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Posts tagged ‘Television’

Move it, football head!

One of my favorite TV shows from young, couch potato-ing days was “Hey Arnold!” Airing on Nickelodeon from 1996-2004, “Hey Arnold!” was an animated TV series which followed the adventures of the title character, Arnold, and his friends, family, and neighbors in the fictional city of Hillwood.

The main character, Arnold, a blonde kid who wears a tiny red hat on top of his large, football-shaped head, lives with his grandparents in a boarding house, which they own, located in the heart of a busy metropolis. The boarding house, called Sunset Arms, is a very cramped residency, filled with several quirky characters from vast ethnic backgrounds, who provide Arnold with a colorful home life. Arnold’s best friend is Gerald Johanssen, a hip, black kid who knows all of the urban legends in the city. Helga Pataki, a girl in the group, comes from an upper-middle class background (her dad has a great, beeper empire) and is secretly in love with Arnold, though she disguises this by acting cruelly towards him. Arnold’s other friends are very culturally diverse as well, including Jewish, South American, Japanese, and rural children.

“Hey Arnold!” is reminiscent of our recent unit in class covering the childhood of disadvantaged, urban youths, because the show is one of the few children’s animated series to be set in a completely urban environment. Several of the characters, including Arnold, are missing one or more parents from their lives. Much like in our Elizabeth Chin readings, the children’s neighborhood is not very open to play. In the episode “The Vacant Lot”, the children, fed up with cars interrupting their street baseball games, find a rare, open, grassy lot in the neighborhood which they attempt to convert into a baseball field. The children converting their neighborhood into a place in which they can use for play is similar to the girls in the Elizabeth Chin reading who make their white dolls more like them by braiding their hair. In both instances, children are able to adapt the situation they are confined to into something they can enjoy more.

Below is the “Hey Arnold!” episode, “The Vacant Lot”

Fight Like a Girl!

When I was younger my house was always chaos, mostly because I had six other siblings. Of the five girls in my family (fours sisters, two brothers, plus me equals seven), I was always labeled the tom boy and playing rough came with the title. Because of my love for rowdy play and wrestling, I remember receiving one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time, the Sock’em Boppers!

Sock’em Boppers were inflatable boxing gloves that children would blow up and place over their fist then proceed to punch each other. They were very popular among kids of the 90’s but were produced in the 70’s. They resurged in the late  90’s with a slightly different name, “Socker Boppers.” They can still be purchased at any major toy store and can even be bought on for around thirteen dollars.

Despite the unavoidable fight that came with every purchase of this toy, the commercial ads depicted Sock’em Boppers as nonviolent play and even used the slogan “more fun than a pillow fight.” Honestly, I can remember on numerous occasions being “socked “in the faced with in one of these and it was not always pretty. Of course this toy was supposed to be played in the presence of adult supervision who could advise the “not in the face” rule but let’s get real; when two kids are alone playing with these oversized fists of fury it can get pretty brutal.

So who was it that said television, games are what make/made children wiolent?

Lynn Spigel, author of “Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs” argued that “so long as the young are protected from certain types of knowledge” they will stay an “innocent and pure” youth (146).  By “certain types of knowledge,” Spigel meant television. But while television may have been the source of commercialization of toys such as Sock’em boppers, the act of playing with this toy was the form of violence that altered the “innocence of youth”. This leads me to another reading that blamed the rotting of children on Television and technology, Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.” Bradbury’s story also creates the technology in George Bradley’s house as the antagonist. The conclusion of the story outlines the children’s vicious act in forcing their playroom to eat their parents.

In the end, I am simply arguing that while television, video games, and other technology may have some violent affect on the nature of children; let’s not forget that playing outside with a pair of Sock’em Boppers can force children to think and act just as violent. Rowdiness and aggression is many times an inherent nature of some children, and ultimately as a child, how they release that inherent nature of rowdiness lies in their own hands, with slight parental supervision of course.

Here’s is a commercial ad from 1997 of the Sock’em Boppers.

Just a quick side note, I find it funny that there is not one single girl in this commercial.

The Family Hustle

The Family Hustle

This past December “music” channel VH1 premiered a new reality documentary series of rapper T.I. and his wife “Tiny” Tameka Cottle. The show followed T.I. from his release from prison to his return home to his wife and six children. Plots for most of the shows focused on parenting issues like school, dating, and the children’s dreams as well as T.I.’s new upcoming en devours. Personally I am a huge fan of T.I. and watched the show all the time, and I am not the only one. Millions of viewers tuned in every Monday to see the family and VH1 recently announced that “The Family Hustle” will return for a second season this fall. In my opinion the main reason for the return of the second season was due to the children’s en devours in the entertainment business. One of T.I.’s kids, Domani, revealed in the first season that he wanted to become a rapper. In one episode T.I. devotes time and money to make his son’s dream come true by providing support and money to shoot Domani’s first music video “Green Faces.” After reading Kelley’s article “Looking to Get Paid: How Some Black Youth Put Culture to Work” which was written in the late 90’s, is now in my opinion outdated. More than ten years later Hip-Hop/Rap has become so influential in mainstream culture that now the dream of becoming a Hip-Hop/Rap sensation is not solely limited to poorer African-American children who look towards Hip-Hop/Rap as a job and a way out. Many young privileged African-American children, like Domani, are born into wealthy households where the main issues of Hip-Hop/Rap such as poverty, crime, and drugs are not prevalent. Domani and other privileged children who decide to enter the Hip-Hop/Rap scene view it as a hobby however, they are still concerned about making money. For example Domani’s music video is almost all about making money, which is ironic because his dad already makes a pretty decent salary. I found this interesting because Kelley argues that these creative outlets are ways for “urban youth” to turn their hobbies into labor to recieve “cold hard cash” (410). While Kelley’s argument still holds true in some respect, I believe that now the opportunities for African-American youth to turn their leisure into labor for monetary benefits is not solely limited to “urban youth”.

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…

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 the Care Bears

Birthday Bear wants a hug. Awww. (click for source)

The episode of Care Bears that I watched, called “Birthday Bear’s Blues,” took place on Birthday Bear’s birthday. The Care Bears are celebrating after scaring off the villain No Heart. Thinking the other Care Bears forgot his birthday, Birthday Bear goes to Earth to cheer up a rich little boy, Charles, because nobody has come to his birthday party. Meanwhile, No Heart is plotting revenge. He tricks the Care Bears into going to Charles’s estate and bewitches a maze with thorns and no way out. The Care Bears are tricked into the maze and trapped. Birthday Bear and Charles watch from outside the maze and seek out Charles’s classmates for help. No Heart begins to track The Care Bears inside the maze. He almost catches Gentle Heart, but the Care Bears team up and “scare” No Heart, sending their beams to find him. Evil is defeated, and Charles learns that you can’t buy friends.

I think this episode of Care Bears refutes Cross’s argument in “Spinning Out of Control.” He argues that 80s kids TV was removed from the “real world,” but this episode deals directly with a topics relevant to kids, friendship and that money doesn’t buy friends. The episode does have a clear moral lesson, even though it is hidden within a world of fantasy.

Cross argued that toys for “no longer needed to conform to the simplest laws of nature” (p. 302). While he sees this as a bad thing, I think personification is a big part of how kids play naturally. Stuffed animals have voices and personalities to kids, so talking bears on television isn’t much of a stretch for them.

However, there are some aspects of this episode that support Cross’s position. The world of Care Bears is obviously very separate from the real world, but the parts of the show that are trying to depict the real world are unrealistic. The villain is “reduced to the killjoy, often pitiful figure whose opposition to the happiness of a colorful world came only from ignorance or fear of caring” (p. 300).  “Evil” in the world of the Care Bears has no relation to evil in the world of today. Additionally, there are no adults. Charles’s own parents don’t come to his birthday party. His classmates are off by themselves flying kites. When the Care Bears are trapped in the maze, Charles doesn’t turn to his parents. They just aren’t there.

The world of the Care Bears is removed from the real world, but the lesson in this episode was clear and not distorted beyond something kids can translate the the real world.