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Posts tagged ‘Childhood’

Mega Jawbreaker

Weighing in at one pound and 2.25 inches, the Mega Jawbreaker is a candy ball made purely of sugar, is impossible to bite, and lasts for days. The game of it  not fitting in a small mouth but has to be sucked to dissolve is what makes it loved by children. The Jawbreaker is a generic candy that can be found in candy stores today and it comes in varying sizes, shapes, and flavors. Ferrara Pan is one of the first companies to mass produce the candy in the 20th century, naming it the Jawbuster. Today they are sold by the pound and average about four dollars per jawbreaker.


Growing up, I was not allowed to buy this candy, but I would always find a way to get it when I was away from my parents. My friends and I loved to compare the different colored layers that we got. It was also a fun game to see who could eat their Mega Jawbreaker the fastest, which was usually a few days. Thinking back on it, the idea of sucking on the same piece of candy for days grosses me out.

According to Allison James, the Jawbreaker would definitely be labeled “Ket.” She uses this term to refer to sweets, especially cheaper ones that are usually only consumed by children. Some of the descriptions she gives ket are of having unnatural colors, blue, purple, green, yellow, being purely sugar with no real flavor other than sweet, and being sticky or messy. The Jawbreaker has all of those features. Since it lasts for days, children suck on it, put it away, and suck on it more leaving room for many germs to grow over the days. Its layers are all different colors of the rainbow and its only flavor is sweet. It is not likely that you will see an adult go into a candy store to buy a Mega Jawbreaker for themselves. From my experiences, I can definitely relate to James’s idea of Ket and agree that as an adult I couldn’t imagine trying to consume this icky candy.



Logo of Warheads candy as found on

Logo of Warheads candy as found on

When I think about Warheads candy, I recall the days of elementary school throughout the 1990s and the sacred time after lunch: recess. My classmates and I would dare each other to put multiple Warheads in our mouths and see who could bear it the longest. Accepting the dare was customary and our faces would contort until they were relieved by the sweet flavor underneath the sour layer of the Warheads. Afterwards, we would be overcome by laughter and describe how it felt to have multiples of these candies in our mouths, as if they were actual war stories. Our parents never quite understood the appeal of these delightful and daring candies, but often conceded to buying them on occasion at the grocery store.

Warheads emerged in the U.S. in the early 1980s and are manufactured by Impact Confections. According to descriptions of ket from our class discussion, Warheads are a prime example of ket. The way Warheads are marketed is supposed to elicit the thought and feeling of a nuclear warhead going off in one’s head during consumption of the candy. This very real object (a nuclear warhead) is clearly not to be eaten; because the Warhead candy is eaten and enjoyed by children, it gains ket-like qualities. Warheads come in fruit flavors like apple, black cherry, and watermelon, but unlike fruits the candies have unnatural colors and textures. These candies are without nutrition and are extremely childish. Never have I met an adult who would even touch a Warhead without spitting it out. The sensational sour taste provides amusement for children while disgusting their parents. As my memory recounts, kids eating Warheads on the playground also provides the social aspects of this ket.

As far as I am concerned, Warheads “[belong] exclusively to the world of children” and are a fond memory of my childhood days (380).

Candy “Smokes”

Candy Cigarettes from the 50s

As a child growing up in the early 70′s, I was surrounded by adults who smoked.  Besides my parents, extended family, and neighbors, the actors and actresses on the television were smokers too.  Everywhere you went, there were ashtrays and vending machines full of the major brands.  Thinking back on this, I’m not really surprised that one of my favorite kets was candy cigarettes.

Kids could buy them at the convenience store right there with the other candy.  They came in paper boxes that were printed to look like the real name brand cigarettes that our parents smoked.  Winstons were my favorite because that was Dad’s brand.  You got 10 in a box and the ends were painted red to look like they were lit.  These white sticks were pure sugar and would melt in your mouth rather quickly.  It was easy to finish a pack while you walked  back home from the store.

All the neighborhood kids I played with, enjoyed “smoking” these candy sticks and pretending they were cool.  I remember how we would mimic the way adults would hold the real things between two fingers and pretend to blow out smoke.

According to our class discussion about kets, these candies belong exclusively to children and have the power to disgust adults.  In the case of candy cigarettes, kids felt empowered by pretending to engage in a forbidden behavior that was reserved for adults.  It made parents real uncomfortable if you “smoked” in front of them, and there was always some comment about how you better never take up the real habit.

2006 Harris Poll Online survey  claims that children who grew up eating candy cigarettes were more likely to become adult smokers.  I personally disagree and feel it was simply a way for children to act out their fantasies about how it might look and feel to be older.





Caring Out of Control

In “Spinning Out of Control,” Gary Cross argues that  children’s television  began to focus on fantasies rather than prepare children for the adult world with the emergence of the “program-length commercial” during the 1980s (290). In order to analyze Cross’s argument, one must be familiar with these “program-length commercials.” Therefore, we will first study an episode of “Care Bears,” a popular 1980s PLC, so we can apply Cross’s argument to the television show.

In the episode “The Long Lost Care Bears,” the Care Bears come across a photo album of the Care Bear family. While looking through the pictures, they come across a photo of two Care Bears that they do not recognize. However, before they are not able to really study the picture in detail because the Caring Meter drops and they must go help who is in trouble. As they are on their way to the victims, the Cloud Mobile becomes caught in a snow storm and crashes. After enduring an avalanche, the Care Bears wake up in a valley. They then meet Perfect and Polite, the two bears that were in the photo in the photo album. These bears saved them from the blizzard and brought them back to their village. After exploring what seems to be a perfect village, the Care Bears realize Perfect and Polite were who the meter was sending them to help. Polite and Perfect were sad because they felt they had no friends or family in the valley. So, the Care Bears invite them back to Care-a-lot to become Care Bears and become a part of a big family of friends. After arriving back in Care-a-lot, Perfect and Polite cannot handle the Care Bear training as they fail at every task. They decide that  perhaps being a Care Bear is not meant for them and decide they will go back to the village. As they are discussing returning to the village, the Caring Meter once again drops and leads them back to the valley. When they return, however, the valley has been hit by a blizzard and is not longer a paradise. A village family is caught in the middle of the blizzard in their cabin and will not leave in fear of freezing to death. Though Perfect and Polite were scared to talk to them before, they decide to try to in order to save them. However, when they will not leave because they are scared of freezing to death, the bears decide to try a “Care Bear Stare” to melt the snow. While doing the stare, Polite and Perfect are unable to stabilize the power of the stare and lose control, causing them to fall to the ground. After they fall and tears fall onto the symbols on their stomachs, glowing spirits raise from their “tummy symbols” to the sky, and suddenly all the snow begins to melt and the valley returns to its normal climate. The villagers thank the bears for saving their lives. Polite and Perfect then decide to stay in the valley rather than return to Care-a-lot because they realize they do have friends in the  valley with the villagers.

Cross’s argument is somewhat supported in this “program-length commercial” based on several factors. First, unless there really is a Care-a-lot in the sky with Care Bears that we do not know about, then the show is set in a fantasy land with fantasy characters, which is what Cross argues is one of the major problems with the PLCs because they are not preparing children for the real world. However, despite the fact that the show is unrealistic, it does contain morals within the story line. For example, in the episode “The Long Lost Care Bears,” Perfect and Polite realize they really do have friends when they make an effort and talk to others more often. This can teach children that, even when they feel lonely and as if they have no friends, they can make friends with the people around them if they have the right attitude and are a little out going. Therefore, Cross is correct in his argument that the PLCs are set in fantasies rather than real life scenarios, but fails to recognize the fact that the “program-length commercials” have underlining themes that contain morals and are set in a fantasy in order to make the visuals and story line more appealing to the child viewer (296).

Here is a link for the “The Long Lost Care Bears” Care Bears episode:

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I watched the pilot for the original Transformers animated series, which premiered in September 1984. The name of the pilot was More Than Meets The Eye. In the episode we are transported “many millions of years” before the present (1984) to a planet called Cybertron. This is a technologically advanced planet populated by shafeshifting machines. The planet is being ravaged by a civil war being fought between two sides- the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Decepticons are said to be greedy, evil machines bent on total domination; the Autobots, on the other hand, seek only to stop the Decepticons and return peace to their beloved planet. The energy sources on Cybertron are depleted, so both sides leave the planet in search of alternative sources with which they can fuel their ongoing battle. They end up crash landing into a volcano on Earth, where they lay in wait for four million years until the Volcano erupts, somehow switching their power switches back on. The Decepticons regroup decide to mine Earth for all its energy supply, then return to Cybertron to create a weapon capable of dominating the universe. The Autobots take it upon themselves to stop the Decepticons, and protect life on Earth at all cost. With this, the stage is set for the rest of the series.

The Transformers animated series is basically the embodiment of Gary Cross’s argument that

The old view that children should learn from the past and prepare for the future is inevitably subverted in a consumer culture where memory and hope get lost in the blur of perpetual change. (course packet page 290)

The world which the Transformers inhabit, Cybertron, could be the pictorial representation of the word fantasy in the dictionary. It is a distant planet, tucked into some obscure corner of the universe. The beginning scene of the animated series’ pilot involves a period of “space travel” as an introduction- no doubt meant to communicate to children the remoteness of this faraway land- isolating them from their worldly surroundings while simultaneously engaging their focus with measured buildup. As we meet the Transformers, they are amazing marvels of engineering. Otherworldly aliens that, oddly enough, when shifted resemble vehicles we normally encounter here on Earth. The sight of a car speaking in the first scene, then later empathizing with his fallen comrade quickly remove all semblance of familiarity. These are not vehicles like we have on Earth- these are much cooler. As we shift scenes from battling on Cybertron to intergalactic space travel and later to mid space battle, the characters somehow end up on Earth. The scenes on Earth are deliberately staged in areas where humans would not inhabit: the desert, open ocean, a volcano. Even when humans appear in the series, they are tiny, thoughtless, impulsive beings. Their role on the show is much like a mouse or a dog would be portrayed on a present day sitcom- our function is to be weak, frightened lifeforms dependent upon the autobots for our salvation. There is no tie in towards learning from the past. Absolutely no mention of how children should prepare for the future (unless calling down forty foot robot guardians from space counts as a plan- pretty sure Newt Gingrich would approve). There are no lessons taught, to be quite honest. Even though the show takes place in our world, it strives to maintain its “other-worldliness” by reducing mankind and its achievements to a mere side-show- “ants” that the glorious Transformers may step on at their will. The show is about one thing and one thing alone- promoting the Transformers toys. The real world has no relevance here…

Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater: Peter Penguin

Image from Amazon Instant Video

“Hello Kitty” started out as a brand in Japan in 1974 and was then brought to the United States in 1976. This brand expanded, which lead to the television show in 1987, Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater. This television show is based off of children’s story books and movies. In the episode, titled “Peter Penguin”, Hello Kitty starts off backstage of the performance asking My Melody if she had gotten her wings ready for the performance because she’s Tinker bell. In next clip, Grandpa Kitty is working on My Melody’s wings, but he is puzzled on which way he should turn the knob, and My Melody comes running in grabbing her wings before Grandpa Kitty could finish the tweaks on them. The play then starts by Hello Kitty and Chip, her brother, playing pirate ship by throwing pillows. Hello Kitty then states that she gives up and her brother Chip says, “Peter Penguin would never give up!” Peter Penguin then emerges through their windows and asks Hello Kitty and Chip to help him with his mission because they are believers. The only restriction when they go to Never say Neverland is to never say “never”. Then it moves to the next clip where Tinker bell is captured by the cat, Captain Claw, who is supposed to depict Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Peter Penguin then flies to Captain Claw’s ship with Hello Kitty and Chip to try and save Tinker bell. There is then a battle with Captain Claw’s army by throwing pies at Peter Penguin and his gang. Peter Penguin and his gang are then captured and are in need to being freed.  So Peter Penguin then tricks Captain Claw into saying the word “never,” which then makes the earth destroy itself. Peter Penguin then rescues Tinker bell, but she isn’t waking up so Peter Penguin tells Hello Kitty and Chip to wish her well. In the end, Tinker bell wakes up well and then Hello Kitty and Chip returns back to their home.

The episode that I have summarized above is a typical “Hello Kitty” episode. Thus, it exemplifies Gary Cross’ idea of PLCs as a “fantasy world”. Cross says, “The old view that children should learn from the past and prepare for the future is inevitably subverted in a consumer culture where memory and hope get lost in the blur of perpetual change” (290). The whole plot is based on a fantasy world which is unrealistic, and throughout the whole episode there was not any relation to preparing children in the real world. The episode had animals talking, animals flying, as well as pirates and a land beyond the world. Therefore, I would agree for the most part with Cross’ concept of children not being able to learn major lessons through these fantasy PLCs.

Sanrio: Friendship Characters

Ah, Sanrio. The company behind Hello Kitty and all those other Japanese kawaii characters. Everyone knows who Hello Kitty is, however I may have had a slightly different experience with Sanrio characters because I spent every summer of my childhood in Hawaii. Hawaii has a very large Japanese population, and Sanrio is a very Japanese phenomenon which became wildly popular among children in America, but especially children in Hawaii. I, like all other children in Hawaii, owned numerous items covered with images of these characters. I remember loving my Keroppi lunch container and taking it to school with me every day, using my Hello Kitty chopsticks and plastic-ware often at dinner, wearing my Pochacco shirt to summer camp, writing in my Little Twin Stars notebook, and drinking out of my Chococat mug. Every drugstore in Hawaii has an entire aisle devoted to Sanrio characters. I remember whenever I would go with my mom to the store, I would spend the entire time walking down the Sanrio aisle and begging my mom to buy me a toy or some new item with a Sanrio character printed on it. There was an entire Sanrio store in every mall and I would visit it with every mall excursion. Even when I got older, I still looked upon the Sanrio characters with a smile because they reminded me of summer and my childhood.

Sanrio products similar to ones I owned in the 90's

According to Sanrio’s website, the company “was founded in 1960’s Japan by Shintaro Tsuji, whose simple dream of bringing smiles to people’s faces, grew into the brand’s ‘small gift, big smile’ philosophy”. An online company history of Sanrio states that the company launched the Hello Kitty character in 1974, originally aimed toward girls too young for barbies or similar toys. This spread beyond the intended age group partially because it tapped into the Japanese ‘kawaii’ trend, the obsession with cuteness. They sell anything from tiny toys, erasers, and candies to big things like suitcases, golf clubs and TVs, all with an image of a character and the brand-name pasted on each item. In 1976 the company set up a base in San Jose CA as a result of growing popularity in the U.S. and set up licensing agreements which brought Sanrio characters into toys included in McDonalds children’s meals. In 1988 Sanrio came out with its first boy character, Keroppi the frog, whose success caused the creation of new gender-neutral characters to bring boys into the market. In the early 90’s, two theme parks were built to keep up with the craze: Puroland and Harmonyland. Sanrio also created TV shows in the 90’s based on Hello Kitty and friends.

I never knew the friendship stories behind the characters, and I never watched the TV shows that accompanied them, but I still loved the characters anyhow. Sanrio characters play into the idea of the PLC, or “program-length commercial” mentioned in the Spinning Out of Control (Gary Cross) reading. Cross says, “These programs were ‘originally conceived as a vehicle from providing product exposure to the child audience’” (295). by providing an extensive story and extra characters around the Hello Kitty trend, the TV series surrounding Sanrio characters served just to market more toys and items with the brand to children. Cross also talks about the problem this causes for parents: “PLCs stacked the deck against parents by manipulating young children into wanting a particular toy while ostensibly entertaining them” (296). The Sanrio characters also show the idea of how toymakers “also shaped little girls’ play around licensed characters and fairytale story lines” (299).  In these characters and storylines, most of the time characters “worked together for the common good and did so in a world largely free of adult authority” (300). The Sanrio characters seem to follow the trend of Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Herself the Elf, and other ‘friendship’ characters of this kind of formula.