ByEmily Browne, writer at
Twitter: @emrbrowne
Emily Browne

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events hit Netflix last month; by this point, we can only assume you've re-watched it several times, caught every V.F.D. reference in sight and are now firmly pining for a second season. The show follows the rather depressing story of the three Baudelaire orphans, and their relentless escape from the clutches of Count Olaf: a dastardly actor who is trying to steal the enormous fortune their parents left them.

The Series of Unfortunate Events Books Were Written For Children — Sort Of

[Credit: Netflix]
[Credit: Netflix]

Despite the dark subject matter, the book series — written between 1999 and 2006 — was very much aimed at children, and most fans who were pumped for the adaption read the books as kids. The series itself manages to blur the normally sharp distinction between what is child-friendly and what is considered — but does that mean it's still suitable for kids?

From the very first trailers, Mr. Snicket (real name Daniel Handler) outlined the sadness and misery to be found within the series, urging you to turn away and read The Littlest Elf instead. As a kid, when you're told not to do something, you absolutely want to do it — in the books, the omnipresent Lemony Snicket dared us to continue, which was a smart way to encourage kids to read. But does it work just as well for ? Well, the meta, fourth wall-breaking teaser trailer had me interested, but I'm an adult.

Is The Subject Matter Suitable For Kids?

While Klaus, Sunny and Violet are the central characters, they are dominated by the adults that control their life — for kids, this is relatable. I remember reading the books as a child and feeling deeply frustrated by the adults in the Baudelaires' lives. Luckily, the injustice and despair were always matched by the kids' incredible talents — the only weapons they have against the misery of their circumstances. In terms of its narrative perspective, A Series of Unfortunate Events is definitely suitable for kids.

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The series deals with a hell of a lot of difficult subjects — death, depression, abandonment, murder, forced labor — but the bizarre, Wes Anderson-esque world Snicket conjures up for is so far removed from our own that he can just about get away with it without scarring too many young minds. The over-the-top characterizations of the evil Count Olaf, the dim Mr. Poe and the kind-hearted Monty and Justice Strauss offer a straight-forward good vs. evil dynamic, which is easily digestible for kids but becomes a very predictable for adults. Therefore it was within 's interest to introduce enough mystery to keep the series fresh for book fans. The inclusion of the Quagmire parents and Mr. Poe's secretary were nice touches, but may go over the heads of a younger audience.

Having said this, there is little to nothing in the way of sex, nudity or curse words, so parents can rest easy that there will be no nasty surprises when viewing with little ones. The only thing it does contain is violence, but even character deaths are portrayed as slapstick, using comedy to mask what should be a very tragic moment in the series.

Is 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' Too Sad For Kids?

[Credit: Netflix]
[Credit: Netflix]

The cartoonish world concocted for the Netflix series felt very child-like, and sometimes couldn't quite find its audience. While the subject matter is dark, and the deaths of Monty and Aunt Josephine were tragic, the first truly upsetting moment (in my opinion) came in Episode 7, when we learned the Baudelaire's parents really were dead, having been lead to believe they were still alive since Episode 1. The fact that a series dedicated to misery and misfortune only found a handful of realistically upsetting moments reflected its origins as a kids' book. Both the show and the books portray misery in abstract; we are not supposed to be invested in any characters other then the Baudelaires.

[Credit: Netflix]
[Credit: Netflix]

It is because of this that the series is perfect for kids — it introduces them to difficult subject matter without causing stress — plus it's pretty to look at. For adults, it's all about the nostalgia, but new viewers might struggle with the cartoonish and insincere nature of the Baudelaire tragedy, perhaps not understanding its basis in children's literature. Striking that perfect family-friendly balance can't be easy, but with Season 2 already in the works, it looks like Netflix has struck it with A Series of Unfortunate Events.


What do you think? Is Netflix's ASOUE suitable for kids?


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