Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt.3

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(This is part 3 of a mini-series/long essay I’m doing on Codename Kids Next Door. You can find the 2nd part here.)


I finished my last post by touching on the importance of freedom–a value that, as expressed by Codename: Kids Next Door’s story, is seen even in childhood–but the freedom to do something is practically moot without the determination to actually do it. Fortunately,  KND’s heroes aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, evoking courage as another virtue that can be fostered in childhood. Fueled by the same innate curiosity that lies within every child, they want to better understand the world around them, and they do so by plunging right into it, freely exploring and adventuring. An average day for these kids can involve solving dangerous puzzles within a mountain temple housing an ancient, long-lost flavor of ice cream or navigating through an ancient underground school to find the Fountain of Youth.

Obviously this kind of living is risky business. It involves constantly wading through the unknown, well beyond typical comfort zones, to find something that could be good, bad, or both. Despite the risks and dangers, these kids continue to boldly do what no kid has done before, especially for the sake of others.

KND operatives don’t just have the courage to freely explore, they have the courage to fight back against bullies seeking to suppress freedom. They go to great lengths to protect other kids. When Numbuh 3 literally gets spirited away by the ghost of a dead hamster, Sector V battles a vengeful legion of ghost hamsters to get her back (makes me glad I never owned a hamster). Their courage even stretches them beyond personal limits. After Numbuh 4 learns that his friends are trapped in a parallel dimension, he leaps through the portal, located deep inside a public pool, in order to get them back, even though he can’t swim.

Huh…come to think of it, there’s never been an Alvin and the Chipmunks version of “Thriller,” has there?

KND shows that having courage leads to growth, tapping into latent potential regardless of age. It also shows that having courage involves looking beyond both yourself and the obstacle(s) in front of you towards the good that’s to come, giving you a reason to press on. In other words: courage is directed by hope.


KND operatives believe that, despite how things are, things will get better for kids. They fight not only to keep that hope alive but to make it a reality, creating a world in which childhood thrives. It motivates and shapes their actions. It’s not unlike me as a kid whenever Christmas rolled around. I hoped Santa would give me a great present that year, so I tried extra-hard to be on my best behavior, conscious of my every action and how it could affect my naughty/nice status. Hope is the embodiment of the KND worldview, granting a vision of how things will be should they continue to live by it.

Hope comes from a variety of unlikely sources on this show, and each time kids cling to it and never let go, usually taking radical measures to do so. Hope can come from the past. In yet another post-apocalyptic-esque scenario (don’t ask me why a show about kids has so many of these), the ragtag Boys Next Door is the last line of defense against Madam Margaret and her army of malicious girls, dead set on eliminating all boys, but Sally, a girl inspired by old stories of how boy and girls used to be on the same side, betrays Margaret to join the boys, believing both genders can get along again. Hope can come from a phrase. In one mission, Numbuh 5 infiltrates a clothing store that sells horrible Back-to-School clothes and stumbles upon a tribe of unfortunate kids poorly dressed by their fashion-challenged parents. She has to get them out of there before the entrance of the store is sealed off forever, but they stubbornly refuse by reciting their creed over and over: “Good clothes come to those who wait.” Hope can even be stumbled upon. Going back to the beginning of the film Operation Z.E.R.O, Monty, fed up with his father’s tyrannical rule over all kids, runs off and discovers the legendary Book of KND, which provides him the instructions and tools needed to fight back against his father and make the world a better place.

It’s a well-known fact that fictional characters often place their hope in macguffins, especially book-shaped ones.

At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, hope is a powerful thing. Lives are fashioned around it, and there’s no telling the limits to a courageous life dedicated to a cause. Grandfather, one of the KND’s most powerful foes, openly admits that hope, “the kind of hope that only snot-nosed kids are stupid enough to believe in,” is the only thing more powerful than him. There are plenty of things a kid could hope for, like the cafeteria serving pizza at lunch or not getting picked last at dodgeball, but the Kids Next Door clings to a bigger hope. It’s the kind of hope that thinks about the bigger picture and every kid’s place within the frame. It’s so radical that it’s capable of pitting father against son, all for the sake of a better tomorrow with everyone. In order to keep this bold kind of hope, these kids have to live beyond themselves everyday, always considering those around them and their cause.

This way of thinking and living is impactful, but it’s practically impossible to maintain on your own. Fortunately, as seen on Kids Next Door, it’s not something that should ever be–nor can it be–done alone, not when you accept the fact that the world doesn’t end with you.

(Next time I’ll be rounding out my talk of virtues that stem from childhood by talking about two more that are especially powerful: Selflessness and Friendship)

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Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt.2

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There are plenty of things a kid could value. Getting a puppy for Christmas. Scoring the winning run in Kickball. Hanging out with friends after school. Formative experiences like those are treasured because they expose kids to the thrill and beauty of life, showing them what it means to live. Kids Next Door evokes that same sentiment, encapsulating the important feelings and lessons we first learn as children into core values that must be held on to as we grow.  Breaking them down, we see that these virtues guide the actions of KND’s main characters.
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Hurt and Hope in ‘Short Term 12’

I avoided Short Term 12 for a long time because I thought it was going to be really hard to watch. It’s a 2013 indie film set in a group home for at-risk teens, and with a topic like that, I was expecting a tragic film about the pain, loneliness, and despair of being human. I had heard it was good though, so I finally psyched myself up and watched it.

[Warning: Spoilers for a 3-year-old movie within]

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Either You’re In or You’re Old: Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt.1

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I’ve had an epiphany: childhood is important, like really important!…Ok, so maybe it’s not that deep of an epiphany, probably pretty obvious in retrospect…Regardless, the thought occurred to me while re-watching Codename: Kids Next Door, a gem from my own childhood, making me think about the concept in general.

We’ve all had childhoods, that foundational time when we were young, inexperienced, and naïve, eager to experience the world around us in unique ways. Like it or not, our childhood experiences forged us into who we are today. My childhood may not have been the best, but I’m still thankful for it and all the fun times I had during it. I’m especially grateful for the cartoons I got to watch, like Kids Next Door, providing me joy through humor when I needed it most.

KND does a fantastic job of portraying the merits and virtues of childhood (and in a much more entertaining way than a long, preachy blog post, mind you). Ironically, it’s only when I’m verging on adulthood that I begin to realize the show’s deeper value, teaching me some profound things about what it means to be a kid as well as an adult. Gear up and prep for debriefing, agent. For the good of our missions, it’s time we discuss Codename: Kids Next Door.
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It’s the White Whale, Charlie Brown!

A daydreaming introvert, I sometimes catch myself thinking about how strange and esoteric human connection seems to be sometimes (at least to me), like ancient arcane rituals that our mortal minds cannot comprehend. What makes connections happen? What exactly do they feel like? How do they function? What makes them last? I’m overthinking things, I know, but, I can’t help it! We live in a scary, fascinating world filled with unique people that I doubt can ever be fully understood, and yet we’re practically expected to—somehow—know and get along with each other.

I’m not sure if I can ever fully grasp the concept, but there are two beautiful movies, The Peanuts Movie and The Boy and The Beast, that explore why it’s worth accepting anyways. One is a playful, nostalgic tribute to the comics and animated specials preceding it, while the other is a Miyazaki-esque fairy tale filled with gorgeous animation and introspective themes. Together they show how easily one can connect to others and why it’s important to do so in the first place. Continue reading