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Geeky Parent Guide: ‘What If…?’ and Its Impactful Message About Decision Making

What If…? is a wonderfully fun series on Disney+ that examines the possibilities of life in the Marvel universe, how every choice impacts the outcomes we’ve come to know, and how the characters we love might be different in some way. Is this series appropriate for kids similar in age to my own? As my own kids are ages 7 and 9, the answer is probably not, especially since What If…? is rated as TV-14. Some ratings don’t always have to be adhered to so strictly, but in this case, I would avoid the series for parents with kids near my own kids’ ages.

Why is this series not a great option for those younger audiences? How does What If…? do an amazing job at validating the importance of making decisions and why making those choices is extremely relatable to the real world? Let’s explore those questions and ask ourselves “What If…?” your kids watch this series for the first time and how they will fare on the other side.

What If…? and Intense Sequences and Imagery

I’m not sure what age I’ll introduce my kids to zombies, but I’m pretty sure ages 7 and 9 aren’t it. What If…? does an incredible job at presenting a horror-like vibe to some of its episodes, and depending on how spooky your kids like things, episode 5 “What If…Zombies?!” might not be a good starting point to test those vibes.

My kids love kid-friendly spookiness associated with Scooby-Doo and Halloween-type cartoons, but watching superhero zombies feast upon their victims definitely has me thinking “Ruh roh” when I consider having my kids watch this with me. Yes, animation is a wonderful way to introduce kids to stories and let them dive into completely fictional worlds, but both of my kids seem to be at an age where their imaginary worlds are still scary for them in real life.

“I’m afraid there’s a witch under my bed” is something I’ve heard recently, so watching a zombie plague that lays waste to the planet doesn’t seem like the best parenting decision for me. Now, if your kids enjoy seeing gross things and scary imagery doesn’t freak them out, then maybe this will be a fun option for them; however, I would recommend watching beforehand to see if the rating given for the show is something you should stick more closely to before letting younger kids dive right in.

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The Question of “What If” Leads to Many Possibilities

One of the best aspects of life, let alone this series, is the wonder that comes with making decisions and then seeing them play out. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I wonder what would happen if someone else would’ve made the final snap in Avengers: Endgame. More importantly, I think it’s important for kids and teens to see how the choices we make are important, even if we question them down the road or feel insignificant in any way.

Growing up is hard to do, and as a kid, I know it must seem like an impossible challenge at times, teetering between playing without bragging, learning right versus wrong, being kind while being able to stand up for oneself. There are so many things to grasp as a person, not just as a kid, because life is always changing and the choices we make impact how those changes take place. So, to see What If…? paint a drastically different picture of what the MCU would look like if something changed, a different path was taken, it’s entertaining to see. It also validates the necessity to understand the scope of responsibility that comes along with making those decisions.

Sometimes, life will never feel more real than when facing death or the possibility of such a great loss. How we deal with such a monumental loss speaks volumes, and that message is never more apparent than in “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” Obviously, having the ability to go back in time is a risky endeavor, let alone be meddled with at all, and of course this is all based on the fact that this is make believe. But, and it’s a big but, loss is tangible in every form; real life or fiction. It’s important for our kids to see that loss can leave a lasting mark, because everyone deals with it differently.

Rightfully so, the anguish that Doctor Strange feels for the loss of Christine is painful to watch, but imagine going through it again and again all in an attempt to save her life. Failure after failure, he watches as she slips away time after time, regardless of how powerful he becomes. Doctor Strange’s relentlessness is blinded by his love and he ultimately cannot see the dangers associated with being unable to let go. Much like we would in our own lives, moving on can feel impossible and trying to tell anyone how to move on seems wrong, because each person has to make that choice to move forward.

Grief leads Doctor Strange down a dark path, and letting fans see that is important. Everyone is capable of feeling distraught. The loss that we see on screen is believable and knowing that it leads to disaster makes the viewer wonder, “At what point does it become okay to accept what’s happened?” I don’t think anyone can answer that for anyone else, but knowing that each person reacts differently is a very important step in empathizing with others who are struggling to deal with loss.

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What If…? and Its Overall Win

What If…? is an exceptional series that gives us terrifying zombies, and an Ultron that scared the pants off of the Watcher, while letting us find relatable messages where kids, teens, and adults can share in the importance that comes with making choices. Our choices hold value.

As I watch my kids play a game, and I see one brag making the other feel crummy, I address it by simply asking, “What if she did that to you? Is that how you want to be treated?” As a parent, we are constantly trying to have this impossible perfect balance of letting our kids be kids, while making sure they know what’s okay or when they need to speak up for themselves. What If…? gives fans a lot of answers to a variety of circumstances where life has drastically changed because of the choices that were made.

Now, do I expect my kids to drastically change by their response in a simple game of chess? Yes. How we respond might not always be perfect, but understanding how to be a good sport and treat others kindly is a message that never gets old. Imagine if Black Widow, Captain Carter, or T’Challa brushed off the Watcher when he asked them to save the universe. Seeing the greater good can be a very good thing, and although thinking of others first should not always be the message, it’s important to see a group of heroes come together to fend off evil.

My kids have a little ways before they’ll see What If…?, but the animated series does a great job of examining how to cope with loss and how to come together to save the world (or evade killer zombies). The creators even excel at highlighting the risk associated with always wanting more and more power, such as Ultron, Killmonger, and Strange.

Have you watched What If…? What moments did you take away from the series as being the most important? Share your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us which new characters you want to see more of in the future! If you like this content, and want to see more Marvel coverage, don’t forget to like and share this article with all of your geeky friends over on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time, friends, happy parenting and happy geeking.


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