don’t mind. People might miss it if it’s left here.

    On that note: I’ll comment later, once I finish sorting out the rest of the site.

  2. annnacarmina
    March 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I like the adaptation of the balcony scene of Gnomeo and Juliet. Instead of the name (Montague) she changes it into the hat color. Gnomeo, on the contrary, is speechless in the midst of Juliet.

  3. jbd
    March 24, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I haven’t watched this movie yet and I find it interesting. I am somewhat a fan of cartoons, courtesy of my two little brothers and this can be a good movie to watch with them. Though you said it’s far from the text, I think it’s a good “introduction” for Shakespeare for little kids below seven years old. It may not be a bad idea and can only be misleading if we tell kids that this is Romeo and Juliet. We know for a fact it is not. Disclaimer and proper introduction like “it’s just an adaptation” or “a movie based from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” must be done. And you know, questions will follow.. which is a good ground for clarification and some Shakespeare discussion with little kids. Haha. For me, at least just little pieces of information they may have about Shakespeare to perhaps spark their interest or not to make them naive about the great writer. Anyway, their knowledge will get better as they grow older.

  4. March 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I don’t think we can ever underestimate how kids understand things. We don’t have the right to dumb things down for them because they have their own way of putting things together. Then again, they might not fully comprehend why Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because of their lack of experience, but hey, why not let them enjoy the things they can chew for the meantime and save the best when they’re ready?

    I’d like to see this movie!
    – Kristine de Ocampo

  5. March 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Nowadays kids are a lot more mature than we think and they may already comprehend the story of R&J so I think its alright to let them know the story as it is. However, I believe that kids (and almost everyone else) would rather watch a movie that is light, funny and ends happily ever after than a tragic one. The movie makers of G&J knows this and so they cater to what they know everyone would watch hence the adaptation and the changes to the original text. I also think that it wouldn’t be a problem if they end up conceiving the story as R&J. They’re kids and as they grow they’ll learn about the real story. G&J may even serve as an introduction or something that will pique their curiosity about Shakespeare and his plays. đŸ™‚

    by: Irene Louise S. Arabelo

  6. hypoperfusion
    March 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    “Would it be possible for kids to understand Romeo and Juliet, the way they should?”

    I deem this problematic because it implies that there is a single, standard way of understanding or interpreting RnJ. Isn’t this a prescriptive view of interpretation as an act, and a view that limits the text itself? This may actually be one of the reasons why children are treated as incapable of fully comprehending the text, because their interpretations do not satisfy the so-called “standard” way of understanding it.

    Additionally, here, children are treated as “delicate” creatures who are unprepared for the sensibilities that RnJ supposedly shows about romance. They are then therefore subjected to such versions of the text and they “… would never be able to understand the true story of Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of their passion for each other and their constant questioning of the feud that’s tearing their relationship into pieces.” The arguments against children and this standard interpretation appear circular–children should not be shown the original version because they are still mentally and emotionally unprepared for it, while on the other hand, they wouldn’t be able to understand the “true” meaning of RnJ because they are shown another version or an adaptation of the text. So is it the children’s fault that they are not able to understand RnJ “the way they should,” or is it the fault of the movie which, as claimed here, does not stay true to the text? I understand the fact that children are indeed limited because of biological reasons, but what I wanna say is that it’s unfair that the children are treated as limited when what also limits them beforehand are factors that they do not even have a choice in, factors that are products of adults’ assumptions on them.

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