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Posts tagged ‘innocence’

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, 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

Part two of the child reenactments of 2011 Oscar nominated films from

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.

Shirley Smiles

The Baby Burlesk short films of the 1930’s starred America’s favorite child actor, Shirley Temple.  Released in 1933, Polly Tix in Washington features Shirley Temple as a “strumpet bent on seducing a senator”; she is essentially a call girl (131).  The short film includes adult themes such as political corruption, seduction, and bribery, played out by children of a very young age.

Screen Shot. Shirley Temple starred in "Polly Tix in Washington," released June 4, 1933.

In John F. Kasson’s piece, “Behind Shirley Temple’s Smile:  Children, Emotional Labor, and the Great Depression,” he states that these “children literally go through the motions of adult characters without, presumably, comprehending anything about the drama they are enacting” (131).  While viewing a few of the Baby Burlesks, I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the scenes being played out.  Even the way Shirley Temple struts across the stage suggests a level of flirtatiousness that seems highly inappropriate; not to mention her seductive walk is always directed toward her boy counterpart in the films.  The Polly Tix short displays Shirley Temple in a black lace skimpy outfit, dripping in jewels, and using her body and flirtation skills to sway the opinion of the new senator.  She also brings along a decadent cake to aid in her persuasion.  One scene shows Shirley feeding a piece of cake to the young senator; she literally had him in the palm of her hands.  Actions such as these play into the innocent act of young children enthusiastically shoveling delicious desserts into their mouths using only their hands, but on the other hand, exudes a level of maturity/intimacy usually reserved for adult interactions (similar to the bride and groom hand-feeding each other their first piece of wedding cake; it’s a somewhat sensual event).  Although it’s humorous to watch Shirley win over the senator with cake and her sultry antics, the underlying message endorses seduction as an acceptable way of obtaining what you want.

Vulnerability of Children

In an article entitled “A Touch During Recess, and Reaction is Swift” (Scott James, The New York Times) (and also in the YouTube video), the author covers the case of a first grader, only six years old, who was suspended for alleged sexual assault. What really happened is unsure because there were no witnesses besides the two boys involved. However, during a game of tag, the first grader was accused of touching the upper thigh area of another boy. The West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesperson was not allowed to speak about the actual event, but did state that any type of assault is taken very seriously. Many believe this to be due to bullying and recent rises in suicides.

This article can be connected to the debate of how vulnerable or innocent children really are, which is a concept that Peter Stearns addresses in his “Intro” and “Bored” (pgs. 3 and 173) chapters that we read. While Stearns explains the increasing popular support behind the idea of the vulnerable child, particularly in connection with the media, the idea that children are innocent is apparent in this article. This is shown through the statements made by the mother of the accused child, who says that tag is just a game and her son had no evil intentions. Further backing for the idea of innocence in this article is that many people were shocked when “such adult criminal intent was applied to a matter involving young children.” According to the article, in the state of California, matters of sexual intent can only be applied to students in the fourth grade or older. This implies that children up to the age of 9 or 10 are innocent when it comes to sexual matters. Because of this law, the first grade boy was able to get his school records cleared.

I agree that kids are inherently innocent. As one of my classmates mentioned when we discussed this idea, she knows (as do I) kids who can sing along to rap songs with suggestive or violent lyrics, but have no idea what they are talking about. I, myself, used to do this as well, despite the fact that my parents refused to buy me certain cd’s (The Spice Girls). Most people might not entertain the same theories of childhood innocence that I do, instead choosing to believe that children are vulnerable to what they see on television and in movies. I think that there comes a time in every child’s life when he or she begins to understand. I think it’s different for each child, as well as different for each touchy subject. For example, one child might understand violence before they understand sexual matters. I suppose that the real issue here is WHEN children become vulnerable or impressionable, and how adults can really tell when this change occurs.