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Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

Lunchroom Politics or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gushers

A variety of the General Mills' Fruit Gushers. You always pick out the red and green anyway.

During my childhood, namely throughout 90s and early 2000s, kids’ snacks were evolving. As always, cheap and pre-processed goodies were easily available in every grocery store, strategically placed on lower shelves and in bright, eye-catching packaging. However, it seems that a new trend took hold, whereby advertisers and the companies producing these packaged snacks began to re-brand their products to appear healthier and more nutritional while still maintaining the appeal of ‘kets‘.

Of course, it’s fair to say that notable examples like General Mills’ Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Rollups, Fruit Gushers, and many more were and still are convenient filler items for packing children’s lunches or as a midday snack requiring no more effort than a quick trip back into the house. Despite their names, they are little more (or no less) than glorified and gelled candies.
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Ket Candy Necklaces


Candy Necklaces, from, $5.99 for 12-ct

Candy Necklaces were invented in 1958, although the inventor and location are unknown. The price now is incredibly cheap, ranging from $0.39 to $17.99 for a 60-ct. I now understand why I always ended up with at least one in goodie bags for birthday parties or in my Halloween candy bucket (ahem-cheap parents).

Candy necklaces were a big part of my childhood, although now I wonder why. They’re sticky and not hygienic in the slightest. The idea of a necklace that you eat, and the parts that you leave for later that stick to your skin, is simply revolting. When I read the piece by Allison James on ket, these were all I could think about.

These brightly colored, stretchy necklaces are prime examples of ket for their cheapness and the fact that an adult wouldn’t eat them under any circumstances other than to appease her child (my mom once did this and I distinctly remember watching the expression on her face and wondering why she didn’t like the gift I was graciously sharing with her).

These edible jewelry treasures are obviously not meant for adults, which is part of the appeal of ket to kids, or so James says (397). I, personally, never really noticed or cared what my parents thought of the types of candy I was consuming, although my brother did. After Halloween, he always knew that if he wanted something, he could bribe my mother with some of his chocolate candy. Never once did he offer her the “lower class” candy of ket. He enjoyed his ket, just like the rest of us, and so when he wanted to trade one of the kinds he didn’t like, he would wait for friends or neighbors’ kids. This agrees with the argument James makes that ket is used as a socialization tool for kids (400). Although, it would be amusing to watch two adults try to trade a gumball for some jelly beans.

I suppose that what James says about ket rings true: adults prefer their chocolate or “sweets,” while ket is left to the world of kids. The two worlds are separate, and while I certainly thought I would never grow tired of the bright, fun candy, I guess I’ve risen to the dark side: chocolate. I think I’m okay with that.

The Dangers of T.V.

A child watching t.v. from google images

Television and its effects on children have become a moral panic that has lasted for decades. The question is whether or not the moral panic has evidence to show that t.v. is bad for kids? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recently came out with an article telling parents about the dangers of watching too much television. It states that “by the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom”. This is an interesting statement because not everyone watches the same amount of television. It states that t.v. can take time from other activities and can expose kids to things that they shouldn’t see. They give parents ways to help prevent kids from the dangers of t.v. by telling them to watch t.v. with their kids and by limiting how much t.v. they can watch. This article is clearly written by psychiatrists to help parents dampen the effects t.v. can have on children.

In “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury the children become obsessed with their nursery and kill their parents when they try to take it away from them. It is very extreme but can show a relation between kids and their love for television. The article written by  The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry talks about how much time kids spend watching t.v. and the kids in “The Veldt” start to spend more and more time in the nursery. Spending more time watching t.v. can become addicting and the thought that a child’s love for t.v. can become stronger than their love for their parents is a scary thought.

The World of Strawberry Shortcake


An illustration of the title character and her cat, Custard.

Strawberry Shortcake was created in the late 1970s by the American Greetings card company. As the character became a popular fad among young girls, the company expanded the Strawberry Shortcake product line to include dolls, posters, stationary, stickers, clothing, games, etc. Beginning in 1980 Strawberry Shortcake animated specials began to air on television, joining the controversial trend of program-length commercials designed to advertise such product lines to children. To examine the claims of Gary Cross (“Spinning Out of Control”) about the negative effects of program-length commercials or PLCs, I watched the first episode of the Strawberry Shortcake television series.

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Lou Vs. the Lorax

Lou Dobbs Attacks Dr. Suess For ‘Indoctrinating’ Children

In this recent installment of the popular Fox News segment “The Unmentionables”, pundit Lou Dobbs attempts to convince viewers that Hollywood-produced children’s movies of recent times, specifically The Secret World of Arietty (based on the British, mid-century children’s novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton)and The Lorax (based on the picture book by Dr. Seuss), are rife with “liberal media bias”. Dobbs makes the argument that The Secret World of Arietty, whose story revolves around a miniature family scavenging the leftovers of full-sized “human beans” to create and sustain a secret world within our world, implicitly supports a sort of communistic mentality of involuntary wealth redistribution. He even draws a direct correlation between the animated film and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he seems to view as an insidious coalition, though the protests associated with Occupy have largely pushed broader contemporary issues of governmental corruption in lieu of any well-defined agenda. Dobbs goes on to criticize the second children’s film, The Lorax, for extolling the virtues of environmental awareness in the attitude that this message is anti-business and thus counter-conservative.
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Ren and Stimpy

One of the cartoons I used to watch in my childhood, “Ren and Stimpy,” in particular relates to the concepts of anxious parents and concerns over children’s television that we discussed in relation to the Chudacoff reading, “The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play.” “Ren and Stimpy” was created in 1991 by a Canadian animator named John Kricfalusi for the children’s channel Nickelodeon. The show focused on the adventures of a chihuahua named Ren and his dim-witted cat friend Stimpy, and the various gross and outrageous situations they would get themselves in to. This was one of the major concerns my parents had over me watching this program. In the article Cartoons Aren’t Real! Ren and Stimpy in Review, by Animation World Magazine, the author states that, “The Ren and Stimpy Show featured filth, illness, disease and mutilation to an unprecedented degree, making these horrors an integral part of the show.” My parents were very disturbed by the sorts of gross-out comedy and toilet humour that the show relied on for the majority of its punch lines.  Whether it was scenes of outrageous violence and mutilation, or bodily fluids spraying all over the place, “Ren and Stimpy” was always good for a laugh, and contained a variety of great low-brow humor. My parents worried, however, that by allowing me to view things such as this at the young age where I was watching Nickelodeon, my growth would be stunted, and I would be exposed to things I didn’t yet understand. This related to the fears we discussed in relation to the Chudacoff reading. Parents were worried that if children saw inappropriate or adult content on the television, their emotional development would be stunted, and they would be prematurely aged by things they were too young to comprehend. I can’t say how much of this was true for me, but “Ren and Stimpy” was a staple in my television viewing as a child, and was one of the most ground-breaking shows of its time for its willingness to go to extreme lengths in depictions of the gross and disgusting.

A scene of gross-out humor common in Ren and Stimpy to serve as an example.



Third Reading Journal Prompt: Kids and TV: Critical Views

In 1982's horror movie "Poltergeist," Kid + TV = No Good.

For this reading prompt, find an article by a present-day critic of TV’s influence on children. Link to the piece, summarize the critic’s arguments, and contextualize them by telling your reader as much about the critic as you know (conservative? liberal? parent? psychologist? politician? doctor?) Then, compare and contrast this criticism with some of the historical critiques of television we have encountered in our reading this past week—either the critiques that Spigel and Chudacoff describe in their histories of the reception of TV, or the critique that Bradbury himself mounts in his “The Veldt.” Does your critic have anything new to say about children and TV? If so, what social or technological conditions do you think may have caused this new critique to emerge?