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Posts tagged ‘entertainment’

All Girls Are Princesses

A Little Princess movie cover (1995)

One of my all time favorite movies is A Little Princess. It is based on the 1905 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story line follows a young girl named Sara Crewe who is born and raised in India to her wealthy soldier father. He sends her to an upscale London boarding school to receive a formal education. The headmistress, Miss Minchin, is cold and cruel to say the least. Then, when she receives word that Sara’s father was killed in the war and would not be paying for Sara to stay at the school, she tells Sara her only choice is to live in the attic as a servant or else she will be kicked out on the street. Sara never loses hope or the ability to see the good in everything. Her father always told her elaborate stories about princesses in India and she used those stories to keep the other girls at the boarding school feeling positive. They would meet her in the attic nightly and secretly listen to her optimistic stories. Miss Minchin does everything in her power to keep the girls from using this power of imagination. She believes it to be a waste of time and that they should be doing more productive things with their time. She even takes Sara’s locket, the only part of her father she has to hold on to. (Spoiler alert) In the end, she finds that her father is much closer than she thought. He is alive and recovering from an explosion with the help of a friend from India. They are reunited and Sara takes one of her new orphaned friends with  her and her father back to India after ensuring that Miss Minchin is fired.

Needless to say, the moral of the story is that imagination is a powerful tool that makes life better and can helpThe orphaned girls tell stories in the attic you through hard times. Another main point is to never lose hope in yourself or others. This is a powerful message to send to children considering, the issues we have been discussing in class. Combining my love for this movie and my new knowledge from class, an idea from our Chudacoff reading came to mind. “Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child.” (course packet) I realize this is not necessarily a product advertisement but this movie is definitely pro-imagination and the writers use this dramatic story line to drive home the point that children need imagination in their life.

We discussed in class whether or not children should tap in to this source of creativity when they play or if play should be focused more on productive ideas like easy bake ovens or toy work benches. My answer is no. The ability to be optimistic and make light of a challenging situation begins with the ability to see the good in everything. I believe this starts with the ability to be creative and expand the definition of real life.

A very important line from the movie is when Sara says “All girls are princesses”. This brings to mind the Free To Be You and Me readings and discussions. I believe this movie is very relevant to this piece. The story, “Ladies First” seems to say that girls should not claim to be ladies or princesses based on the entitlement that comes with it. However, this movie shows that this gender idea can be used for good to make a young, troubled girl feel special and loved.

 

Coca-Cola Soccer Kit

The year was 2001, and I was 9 years old. My dad had come across a pair of tickets to a home game for Honduras’s national football team against Mexico, and asked me whether I wanted to come along with him. I’ve heard that every man at some point during his life takes, as a wife, one sport. While he may be unfaithful at times by engaging in other sports, it is to this sport to which he will be permanently bound for the remainder of his life. My father’s sport was baseball. That probably explains why, unlike every other child in Honduras, I lacked any sort of familiarity on football and did not partake in the religious fervor that its fans tend to engage. That all changed on a chilly October day in 2001. Out of pure curiosity for the event my school friends had been ranting about for the last month or so, I agreed to go with my dad (mostly because I wanted to know what made football more interesting than Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which despite my high praise had somehow failed to elicit anything more than a “whatever” from my friends). Once at the stadium, a wave of excitement drifted over me and I ran ahead of my dad so that I could see where the deafening noise was coming from. Then I saw it. The green pitch, the chanting fans, the waving flags. They say when you meet the love of your life time stops, and that’s true. I felt like I stood there for an entire lifetime before my dad snapped me out of it and walked me to our seats. There isn’t enough space in this post to describe how I felt during that game, but suffice to say Honduras won by three goals, and I had fallen in love for the first time in my life.

Following the game, and to advertise Honduras’s campaign towards reaching the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, Coca-Cola (the national team’s main sponsor) released a kit that included a soccer ball and the two small goals. You could not buy the ball in stores- it could only be purchased by redeeming 12 proof of purchase stamps from qualifying products. To promote the kit, Coca-Cola aired commercials showing the national team’s players doing tricks with the ball and scoring into the goals. The day after the game my friends (not a single one surprised at my overnight transition from indifferent to obsessed about football) and I consumed more Coca-Cola than should be humanly possible and redeemed our purchases to the nearest distribution center. Every week one of us would get to keep our new found treasure at their house, with possession changing hands on Fridays. Every Friday we would set up the goals on somebody’s street, place the ball in the center of our “field”, and a metamorphosis would occur. The walls around us turned to fans. The asphalt beneath us turned to beautiful grass. We were no longer children, but instead became our idols. Afterwards we refreshed ourselves with (big surprise!) ice-cold Coca-Colas.

Thinking back, this is a perfect illustration of the phenomena described by Howard Chudacoff in Children at Play:

Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child. The licensing from movies, television programs, and sports gave toys a very explicit significance… most children understood the product in a way that most adults did not. (Course Packet page 180)

In Honduras the vast majority of children (especially boys) loved Honduras’s national team, regardless of whether or not they liked football. It was a way we all bonded, came together, existed as one. There were no boys and girls, no kids and adults, no rich and poor. For 90 minutes, we were all just Honduran. Coca-Cola used that indescribable (at least to children) feeling of belonging, of unison, to advertise their product. By merging the national team and Coca-Cola products, the line between them became blurred. We saw Coca-Cola as the moment when a player made an extraordinary dribble, or as the feeling when all the crowd roared and danced when Honduras would score a goal. Coca-Cola became pure, unfiltered happiness. I saw anyone that chose Pepsi over Coca-Cola as hating the very core of being Honduran, of conspiring to deprive us all of the joy of qualifying for the World Cup. Many of my friends shared those sentiments. The kit Coca-Cola provided took it all a step further. After watching their commercials, we all wanted to use the same ball that the players used, and to score goals into the same posts that they did. We wanted to dribble the same, and shoot the same. We came to believe that the “magic” the players had was a product of the Coca-Cola ball itself. The ball and goals became mystical figures, items that when in our possession made our skill-set limitless. We were capable of any trick, could score any goal, and would eventually make our way into the national team to play alongside our idols. My parents and many adults did not and could not understand why we felt so strongly about these kits. How could they, after all? They were too old to play on the national team, so we figured they would never understand. Those days we existed for one ideal- “Joga Bonito”, play beautifully…

Coca-Cola Ball, courtesy of the Coca-Cola Store

Honduras National Team sponsored by, you guessed it, Coca-Cola. Courtesy of ElHeraldo.hn

Television, The Third Parent?

“Imagine if there was an extra adult in your home parenting your child. Every day from dawn to dusk, this person would give your kids information on everything from school work to more personal issues, like dating and relationships. And you have no say what they told your child.”

Angela Ardolino creates this image to explain the role, that she believes, television has taken on in the home. In her article, “Embracing media influence on Children,” Ardolino is arguing that parents do not understand how big of an influence the media has on a child. At the time of adolescence, she states, children form a separation from their parents and look to the media for guidance. What these children see on television and in ads tends to form their values and interests. She argues that this influence is mostly negative. Ardolino ends by giving media tips to help parents and encouraging them to help their children choose positive media role models.

Angela Ardolino is the editor of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine, Founder of Miami Children’s Theater, and an expert in honest parenting. While she does not have children herself, she has so much experience with children and with the study of children and parenting. From her articles on her webpage, she allows the reader to get a sense of what kind of person she is and what her beliefs are. She writes about popular media influences on children today and her responses to these influences range from mildly liberal to mildly conservative. She reaches out to all parents with varying parenting skills.

This critique of the effect of television on children is similar to Ray Bradbury’s critique in “the Veldt.” In his story, Bradbury creates an image of the nursery taking on the role of the parents and all of the children’s behaviors come from what they create in the nursery. Both Ardolino and Bradbury have the same critique of television acting as a parent for children and they both portray this media influence as negative by showing the parents being killed in the end of “The Veldt” and by explaining that children who see tobaocco ads are more likely to take on the habit of tobacco. However, Bradbury explains the nursery more as a baby sitter, whereas, Ardolino portrays the television as an actual guardian that effects all aspects of the child’s life. I think that Ardolino’s critique stems from the greater variety of TV shows, today, than were available in the 1950′s when “The Veldt” was produced. The wide variety of what is shown on TV today makes way for more influences in every part of the children’s lives.

Whether the TV is acting as a babysitter or a role model for children, many critics argue that the media is becoming a problem. As seen in Adolino’s articles as well as in Bradbury’s story, the TV is showing a negative influence on children. Their interests, hobbies, and values are all being formed by what they see while they are left in front of the television. By presenting their arguments, Adolino and Bradbury leave the idea of whether or not there needs to be an intervention in what today’s children are watching up to the parents.

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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“A Separation” Foreign troubles with Child Actors

Movie poster of Best Foreign Oscar Winning Film, "A Separation" (2011). Directed by Asghar Farhardi

In the national news section of Houston’s official news website in an article entitled “Oscar Foreign Directors not Daunted by Kid Actors”, an award-winning director of Iranian films, Asghar Farhadi, talks on the troubles of working with his daughter in his current Oscar-nominated film, “A Separation.” Eleven year old Sarin Farhadi plays “an estranged Iranian couples child.” Sarin’s father Asghar says his daughter “was the most difficult person to work with on the film.” The article described Sarin to be “the biggest diva on the set.” While Farhadi humorously talked on the troubles of working with his daughter he also gave some insight when working with child actors. The article explained that he “doesn’t completely explain the plots of his movies to child actors “and believes the less they know the better they do. This, he explained, was probably why it was difficult working with his daughter. She was already too engrossed in the story of the film. In other words, she knew too much to be natural.

I chose this national news article particularly because of the director’s quotes on his experience working with child actors and the approach he takes when they are involved in his films. When reading this, I immediately thought of the Shirley Temple reading “Behind Shirley Temple’s Smile: Children, Emotional Labor, and the Great Depression.” There seems to be an overarching agreement between movie producers, directors, and those involved in film making in their belief that children are better on the big screen when they are “natural” and “innocent.” In the reading, Kasson includes a statement from Shirley Temple’s mother in which she states, “I want her (Shirley) to be natural, innocent, sweet. If she ceases to be that I shall have lost her-and motion pictures will have lost her too” (136). It seems likely that Asghar Farhadi would concur with this theory. With his daughter being an important child actor within his Oscar-nominated foreign film, his opinions, and that of Gertrude Temple seem closely connected. Just as the directors in Kasson’s article argue of the dangers of Shirley becoming “spoiled” and resulting in her innocence wiped from her smile, Farhadi seemed to be stuck in the same situation when his daughter became the “diva” on set.

Not only does this news article present a current view of a director’s approach and experience with child acting, but it creates a correlation between past and present ideals on children in film. It also bridges the borders between America and foreign countries when relating viewpoints of child acting.

 

Oscar Nominated Films As Reenacted By Children

Tonight is the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, and it seems appropriate to see how children are used to comment upon the Oscar nominees. As found on Jest.com, children are used to reenact some of the Oscar nominated films from 2011.

Part one of the child reenactments of 2011 Oscar nominated films from Jest.com:

Part two of the child reenactments of 2011 Oscar nominated films from Jest.com:

The child actors adopt adult roles from the nominated films in a way that is supposed to be humorous to the adult viewer. While the child actors are likely aware that their cute and funny behaviors evoke a positive reaction from an adult, they are unlikely aware of the connotations and meanings of the things that they are saying. This tactic is similar to the one seen in Baby Burlesks, as was discussed in class. (The child reenactment of Midnight in Paris is strangely similar to the Baby Burlesks clips that we watched in class.) Adult viewers are deriving humor and pleasure from something that is being inappropriately displayed by a child in Baby Burlesks and in the child reenactments of Oscar nominees. The innocent child portraying something provocative and unsuitable is prevalent in both past and present culture. Why adults continue to find this type of entertainment amusing is curious… and a bit twisted.

Although it is not readily apparent that these children are experiencing any emotional labor, it should not be assumed that they are not. These children are being asked and prompted to act like someone whom they are not, and this could have the potential of inducing emotional labor.

In the reenactment of The Help, the girls reference racism in a way that is very childish. The first girl exclaims, “I solved racism!” and later says “I’ll feel better about being a white person and you’ll lose your job?” while the other two girls in the reenactment eagerly nod their heads. The first comment made portrays the innocence of childhood, and the second comment coupled with its response from the other two girls is something that is aimed at the adult viewer. These children probably do not realize that they are being used to humorously depict a controversial race issue from American history.

The children are also used to poke fun at the actual award ceremony itself. In the reenactment of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, one of the boys says, “If I find out where this key goes, maybe I’ll understand why this movie was nominated for an Oscar.” This statement reiterates the notion that these child actors do not really understand the movies or the content that they are acting out. Additionally, the comment and the writings on the boys’ hands satirize the type of movie that would be nominated for an Oscar. This is something an adult, not a child, would find comical and witty.

In the reenactment of The Descendants in part two of the video clips, the children again assume very adult roles and remain entirely unaware of the unsuitability of their placement. The children are apologizing for who they have slept with. This in particular comes off as fairly disturbing. This clip differs from Baby Burlesks because the sexual references are explicit; the explicitness of language and connotation taints the innocent façade of the child actor.

The childish voices attached to the small bodies trying filling adult ones, penciled on mustaches, hidden smirks, lack of intonation, scribbled drawings, and outbursts of “Puppy!” and “Dinosaur!” are some of the surface features that make these clips entertaining. Perhaps because these surface features enchant and engross adult viewers, and very little thought is given to the improper placement of the child into an adult scene, is why this type of entertainment has successfully lasted throughout the years.

Sophia Grace and Rosie Young Stars

Sophia Grace and Rosie in the Grammy Awards 2012

Huffpost Celebrity describes the recent experience of two British girls, 8 year old Sophia Grace Brownlee and 5 year old Rosie McClelland, in the Ellen DeGeneres show during their Grammy Awards 2012 red carpet debut. The young duo was invited to attend Ellen’s popular TV show to display their adventures as they interviewed celebrities at the 2012 Grammy’s.

The British duo started their public display with their YouTube video singing Nicki Minaj’s top chart song Super Bass. It was there Ellen’s team discovered the young sensation and invited them to Ellen’s show. After an appearance on Ellen’s show, Ellen was extremely impressed she sent them as her correspondents to the 2011 American Music Awards. Now, after obtaining more exposure through Ellen at the 2012 Grammy Awards the girls state they are becoming pros at red carpet events and interviewing.

These young girls are being exposed to the adult media culture at a very fast rate. Critics wonder how the events they attend and the content of lyrics they sing may influence the girls childhood. As Lynn Spigel wrote “Television’s immediate availability in the home threatened to abolish childhood by giving children equal access to the ideas and values circulated in the adult culture” (Pg 150). In the Ellen show the girls stated they learned the lyrics to Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass song in under a week , yet do not know what the song is really about. During the Super Bass performance Sophia Grace is caught singing “he cold, he dope, he might sell coke” and “He just gotta give me that look, when he give me that look then the panties comin’ off, off”. Conflict arises questioning if the girls performance displays the parents lack of character in raising their daughters or supports an impressive talent which Sophia Grace and Rosie as potential superstars in the making. Whatever the conclusion is, we can all agree the young duo has an amazing career in the entertainment industry and we will be seeing a lot of more of them.

Sophia Grace and Rosie Performing “Moment 4 Life”