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Posts from the ‘Archive of Childhood’ Category

The Reality of the Pokemon Master Status

From the age of six to eleven, huge portions of my thoughts and energies were devoted to becoming a Pokemon master.  What is a Pokemon master, you ask?  Its a child who despises any thought of outdoor activity and socialization through physical play.  Its a child who is addicted to air conditioning, electronic media, and fast food.  Its a child who pouts and cries whenever anything interferes with the routine of going to McDonalds after school, watching Pokemon after that, and playing the Pokemon Gameboy game after that. Oh yeah, and its a child who has collected all 150 original Pokemon cards, including the hollographic editions.

Pokemon Master-This is what dedicating your life to collecting toys makes out of you.

Pokemon’s success revolved around the phrase, “Gotta Catch ’em All!”  Replace the “Catch” with “Buy” and, in essence, the phrase pretty much means the same thing.  Pokemakers urged kids that the only way they were going to achieve that sacred status as Pokemon master, they were gonna have to consume, consume, and consume some more.    Japan created a product that hypnotized children into abandoning their dogs, baseballs, and, in extreme cases, their studies.  Kids began riding a vicious cycle that starts with ownership of one or several Pokemon cards, then a few packs, then, literally, a room with a mountain of trading cards.  Pretty similar to tobacco addiction, right?  But the reason a Pokemon master cannot finish a mile is only because of poor diet and lack of daily physical activity, not smoker’s lung.  This all goes back to parents and what they allow their kids to do.  There are consequences that go along with over-indulgence, and parents can either ignore them, or take the time to observe their children and notice that Pokemon masters are actually chubby, spoiled, brain-fried by-products of a consumerist culture.  With me, it started with the gameboy game, then a few cards, then, somehow, weekly trips to McDonalds.  Its weird how, when you’re talking about kids, unhealthy food and unhealthy media consumption always seem to go hand in hand.  Its as if once parents give up on regulating one aspect of their child’s indulgence, its easier to give up the next thing (if McDonalds isn’t the first thing, its usually the next thing).

50 Cent: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Throughout my teenage years, one music artist in particular that I enjoyed listening to disturbed my parents the most. This artist was Curtis Jackson, better known to the American public as the rapper 50 Cent. Jackson grew up on the rough streets of Queens, New York with no father to speak of and a cocaine dealer for a mother. After her death, Jackson began to get involved in the narcotics industry that thrived in that area. This troubled upbringing is reflected in the lyrics of his songs, and he rarely pulls punches in his descriptions of life on the streets of urban areas. His popularity began to increase in the early 2000’s with the release of his hit albums Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre. Known for his particularly offensive lyrics, 50 Cent songs regularly dealt with things like drug dealing, gang violence, and misogynous themes. One song in particular, “Candy Shop,” off the album The Massacre, shocked my parents the most. Jackson describes in graphic detail a strip club and the activities he engages in while inside. The song received major radio play when it was released, and any time it was played my mother and father insisted on changing the radio station. This idea of fear over children’s exposure to hip-hop music relates to the George Lipsitz article on the Hip-Hop Hearings of the early 1990’s. In testimony from the hearings, prominent members of the black community discussed the negative effects of hip-hop music on youth, saying that the music,” provoked our youth to violence, drug use, and mistreatment of women. This explains why so many of our children are out of control and why we have more black males in jail than we have in college” (Lipsitz, 390). My parents worried that if I was consistently exposed to the sort of obscenity present in hip-hop music by artists like 50 Cent I would be corrupted. This idea was prevalent in many white households as hip-hop music spread to suburban areas, and parents experienced a sort of moral panic over the strange, new form of entertainment.

The music video for the song”Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, off his album The Massacre, released in 2005

Uh, Oh! Spaghetti-O’s!

Modern Spaghetti-O's Can

Spaghetti-O’s are a canned, sweetened circular shaped pasta mixed with tomato sauce, cheese and, sometimes, hot dogs. They were introduced in 1965 by Campbell’s and are advertised to parents as being the “less messy version of spaghetti”. I fondly remember scarfing down a ridiculous number of cans of Spaghetti-O’s when I was younger. It definitely lived up to the expectation that it was quick and easy. When they were first released, one 15oz can contains 22g of sugar, 1200mg of salt, 70g of carbohydrates, 12g of protein and 340 calories. Campbell’s has since slightly improved the health content but they are still, by no means, healthy as it is advertised. The can actually states that it is “Healthy Kids Entrée.” To start with, one serving contains 600 mg of Sodium which is near 25% the daily recommended value. It also had 11 grams of added sugar in the tomato sauce in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t agree that this is something that should be advertised to be eaten in place of a healthy, well-balanced meal. Although Campbell’s has made improvements and it is not quite as bad as it was to begin with, the advertising is what really strikes me. They seemed to focus more on additional products geared towards children more so than the Spaghetti-O’s themselves.

These are Spaghetti-O’s commercials but seem to be resting on advertising other things such as Gargoyles and Sonic the Hedgehog. It seems as though they are relying on children’s love for certain toys to push their own product as well as push secondary merchandise on children. When I saw these commercials, I was so focused on how cool the Gargoyle tattoos were, I hardly even heard the details about the Spaghetti-O’s, I just knew I had to have them!

“Hey, Hey, Hey!”

   In Queens, New York 1992, Five African American men started a

"Fat Albert and the Gang"

Bill Cosby's "Fat Albert and the Gang" related to African American children and became honored and noted for its educational content

clothing line geared toward the African American community.  Their brand was supposed to cater to all cultures and be in the price range of the lower class African Americans.  They named their brand FUBU, which the majority believes is an acronym for the phrase “For Us By Us.”

   Junior High, for me, was the year when young teenagers really began to focus more on their appearance in school. Everyone kept their jeans starched “extra crispy” where shorts could almost stand up on their own when you opened the pant legs.  During this time, FUBU had become one of the hottest brands you would see walking down every hallway.  Printed on some of their clothing were animations of Ali, the Globe Trotters, and “Fat Albert and the Gang,” an animated series directed by Comedian Bill Cosby.  Ali and the Globe Trotters stood for African American figures that beat racial barriers, however “Fat Albert and the Gang” stood for much more than historical figures.  Bill Cosby created the animation in order to relate to the African American children in society.  Similarly to Black literature at the time, Fat Albert was known to be very educational as well as entertaining for its young viewers.  Similarly to Black literature at the time, Fat Albert were one of the few programs on television that related to the black community.  According to Laretta Henderson in her article Ebony Jr.!: The Rise and Demise of an African American Children’s Magazine, the “lack of literature for Black children was not a new concern for educators of African American children.”

   Out of all the FUBU clothing I’ve seen up and down the halls of my Jr. High, almost every printed animation was Fat Albert and his gang.  Reflecting back, I wonder if all of us embraced Bill Cosby’s animation because it appealed to our generation.  The cartoon first aired in 1969 and was off the air before I was even born.  Most of the people born in the mid to late 80’s, who wore FUBU, had never even seen the cartoon prior to the clothing line.  This could serve as a prime example for African American children learning to read; images and story lines that relate to their character allows the literature to capture that child’s attention.

   From Bill Cosby to FUBU to Ebony Jr., their products influenced the children of the “…black community by defining Blackness and by focusing on Black achievements that were ignored by schools and the White press.”  Books like “The Brownies’,” helped “make ‘colored’ normalized” in society (L. Henderson pg649-60).  After studying all the harmful effects of media in our society and educating myself on the viewpoints of the protestors, I’m still not a believer.  Television, literature, and advertising has heavily impacted the youth in our black community by breaking down barriers in masses which may only be reached by the media.

The Woes of Mr. Potato Head

“In 1952, Hassenfield Brothers, a maker of pencil boxes and other school supplies, began advertising its new toy product, Mr. Potato Head, on TV.” (Chudacoff 172) The original Mr. Potato Head was actually relevant to a potato, or any fruit or vegetable for that matter. They were sold by Hasbro in $1-2 accessory packs to stick into fruit that was bought separately by the consumers’ own means. The entire idea was that children could create faces that never looked the same.

“A crucial shift involved consumer items for very young children. Soft, cuddly toys, like the teddy bear, appeared in American markets” (Stearns 7) like many of those things, Mr. Potato Head lost its original intent and Hasbro started producing plastic “potatoes” with holes for the accessories. Children didn’t get a chance to play with fruit anymore. Mr. Potato Head has created a huge revenue as he was featured in the Disney movie “Toy Story.” When I went to Disney world 12 years ago I remember going on a “3D adventure” with Mr. Potato Head. All of this was born out of simple appendages stuck into fruits and vegetables.

Screen shot of the search "Mr. Potato Head" on Google, showing the "classic" look of Mr. Potato Head, in all of which he looks the same

The true value of this toy was that it promoted creativity in children. They could make a potato look happy and a squash look mean. The plastic potato that is now sold was obviously a successful way to make more money from parents who don’t want their children wasting food and have to deal with the tantrums from the children who want to keep rotten Mr. and Mrs. Cantaloupe Heads. However, now all Potato Heads look the same. There are only so many looks you can give the potato without buying more accessories to go with it. Mr. Potato Head went from being a $1-2 toy, to essentially a gender neutral Barbie, always needed a new accessory. This fixed the problem that “boys and girls were attracted to dissimilar products,” (Chudacoff 180) but created a new one: You have to continue to buy accessories to personalize your Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads. An accessory kit can run about $20 each according to Amazon but at the rate of childhood boredom, will one be enough?

KONY must be captured!!!

This week in Facebook, there were lots of same video post on friends time lines. Video post name called, KONY 2012. I assume that every body will think this video is some commercialized clip (short version of new movie), because of impression of name ‘KONY’.  However this video is not for advertising the cartoon or new movie, this is about person ‘Kony’ who is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.  This short film tells us about crimes of Kony. According to this film,  “Kony is accused of abducting children for decades, making the boys child soldiers and the girls sex slaves.”This 30 minute film video was the hottest issue on Facebook, it made over 50 million viewers online within four days,according to ABC news, which is very close to  the purpose of this film as it aims to put Kony’s name in every household’s conversation by making his name famous and asking for help from the famous and powerful. His secret identity has been expose to world, but this job is not done by politician or big groups of adults crusaders. Viewer of this clip were the most of them young people. In the ABC news, “We hit the streets to find out who has viewed the viral documentary and who knows the name Joseph Kony. We began with the video’s targeted audience: students.”It’s all over social networking sites and the Internet,” Joseph Latterner said. “I know there’s this viral campaign, 30-minute video that’s instructional on ways to get involved in the movement.” Young people in the Cape Fear have even taken to Facebook with their support.But what about those of older generations? Many of the folks we asked had no idea who Kony is.” This is new activities and roles of young people in the War.  This might not be war as it is, but it is new type of war as social movement. They are fighting against Kony by using Social network. Their influence might be limited now, but it will expand to the adult world because young viewer will talk about it at dinner table, and it will lead this war against Knoy to victory.

Barbie Explosion

Barbie was a huge part of my childhood, like many other girls. The doll, launched in 1959 and beloved ever since, comes with many different variations of skin color, career, and clothing options. It is widely available in toy stores and even grocery stores. My journey with Barbie began quite simply. My mother got me a Barbie doll when I was 4 or 5. For Christmas and my next birthday, I asked for a few modest accessories so that I could enjoy a few different adventures with my Barbie. Next, I began seeing commercials featuring the rest of Barbie’s family: Ken, Skipper, and Kelly. Of course, I had to have them all. How could I let Barbie live her life alone?! Pretty soon, Barbie needed a van to get around with her new family, but Ken didn’t like the van, so he needed his own Jeep. When Barbie’s first movie came out, I needed a whole new set of Barbies to live out the Rapunzel story. My old dolls already had a life I couldn’t take them away from. My parents and other family members gladly obliged my Barbie fantasies for years, but the final straw came when I got the Barbie Hotel. It cost over $100, had an elevator, and working telephones. I had never considered Barbie needing a hotel until a slew of commercials came out telling me I needed it. After that, my mom said I would have to make do with what I already had. She was sick of me seeing new commercials every day and deciding I had to have the latest item. Although Barbie does not classify as a PLC (program length commercial), I think the popularity of the Barbie movies, and the heavy advertising (a Barbie commercial ran during every kid-related show I watched, and it was usually more than one) would lead to the same effects as a PLC. It did for me. The article we read was titled “Spinning out of Control”, and that’s exactly what happened during my childhood. I started with one doll, and ended with a van, jeep, VW Beetle, 2 houses, a boat, a hotel, over 20 different dolls, and enough clothes and accessories to fill a real closet. It was never enough. That’s the type of environment PLCs and heavily advertised toys create.


Barbie Hotel

A picture of the Barbie Hotel, the final item of my Barbie Collection