SAMPLE RESPONSE PAPERS
Below is a collection of strong (and exceptionally strong)response papers from students. Allreceived high grades. They are goodexamples of insightful thinking and strong writing. I would especially encourage you to noticethat most of them don’t have obvious organization; most of them let their ideasdevelop and wander. Many of the bestresponses are later in the list. Icontinue to add to this collection as I find new examples of strongwriting. As always, I will look at draftswhen I can. [Please Note: Responses hereare single-spaced to be read quicker.]
The first example, however, is one I wrote as a sample forthe first reading response.
Of all ofthe common assumptions that we discussed in class, I think one of the mostcommon is the idea that a children’s text should in some way teach the readersomething. We of course talked about theterm didactic, and how a didacticbook strongly pushes a lesson onto the reader, telling them that they shouldbelieve this or that. Many times areason for that lesson isn’t even given, as though the young person reading thebook should just accept that lesson because they are told to, because the otherknows better. As I was reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, the book Iselected for the assignment, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as didactic asmost other children’s books, and that it would be as playful and exciting as Iremember as a child. On the last twopages of the book, however, the absent mother returns home, the cat hasdisappeared, the children are behaving nicely, sitting in chairs, and it ispretty obvious that even though they got into mischief they are still goodchildren after all. Nothing really haschanged at the end of the book. Althoughall sorts of things got played with, and the children broke the rules I am surethey know about (like, “Don’t fly kites in the house”), major boundaries werenever crossed.
We talkedabout how the opposite of a didactic book might be an ambiguous book, or a book that encourages the reader to think aboutissues, to make decisions for themselves. In that kind of book, the author usuallywants to the reader to think for her or himself, to understand that some thingsare difficult, even for adults. Theauthor may present a problem and ask you what you think, or might just nevercome around to saying exactly what you are supposed to believe. The last page of Cat in the Hat ends with the narrator saying, referring to themother, “Should we tell her about it? / Now what SHOULD we do? / Well . . . / What would YOU do / If your mother asked you?” (61). In some ways, thisis probably a pretty ambiguous ending.The author asks the reader that if your mother left, if someone wanted youto do what you weren’t supposed to, if you did it anyway, and if you didn’t getcaught, then would you tell your mother or father what happened? Most adults wouldn’t tell what happenedthemselves, but the question is there anyway, and it seems to be really askingchildren what they believe.
But itdoesn’t seem really that ambiguous. Ifthe book were really ambiguous it would be breaking the Typical Case Prototype of children’s books, and in almost everyother way the book keeps to those prototypes.As Nodelman describes it, children’s books aretypically bright, colorful, funny, entertaining, and maybe sometimesrhyming. Children’s books portraychildren as the way adults typically think of them, as crazy kids who aren’tserious like adults, or innocent angels who would never really do any harm whenthey play. Dr. Suessportrays typical kids, bored by the rain, wanting to do something wild. Although Seuss’s style is strange, thechildren even look like the sort of standard white children that appear in mostbooks, the girl in a dress and ribbon in her hair. We saw in class how these children are a lotlike the standard one’s in Cassie’s history textbook And although strange things happen inthe book – a talking cat, a couple of strange Things, a lot of things gettingthrown around – it is the kind of play we come to expect in children’s lives,especially in the sorts of standard things shown on television and in movies.
In fact,the children never quite seem to trust the Cat, and they always just sort ofwatch him play. The children neverreally do anything that crazy themselves.The Fish, who sounds a lot like an adult, is always there to warn them,and in the end everything gets cleaned up.Of course the book is fun and playful, and is obviously one of the mostfamous and liked picture books ever made, but it is still prettystraightforward. Cat in the Hat reinforces and demonstrates almost all of thetypical assumptions about childhood, and it fulfills all of the typical caseprototypes of children’s books.Examining it made me think about how the book might have changed inrecent years, especially since children are rarely bored when they are at homeany more (with all of the stuff they own to play with). But more than that, it made me think aboutwhy we expect all children’s books to be like this, why it is always consideredone of the best books for children.Although I like typical children’s books, it makes me also interested inbooks that don’t do what we expect. Thebook was written 1957, and in so many ways children’s books have become soincredibly different since then. But ina lot of other ways, some good, some bad, they haven’t changed at all.
STRONG EXAMPLES FROMSTUDENTS
Thebook George and Martha (as well asall of the other books in the series), by James
All of the illustrations aresimple—basically white backgrounds with bold black outlines and three or fourcolors used to emphasize certain parts of the images (namely grey, green,yellow, and red). The pictures tell thestory of everything that is going on, which makes it more or less unnecessaryfor a child to be able to read in order to understand what is going on in thestory. In fact, the pictures includealmost no object in that is not directly involved in the story, meaning thereis nothing used in the background of the pictures to fill the space.
The story is as simple as theillustrations using little or no complex language or difficult vocabulary. The story, however, is not told using rhymingendings or any kind of rhythm in the sentence structure, which is less typicalcase prototype, even though plenty of children’s literature does not utilizerhythm or rhyme. The story also includesonly two characters (save the image of the dentist in the last story). There are no other characters introducedwhich also keeps the story simplified.
George and Martha supportsmany of the assumptions posed with typical case prototypes; in some cases thestory even supports two opposing assumptions about children. The assumption that children like books aboutfantasy is supported in that the main characters are animals that have thecharacteristics of humans—they are hippopotamuses walking around on two feet,wearing clothes, and talking to each other.At the same time, the assumption is made that kids are so egocentricthey only like literature to which they can personally relate. While the main characters are animals,everything else about the book is based very much in a reality they canunderstand. George and Martha live in aworld like ours, where everyone lives in houses, cooks meals, takes baths andgoes to the dentist. The issues broughtup in the book are even those to which children could relate, such as: notliking split pea soup but having to eat it, losing something that is dear toyou, irritating habits that friends have, or invasion of privacy. These are all concepts that a child canunderstand, and therefore it fits this typical case prototype as well.
The book is extremelydidactic. Each story ends with the moralthat is presented in it, and the morals are very plainly stated in no uncertainterms. There is no real room for comingup with one’s own ideas or opinions on how the presented situation should bedealt with, because the answer is given—the writer’s view of the issue at handis almost shoved in the face of the reader.In some ways, a child who thinks beyond simply what the book is tellinghim/her, might look at what takes place and determine how he/she might havedealt with that situation, but so many people treat reading as such a passiveactivity that they simply would not occur to them to look any farther than whatis directly presented.
Though the book seems so simple atfirst glance, it might also be argued that the book brings up more adult issuesin the sense of right and wrong, such as in the story in which George ispeeking through Martha’s window when she is in the bathtub. Now, on the surface this is an issuepresented and treated in that it is wrong to invade one’s privacy, but lookingat it more deeply might be suggesting peeping-toms and a much more sexualelements of invading privacy than is obvious at first, and that is certainlynot a typical case prototype. Nor is theresponse that Martha has when she realizes that George is peeking in herwindow, which is to dump the bathtub on his head and yell at him; that could beconstrued as a violent reaction. Thestory of the mirror brings up the issue of vanity or even pride. George deals with Martha’s pride in her own appearanceby pasting a funny picture on her mirror to trick her into not looking at itanymore. That is a scenario that may befunny to children, but it may also be looking at the more “adult world” of theseven deadly sins for instance—pointing out the negative tendencies of thehuman being.
Despite these deeper rootedpossibilities of what the book may be trying to convey, in most cases it wouldbe considered a typical case prototype.It is built around most of the assumptions made about kids and theirviews of literature and of the world.Only when looked at closely does this book show any evidence ofunderlying meaning or issues being presented, and those clues may be simply acomplete coincidence.
Nodelmandiscusses the Typical Case Prototype portrayed in adult-written children’sbooks. Nodelman’sstereotypes include bright colors, fantasy, common childhood experiences, andsimple linguistics. Richard Scarry’s picture book, THINGS TO KNOW demonstratesall of these qualities producing a didactic anecdote.
Colorradiates from the pages of this short story.From the pink background on the front cover to the bright blue costumeworn by an elephant on the title page, the book is filled with bright shades. The use of color culminates to the very lastpage, which exemplifies and identifies the colors used in the book (23). The book ambiguously teaches correct colorschemes by ensuring each object is the color found in nature. For example, in the “Seasons” grass is green,the sky is blue, sand is brown, apples are red, pumpkins are orange, and snowis white; the author easily could have painted these objects in hues ofimagination, however the writer chose to demonstrate these objects in theirnaturally expected forms, encouraging standard ideals of the world (14,16,18, 19).
While thecolor usage discourages imagination, Scarry’s use offantasy promotes creative ideology. Apersonified animal or insect represents every character in the book. Animals play instruments, eat with spoons,count to ten, have hands, arms, and noses, rake leaves, watch TV, write, andeat cookies (5,6,8,12,11,17, 22,9). Scarry limits thereaders’ imagination, allowing only classic fantasy. Richard Scarrypersonifies the characters to be similar to his readers.
Nodelman’s research suggests the ideal that children enjoycharacters they can relate to. Scarry creates childlike characters based on theiractions. Illustrating childlikebehavior, a pig spills a glass of juice, a cat wears an inner tube to swim inankle deep water, and a worm jumps in a pile of autumn leaves (8,16,17). The childrenare distinguished from the adults by size, position, and in some casesclothing. On page one, a giraffe sits ona stool wearing a suit and tie reading a book to a tiny, casually dressedmouse. Of course the mouse is thechildlike character and the giraffe is the adult; the giraffe know how to read,is formally dressed, and is much taller than his counterpart. This examplesignifies the view of adults being superior to children and being responsiblefor the knowledge children gain. In themanners section a tall pig wearing a dress helps a short pig in red overallsput on a rain jacket, obviously this is the mother aiding her child (10). This suggests that children require parentsto guide them even in simple tasks.
Finally,the language of the book signifies children’s short attention span and the ideaof reading levels. The syntax is limitedto include no more than eleven words, the longest sentence being, “We rake thefalling leaves and pick apples in the autumn.” (17). The vocabulary of this book issimplistic, using predominately one or two syllable words to identify objects,directions, or sizes. The book containsonly two four-syllable words; accordion and interrupting (5, 8). The language is simple for young readers andthe identifying nature of the book is most likely targeted toward a preschoolaudience.
The bookovertly teaches the things adults believe small children should learn; likedistinguishing the four seasons and naming body parts (13-20, 11). The most obvious example of a moralistic orinstructive agenda is the section titled “Manners”. Scarry devotes fourpages to “Manners”, while most other topics have two pages. Scarry clearlyencourages his ideas of etiquette when he writes, “Everyone should have goodmanners. Do you? I hope so.” (9). Otherexamples of the educational goals appear in sections labeled “Count to Ten”,“Opposites”, “Shapes and Sizes”, “Things We Can Do”, and “Colors” (12, 3, 1,21, 23). The book didactically impresseschildren with adult view of essential knowledge and encourages thestereotypical natures Nodelman mentioned.
In the 2003 Universal Picturesversion of “Peter Pan,” the children are depicted as strong, independentindividuals with their own agency throughout a great portion of the film. However, there are numerous examples ofinterpellation, during which the children fight against and conform to theinterpellation of family and society. Inthe following paragraphs, I will explain how “Peter Pan” is a movie with bothinterpellation and agency. Also, Iwill explain how the film is adult-centered in spite of the agency the childcharacters possess.
The movie “Peter Pan” begins withthree children living in a nursery all together. One day, the children overhear the adultstalking about Wendy, the oldest child in the nursery. They are saying that it is time for her togrow up and spend more time with adults.Wendy does not like the idea of growing up, and the children go on amagical adventure where children never grow up, where there are pirates,fairies, and countless adventures.However, soon Wendy realizes that she truly does wish to grow up anddecides to return to her home with her parents.In the end, Wendy, her brothers, and the lost boys all end up home withparents. However, Peter Pan stillrefuses to give up his childhood fantasies and flies away forever.
The adult characters in “Peter Pan”are highly interpellated into their roles insociety. For example, the mother andfather are wealthy socialites who attend grand parties, wear grand clothing,and (attempt to) conduct themselves in a dignified, proper manner. At one point, the father is seen practicinghis small talk because Aunt Millicent has told him that “wit is veryfashionable at the moment.” They arevery much concerned with what the neighbors will think of them and their properplace in society. Wendy’s adult familyhas been interpellated into their roles in society. However, the children are still concernedwith fun, games, and adventures. Thethought of growing up is not an appealing one for them at this point. It simply does not look like it is any fun.
In onescene, the entire family is gathered together in a family room. The children are telling stories and beinggenerally silly. When Wendy begins totalk of her dreams of adventure, her Aunt Millicent puts a stop to it. After all, a young lady should not think ofadventure, but marriage according to the interpellation in this film. During this scene, Wendy talks with her AuntMillicent about her future plans. “Myunfulfilled ambition is to write a great novel, in three parts, about myadventures,” Wendy says. Aunt Millicentreplies, “What adventures?” “I’m goingto have them,” Wendy says, “they’ll be perfectly thrilling.” Aunt Millicent clearly indicates what roleshe believes Wendy should possess in society with her reply, “But child,novelists are not highly thought of in good society, and there is nothing sodifficult to marry as a novelist.” Inthis same scene, Aunt Millicent asks Wendy to walk toward her and turn aroundso that she might appraise her.Afterward, she declares Wendy as having possession of a “woman’s chin”and a “hidden kiss” on the corner of her mouth.She declares the kiss as the “greatest adventure of all” and states thatit “belongs to” someone else. AuntMillicent clearly thinks that Wendy will believe that possessing woman-likequalities will make her want to act more grown up and that possessing a hiddenkiss that belongs to someone else will begin Wendy’s search for a respectablehusband. Aunt Millicent is attempting toconvince Wendy that her proper place in society will be an adventure if onlyshe lives up to the expectations of her family.Aunt Millicent is attempting to interpellateWendy into a certain role. She addressesthe “problems” of Wendy’s need for adventure and desire to become a novelist,neither of which will do for a young lady in high society.
By watching the whole first half ofthe film, one might believe that Wendy has not been interpellatedinto the role her Aunt Millicent wishes for her. She is clearly against the idea of giving upher adventures to become a wife. Soonafter, she meets a magical boy and runs away with him, along with her brothersto a world where children have their own agency. In Neverland,children live with no parents, do as they please, and fight their ownbattles. There are Indians, mermaids,and pirates. It is a great adventurousplace for children to live when they do not wish to be interpellatedinto a role in society by their parents.
During one Neverlandscene, Hook has captured Wendy’s brothers and taken them to the
In spite ofall of the agency the children display during the Neverland scenes, I would argue that this film is adultcentered. After being in the Neverland for a while, Wendy realizes that she does notbelong there and chooses to return to the safety of her family. Even the Lost Boys desperately want aparental figure in their lives, and they end up returning home with Wendy andher brothers to live with their parents.Wendy has been interpellated by her parentsafter all. She realizes that she wantsher life that she left behind. The powerthat Wendy felt at the beginning of the film seemed repressive to her; however,it has become ideological. In otherwords, the ideological power that Wendy’s family has over her has worked. She now sees that her happiness lies in therole that her family has been trying to establish for her. Furthermore, Wendy’s brothers and the LostBoys all realize that they want to have parents who will care for them and thatgrowing up is not all that bad. In theend, all of the children have parents except one. And, all of the children seem happy exceptone – Peter Pan.
While it isodd to think of a film having both interpellation and agency, I am suggestingjust that. However, I am also suggestingthat there are two separate worlds in this film in which the two issuesoccur. Interpellation clearly occurs inthe beginning of the film while the children are with their parents and AuntMillicent. They are taught how lifeshould be and who they should be when they grow up. The Neverland worldis a place where children have agency.It is clear to the adults and children in Neverlandthat children are to be taken seriously and treated as equals. However, in the end, the children chooseinterpellation over agency and return to the nursery and their home with theirparents. In this film, the children havebeen interpellated to believe that their role at homewill be much more fulfilling and rewarding than the agency available to them byremaining children forever in Neverland.
In closing,Peter Pan is a complicated film that displays agency and interpellation. While it displays both, the film is adultcentered, as the children end up interpellated intothe roles their families wished for them.
ResistingInterpellation: Beauty and the Beast
As a little girl, I pretended I wasBelle from Beauty and the Beast. I wanted desperately to find my princecharming. I danced around to the songs, and I would have loved a castle filledwith enchanted creatures, or a library filled with books up to the ceiling.Years later, after watching the same story unfold, I can honestly say thatBelle could be a role model for me in the way she lived her life. Herpersonality is one of strength, open-mindedness, and abundant love. Throughouther story, Belle is faced with opposition and obstacles that push her to defineand think about who she is. Gaston and the rest of the townspeople try to pushand mold Belle into the type of person that they feel is “normal.” The story ofBeauty and the Beast is one of Belle defying the idea of what is normal,what is right, and what is supposed to be.
A major way ofsociety interpellating a person is by shunning themarriage or union between people with huge differences. Society applauds whenthe normal path is taken, whether it is a marriage between a man and woman, orthe relationship between two people of the same race. The main motif or themeof Beauty and the Beast, which occurs in many children’s stories, isthat of two people of different species falling in love and overcoming theirobstacles. Belle, a human, and the Beast, a human enslaved in a beast-likebody, are blinded to reality by their love. They do not look at each other witheyes focused on appearances, but look through the skin into each other’s souls.In the garden playing with birds, the Beast and Belle come to realize that theycare for each other, despite the hesitations that first accompanied theirsituation. The beast is surprised that “when we touched she didn't shudder atmy paw,” and Belle is taken aback “ that he's noPrince Charming but there's something in him that I simply didn't see.” Thoughsurprised, Belle resisted the temptation to fall in love and marry a human,thus not giving in to interpellation. This movie also expresses distaste forinterpellation in the sense that it expresses the acceptance of things not ofthe norm. It basically says that you do not have to settle for the townfootball hero, just because you are the cheerleader. Instead, you can hold out,find a person with whom your souls connect, and live happily ever after. Thereis also a trace of the “if you truly love them, let them go, and if they loveyou too, they will come back” theme present in this movie. For example, whenthe Beast releases Belle as his prisoner, he gives her the freedom to trulylove him. It is only through this relinquishing, that Belle can understand hertrue feelings.
A different way societytries to interpellate a person or a person’s life isby giving them a name. By naming a person, the parent is predetermining theirchild to answer and identify with that name. The name Belle translates tobeautiful or beauty from the French language. Yet while Belle is beautiful, shedoes not let her name, or it’s meaning, get in the wayof her personality. Traditionally, an interpellated“Belle” would be flirtatious, using her good looks to gain social standing.This type of behavior would be accepted in Belle’s community, as otherseemingly beautiful women gush and moon over Gaston, throwing themselves at himin the hopes he will throw them a bone.
Belle also questions the interpellated messages she receives from the generalpublic. The people of Belle’s town believe that, as a young lady, you shouldlive up to specific social standards. Belle breaks these traditions in numerousways. To begin, even as Belle walks through the “quiet village,” thetownspeople talk about how she is so strange and unusual; how she does not quitefit the mold. They shake their heads and cannot understand why she is “Neverpart of any crowd.” She “doesn't quite fit in” with the ladies trying to find ahusband, or with the ladies who sit around doing whatit is the conventional ladies do. Instead, she is described as “Dazed anddistracted” because she always has “her nose stuck in a book!” It is evidentthat Belle is resisting interpellation by continuing to read, and to readoften. Instead of succumbing to the ideals and values of the townspeople whofeel “It's not right for a woman to read--soon she starts getting ideas...andthinking,” she relishes her stories, and continues to be excited about newpossibilities. She also does not try to hide the fact that she loves to read.She sat on a fountain, in the middle of the town, and sang about her love ofbooks. People like Gaston, who try to force their ideas on society, feel thatall a woman should be is a “little wife, massaging [her husband’s] feet, whilethe little ones play with the dogs.” When Belle flat outrefuses Gaston’s attempts at wooing her, the other ladies of the town, who havefallen into the common way of thinking, say, “What's wrong with her?”Yet Belle knows that “There must be more than this provincial life!”
Indeed, there is a different way tolive life, at least for Belle. Unlike many women, Belle is not one to beinfluenced by appearances, good or bad. She is not impressed with Gaston’simpressive looks or rippled muscles (because he is, after all, “Perfect, a pureparagon”). Instead of dreaming about being Gaston’s wife, Belle is moreinterested in enjoying life, taking care of her father, and being true toherself. She does not fall into the trap of liking the cool guy, just becauseeveryone else does. She knows that Gaston is “handsome all right, and rude andconceited and” not for her. Another example of Belle’s passiveness towardsappearance occurs with the Beast. While her first reaction to the Beast isterror, she does not actually fear him. If she feared him, she would not havespoken out to the Beast like she did. Not intimidated by his looks, she talksto him like the mean-spirited person he is. This showcases the amount of agencyBelle has determined is rightfully hers. In many instances, she does not givein to the Beast’s demands, even though, technically, she is his prisoner. Forinstance, she does not give in to the Beast’s demand that she come to dinner,instead, she tells him, “I'm not hungry” and refuses to eat with him.
Some may feel that Belle isthe typical young lady, looking to find her prince. After all, her favoritepart of the book she reads by the fountain is when the girl meets her prince,but does not know it yet. I would argue that the books she finds so intriguingare an escape. While the particular storyline read by the fountain does predictthe outcome of the movie, it also illustrates and shows how Belle is feeling.She feels trapped, like the only way she can escape her suffocating world is toread about others where there is adventure and romance. She may want theromance and the white knight on the horse, but she is not willing to compromisewho she is inherently, for the gain of something she does not deem true andworthy. Belle turns to her books because, as she puts it, “I want adventure inthe great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell/ Andfor once it might be grand/ To have someone understand/ I want so much morethan they've got planned.” So she is not dreaming of her prince, or a life as aprincess. She wants to be a person, first and foremost, and have someoneunderstand what she feels. Before meeting and falling in love with the beast,the only “people” who understand her, are the people in the books she reads,because they have the same desires as she.
Belle avoids the interpellation ofher peers and society through staying true to herself, and, in the end, shegets her prince. She does not succumb to the prodding of Gaston, and even herfather in the beginning, to marry and become a mainstream household wife.Instead, she uses her ability to love truly to find the man, or beast, withwhich she is meant to be. It is through this rebellion of society’s norm thatBelle uses her agency in life to stand firm against interpellation.
The movie also demeans authority figures such as, the government, thepresident, teachers, principles, parents etc.One of the best examples of this idea of carnivalesqueis when Cartman defies his authority figures. While sitting in class Mr. Garrison (theboy’s teacher) demands Cartman to answer aquestion. Unwilling to cooperate, Cartman instead curses at the teacher and is sent to theoffice. In the office, he again cursesat the principle. Both authority figures are surprised by these acts ofdefiance; they do not know how to punish this behavior. Instead, Cartman isfree to say and do what he pleases, to whomever. This scene depicts the rolereversal of authority. It is Cartman who holds the power, and not the typical adultauthority figure. Throughout the moviethe adults struggle to gain power over their children’s tainted behavior. They are repeatedly unsuccessful. This is the essence of carnivalesque,as it uses absurdity and humor to undermine what is normally revered.
However, this movie also gives a great amount of power to a woman. Kyle’s mother consistently gains command asshe speaks out against the two Canadian actors in “Asses of Fire” that havecontaminated the children’s minds. Inone seen Kyle’s mom pushes President Clinton out of the way of a camera interviewand provides a speech on ending the actor’s lives to save the children. Herforceful behavior of pushing the President out of the way shows how “
Much like the “
“The Simpsons”is another great example of carnivalesque. In the episode “Tisthe Fifteenth Season,” Homer realizes he is a selfish person and therebydeclares he will become “the nicest guy in town.” However,
Both “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are progressive as well. The strong characters in these two shows arethe children, Stewie and Lisa. These shows dramatically change what is normallyviewed as traditional. Parents no longerteach their kids, rather the children teach them. In addition, the parents do not have theability to direct their children’s lives; instead their children are directingtheir lives. Much like “
The fairy tale Snow-white andRose-red, by the Grimm brothers, is an excellent example of a conservative,adult-centered text. In this text, theagency is with the adults and the children are seen as nostalgic images ofchildhood. Snow-white and Rose-red provethat children are good and follow the direction of adult figures even when theadult may not be present.
Theconservative nature of this text is overwhelming. The author is not challenging children to doanything; but rather teaching them that if they are obedient then they will behappy. For example, Snow-white and Rose-redare described in various ways throughout the story: “ . . . the sweetest andbest children in the world, always diligent and always cheerful . . . theyalways walked about hand in hand whenever they went out together . . . theydrew round the fire, while the mother put on her spectacles and read aloud froma big book and the two girls listened and sat and span . . . the tender-heartedchildren . . .” The children aredescribed as wonderful and obedient children who help anyone in need. They are seen as a quaint family that neverargues, listens to their mother read stories around a fire, and did traditional“girl” things like spinning. The endingshows that because of their good hearts they were rewarded: “Snow-white marriedhim, and Rose-red his brother, and they divided thegreat treasure the dwarf had collected in his cave between them. The old mother lived for many yearspeacefully with her children . . .” This “fairy tale” ending shows that ifyou are a good child then good things will happen to you. The text does not wish for children tochallenge the things that their mother tells them to do. The text reinforces a sense of good behaviorand family closeness.
In thisfamily, the mother is the one with the authority and all ofthe agency. The girls areattentive to the instructions of their mother and follow them with haste. There are several things that the girls didto help their mother around the house and around the woods: “Show-white sat athome with her mother and helped her in the household…[they]kept their mother’s cottage so beautifully clean and neat that it was apleasure to go into it…the mother sent the children into the wood to collectfagots…the mother sent the two girls to the town to buy needles, thread, laces,and ribbons.” This shows their obediencebecause the children did what their mother told them without hesitation orargument. In an adult-centered text,children understand that adults know better than children so they must followwhat adults say. Another example whenthe children listen to the knowledge from their mother is when the mother tellsthem, “‘Rose-red, open the door quickly; it must be some traveler seekingshelter.’ Rose-red hastened to unbar the door… ‘Snow-white and Rose-red, come out; the bear will do you no harm; he is a good,honest creature.’” The text ends withthe mother being correct when the bear’s “skin suddenly fell off, and abeautiful man stood beside them, all dressed in gold.” By listening to the mother and her knowledge,the story had a happy ending. This showsthe readers that children should listen to their mothers or other adult figuresbecause, of course, they know more than a child. This adult-centered trait is highly visiblethroughout the text.
Yet anotherimage of the children, in this adult-centered text, is when they follow thedirections of their mother even when she is not there. The mother has engrained the children withthe importance of being kind to everyone.They show kindness to the dwarf throughout the story even though he wasnot nice to them. Some of the rudecomments that the dwarf makes about the girls are: “‘Youstupid, inquisitive goose!’… ‘Crazy blockheads!’…‘Curse these rude wretches, cutting off a piece of my splendid beard!’… ‘you toadstools’… ‘Couldn’t you have treated me morecarefully? You have torn my thin littlecoat all to shreds, useless, awkward hussies that you are!’” The girls havesaved his life three times and yet the dwarf can only be ungrateful and mean tothem. This does not deter the girls fromtheir kind-heartedness and helping anyone in need. “The girls were accustomed to hisingratitude, and went on their way and did their business in town.” This shows that, without their mother’sadvice, the girls continued to rescue the dwarf and treat him with kindness. This is an excellent example of anadult-centered trait.
Snow-whiteand Rose-red are perfect symbols of the nostalgic childhood images who end upbeing rewarded for their good nature and kind hearts. The authors are showing that if a child isobedient and good then they will surely receive a reward in the end. There are many attributes of anadult-centered text that this story has which contributes to the conservativenature of the text. This text is extremely conservative and adult-centered invarious ways.
“Hard by a great forest dwelt a poorwood-cutter with his wife and his two children,” begins Jacob and WilhelmGrimm’s famous fairy tale, “Hansel and Grethel.” “Hansel and Grethel”is a magical tail about two children who cleverly outsmart their evilstepmother, and a wicked witch to stay alive.This fairytale encompasses some of the topics we have discussed inclass. It not only is incredibly childcentered, but it also is progressive.
“Hansel andGrethel” is extremely child centered. The Grimmbrothers depicted both Hansel and Grethel as smart,capable people. After she told her planof leaving the children off in the woods alone to the father, the wifemaliciously stated, “They will not find their way home again, and we shall berid of them.” Fortunately, Hansel and Grethel both heard this speech, and decided something mustbe done to outsmart her evil plot. As Hansel dropped pebble after pebble on theroad to help them find their way home, the wife noticed that he consistentlylooked back at the house. “Hansel whatart thou looking at there and staying behind for,” the wife demanded. He replied, “I am looking at my little whitecat, which is sitting up on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me.” “Fool, that is not thy little cat, that isthe morning sun which is shining on the chimney,” explained the wife. Although Hansel’s answer is silly, the wifeand father did not suspect his pebble trail.Therefore, his plan worked and he and his sister are able to find theirway home after being left in the woods.By, having the ability to outsmart the adults, Hansel proved to have agreat amount of agency. He not only hadthe courage to secretly plot against them, but also managed to trick them intobelieving he was just a childish boy fantasizing about his cat. His lie about the cat is significant becauseit shows that he understands adults have these assumptions that children arechildlike in their thinking. He is ableto use this stereotype about children against his parents, ultimately trickingthem into thinking he is incapable of “adult like” complex thinking andplanning.
Grethelalso had her moment of greatness when she tricked the witch. Smartly, Gretheltold the old witch she did not understand how to get in the oven. The witched replied haughtily, “Silly goose,the door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!” As the evil hag climbed into the oven, Grethel courageously shoved her inside and locked thedoor. Ultimately, the witch was engulfedin flames resulting in her ruin. Like Hansel, Grethelis depicted as a stronger, smarter character than the adults, especially thewitch, within this fairytale. Since,child-centered texts always portray the children as the most powerful, capable,independent characters, it is fitting that “Hansel and Grethel”would fall under this category. Bothchildren easily trick the adults. Inaddition, they have the power to find their way through the woods at the end ofthe story with no pebbles or bread to guide them. The two children truly have an enormousamount of agency as they not only can outsmart the adults, but also canmanipulate nature to help them. As theycame to a “great piece of water” on their journey home from the gingerbreadhouse, they realized they had no means to cross it. However, Grethelnoted, “a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help usover.” Indeed, the duck does help them,and they return home safely. It is as ifHansel and Grethel gain more confidence,and agency as they manipulate and conquer every obstacle crossing theirpath.
Another example of why this text ischild-centered is how the adults are depicted.First, it is important to note that it is only the children who havenames. All of the adults in this textare referred to as, the “father,” the “wife” and the “old witch.” This is a very child-centered quality, as itgives no individuality to the adults, thus exemplifying their lack ofimportance. In addition, the adults areall portrayed as selfish, weak, and evil.The wife was clearly selfish and evil, as she wanted to “be rid” of herchildren so she could have more food to eat.In complaint to his wife’s wishes the father replied, “How can I bear toleave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come andtear them to pieces!” Selfishly anduncaringly the wife cried, “O, thou fool! Then we must all four die of hunger,thou mayest as well plane the planks for ourcoffins.” She would rather her childrenbe torn to pieces by “wild animals” than have to share her food, and sacrificeher own hunger.
Also, although, the father wasundoubtedly seen as the “good” parent of the two, he was plainly a weakcharacter. The father barely stood upfor his children, and let his wife send them to their deaths. After agreeing togo along with her plan he sadly said, “But I feel very sorry for the poorchildren, all the same.” Not once, wasthe father threatened by his wife. He merely gave into her, even though it wasclear that he loved his children dearly.This lack of confidence completely undermines the father’s authority asan adult. Although he is a goodcharacter, he has no power to stand up for what he believed and felt stronglyfor. In addition, describing the old woman with the candy covered house, theGrimm’s wrote, “she only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wickedwitch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the house of bread inorder to entice them there.” She, like the stepmother is evil. Therefore, it isapparent, that all three adults in this story are perceived as evil or weak,making this a truly child-centered text.
In addition tochild-centered, “Hansel and Grethel” also issignificantly progressive. In thebeginning of the story, when the stepmother described her plan to leave thechildren, she stated, “They will not find their way home again.” The stepmother assumed that the children werenaïve and incapable of taking care of themselves. She believed that they could never locatetheir way out of the woods because they were mere children, and would have noadult to guide them. However, they breakthese assumptions by finding their way through the forest not once, but twice.This is extremely progressive, because it challenges some of the stereotypicalassumptions about childhood. Childrenare often thought of as very dependent on their parents and innocent; however,Hansel and Grethel clearly do not need their parentsto find their way. They are also farfrom naïve. They are well aware of thestepmother’s wicked intentions.
In fact, the children notonly found their way through the confusing woods and saved themselves from thehorrid witch, but they also saved their father. The Grimm brothers wrote, “Grethel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stonesran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of hispocket to add to them.” This shows howmuch agency the children had, as they saved themselves and then came home withenough diamonds and jewels to support their father as well. The story ends,“Then all the anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfecthappiness.” This fairytale is trulyprogressive as gives the power over to the children. In a more conservativetext the father would have been the savior; however, it is Hansel and Grethel who hold all the power and save the day.
“Hansel and Grethel”is an excellent example of a progressive, child-centered text. It challengesassumptions about children, and gives children a great amount of agency. Hansel and Grethel aredepicted as capable strong characters, whereas the adults are seen as evil andweak. The children also reject the normsof childhood that suggest life for a child is simple and fun, as theyunderstand their lives are complex, and they work hard to control thesituations around them. In total, “Hansel and Grethel”challenges us as readers to truly see how powerful children can be.
8. (from Final Exam)
~Interpellation is the idea that we are “bred” to think, actand react in certain ways.
~We are interpellated from the daythat we are born into specific roles that society has created for us
~Girls being portrayed in magazines playing with dolls andloving the color pink is an example of gender roleinterpellation
~Interpellation is subtle—the point of interpellation is fora person to feed into something without even realizing that they are doing so.
~ Interpellation is used in almost every aspect of oursociety, especially in the marketing of merchandise
~Interpellation can be found in many situations, but themost prominent example of interpellation that I always think of is the typicalmale and female roles that we are “assigned” from a very early age. There arecertain things that are “normal”, if not expected of a boy, simply because heis a boy. By there same token, there are certain things that are expected of agirl to maintain her societal femininity. From a young age, we are lead tobelieve that boys are the dominant, more powerful sex. Females are portrayed ascare takers and are often seen as being more compassionate and caring thenmales are. Men are expected to rougher and less sensitive. The men are expectedto work hard to bring home money to support their families. Females are oftenportrayed as being more in touch with their emotions. None of these ideasapplies to any one person any more so then do personality traits, but oursociety interpellates these ideas into our mindsevery minute of every day. The following passage is from my paper on the Goonies, in which I highlight some examples of theinterpellation typical female and male roles in this movie.
“The interpellation of society’sview of typical female and male roles is very obvious in this movie. The boysseem to be portrayed in the usual ways, as being mischievous and thrill seeking,while the girls are shown as weak and scared. The oldest girl, Andy, seems moreconcerned with her crush throughout the movie then she does with finding thegold and taking an active role in the adventure. There is a point in the moviewhere Mikey tells Andy that she may want to hold hishand because it was dark up ahead and it may be dangerous. This is anotherexample of the girls and the guys being put into common roles that society hascreated for them. As we have been told since we were young children throughfairy tales and everyday life, men are supposed to take care of females and bethere to protect them. Another example of interpellation is when Brent, Mikey’s older brother, makes a comment in the movie askingwhy he couldn’t have had a little sister instead of a little brother, as if tosay that only a boy is daring enough to start the trouble that they arein. This statement reaffirms the idea ofinterpellation of typical male and female roles in this film.”
~ The following excerpts looks at an example ofinterpellation from the 1980’s classic, The Goonies:
“Something that is interesting inthis movie is that the Goonies all seem to bemisfits. There is a scene where the developer’s son drives past Mikey’s older brother, Brent. The developers son is drivinga convertible and wearing his letter jacket and has two girls in his car, whileBrent is wearing ratty old sweats and is riding his little brothers bike.Interpellation is shown in the idea that the rich kids are cool and popular,while the poor kids are unpopular and outcasts.”
“Mikey’sfamily seems to be having some emotional problems. Mikey’solder brother, Brent, always makes fun of their father and doesn’t seem to havea lot of respect for him. This shows the idea that families who don’t have alot of money are less stable and ultimately less happy. At the end of the movie, when the familyrealizes they have enough money to save their home, they come together and hugeach other and really show affection towards each other for the first time inthe movie. Again, interpellation is shown in that money and material thingsbring happiness. “
~We seem to idealize wealthyfamilies in our society because we are under the warped impression that theyare happier then ourselves because they have everything that they want.Children who are born into wealth and privilege are showcased in realitytelevision and documentaries, further rubbing our noses in the fact that thereare parents who can provide for their children in ways that you or I could neverimagine (from a material standpoint). Our culture seems to go out of its way todisplay this quality, to make those who have more feel better about themselvesand those who have less feel worse. We are interpellatedbe jealous of other peoples luck and fortune, when we should be thankful forthe opportunities that we have instead of being angry about the opportunitiesthat we don’t. I think this reoccurring theme is strong in the Goonies. As described in the excerpt Mikeysfamily is portrayed as poor and unhappy. Nothing seems to go right for them,mainly because of the fact that they don’t have any material wealth. The richfamily holds the happiness of the poor family in its hands. The rich family hasall of the agency while the poor family has none. Likein our society, the poor are at the mercy of the rich.
~We are interpellated to believethat the main centers of power and authority in our society, i.e. thegovernment, our parents, the president, are inherently good and alwaysright—they(the powers that be) do this to try and keep us in our place. Theywant to keep power in the hands of those who have always had it, and usually onof the only ways to do that is to interpellatesociety to believe that that is where the power and authority belong in the firstplace.
~Like the magazine add that you showed us that said “Allgirls love princesses, pink and parties” (or something to that effect), we arespoon feeding interpellated gender roles to ourchildren. Certainly, all girls DON’T love princesses and all girls don’t lovepink. In fact, I always hated princesses and pink for that matter. By saying“All girls”, marketing agencies are really embracing interpellatedgender roles and using them to try and sell their product, which often works(unfortunately).
~I wrote about the role of interpellation in Jack and theBean Stalk. Below are some detailed examples of interpellation that I found inthis particular version of the story:
“Jack goes into town to sellMilky-White to try and get money for he and his mom. He is stopped along theway by a strange old man. The picture of the old man in this story isinteresting because the old man is dressed rather uniquely. I think that thisshows interpellation because it shows that strange people dress differentlyfrom normal people. The illustration provides the reader with a distinctionbetween “strange” and “normal” based solely on appearance. It reaffirms theidea that one can determine who is normal and who isn’t, simply by looking atthem.”
~I think that thisis a common idea in our society. In the
~Below is another part of my Jack and the Bean Stalk paperwhich highlights an example of interpellation through male and female roleswithin the text:
“Thedepiction of typical male and female roles in this story arealmost overwhelming. After Jack climbs the beanstalk, he finds the giants wife,who just returned from picking flowers. He asks her for something to eat andshe says that she will make him something to eat, but that they must be fastbecause her husband gets home soon. The female giant is portrayed as the common“homemaker” type. She is patiently waiting for her husband to get home and ispicking flowers to pass the time and she is the one who does all of the cookingfor her husband. The wife also seems to be at the mercy of her husband. In thestory she invites Jack inside but warns him that her husband likes to eatlittle boys. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the giant has the controlover his wife and her opinion on the welfare of Jack is irrelevant to him. Assoon as the giant gets home, he demands dinner and his wife, who has alreadyhad it prepared, brings it to him right away. Again, this is reaffirmingtypical male and female gender roles in that it is the female’s responsibilityto wait on her husband. Another good example of interpellation is when the malegiant says “wife, bring me my bags of gold, and I will count my money before Itake a nap” (11). The female giant seems to act like a servant to her husband;throughout the story he demands things and she brings them for him right away.It is also interesting that the husband is only concerned with eating, sleepingand money, which is a very typical depiction of males.
~ We are interpellated throughreligion, politics and the school systems.
Kingdom Heartsas a Child-Centered Text
In the Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts, players areintroduced to a young boy named Sora who is throwninto a struggle to save not one, but multiple worlds from a mysterious forceknown as the Heartless. Sora finds himself suddenlywielding a magical weapon called the Keyblade, whichjust happens to be the only thing that can fight the Heartless, and an artifactthat Donald Duck and Goofy have been ordered by Mickey Mouse to find. Sora has a different mission- he is looking for his twobest friends, Riku and Kairi,who disappeared when his world was destroyed by the Heartless. Together, Sora, Donald and Goofy venture to different worlds, meetmany other Disney characters, and battle the Heartless in hopes of restoringbalance to the worlds. However, their quest is much more complicated thansaving the world from evil- the line between good and bad becomes blurred asthe corrupting power of the Heartless affects Sora’sfriends, and Sora himself must learn where hisstrength lies and decide whether or not to use it. At first, Kingdom Heartsappears to be a light fairy-tale about good fighting evil, but it soon becomesapparent that Sora and childlike characters likeDonald and Goofy are dealing with issues not typically found in adult-centeredtexts, and more importantly, they are doing it without the aid of just,authoritative adults.
The adultsin Kingdom Hearts are a far cry from the knowledgeable, caring, strongindividuals typically found in adult-centered texts. The first major group ofadults consists of the villains from various Disney movies who are workingtogether with the Heartless to take over their worlds. This group includes suchcharacters as Jafar, Captain Hook and Maleficent, allof which are most likely already infamous to the player for their deeds intheir respective films. The game presents them as completely irredeemable- theyare evil, corrupt, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if itmeans dealing with the mysterious Heartless. Of course, one by one their plansbackfire and they are either defeated by Sora orbetrayed by the Heartless, which is a rather adult-centered way of dealing withbad adults. However, the second major group of adults makes up for this. Thesecharacters are the heroes that the villains originally battled- Aladdin, Tarzanand Jack Skellington, for example. While they are on Sora’s side, these characters are still far from allknowing and perfect, and can even act more like children than Sora does. Upon arriving in
In additionto Mickey Mouse, Donald and Goofy are also very childlike. Donald still has ashort temper and is very annoyed at the idea of the legendary Keyblade Master being a kid. He and Sorado not get along very well, but their arguments are small and childish, andthey usually make amends shortly after. Goofy tries hard to be the mediatorbetween the two, but he usually ends up doing what Donald tells him to avoidcausing more trouble. Both characters display a large amount of agency late inthe game when they are forced to make a difficult decision regarding being withSora or following Mickey’s orders- Sora loses the Keyblade for ashort time, during which Donald and Goofy leave him because they can’t let itout of their sight. However, Goofy soon realizes that Sorais too good a friend to just abandon and has a change of heart. Donald is a bitmore stubborn, but sees Goofy’s point and rejoinsthem. Sora himself also has a huge amount of agency,possibly more than anyone else in the game. His agency is represented by the Keyblade, which is regarded as a symbol of great power inevery world he visits. When he loses it, he can only get it back by realizingthat its strength comes from his heart. Sora receivesthe Keyblade by resisting the Heartless when hisworld is destroyed- it recognizes that he is strong and good-hearted. When helearns of his destiny as the Keyblade Master, heembraces it rather than running from such a huge responsibility, if onlybecause he hopes that it will lead him to his missing friends. One of Sora’s friends, Riku, alsodisplays agency, but it comes at a price- instead of resisting the darknessthat destroyed his and Sora’s world, Riku joins it and ends up being possessed by the leader ofthe Heartless. However, he realizes that he is being used to hurt his friendsand fights back. In an attempt to atone for the things he did while working forthe villains, Riku offers to help Soraseal off the Heartless, but this act will leave him trapped with the Heartlessas a result. Sora is distressed at the thought ofbeing separated again, but Riku insists, and hisconfidence in Sora allows them to seal away theHeartless.
KingdomHearts still has some elements common to adult-centered texts, one of whichis the mostly conservative plot. Sora is trying to restorethe norm instead of change it, and the forces trying to cause change anddisrupt the balance are the Heartless and the Disney villains. Even so,bringing order back to the worlds is not Sora’s mainconcern- to him it is just a means of finding his friends and repairing his ownworld. Sora also learns lessons throughout the gameby interacting with the various characters within the Disney worlds. Thesemorals typically connect back to Sora’s search forhis friends- for example, Hercules and other competitors in the OlympusColiseum teach him that true strength comes from friendship, and Tarzan teachesSora that his friends are always with him if he keepstheir thoughts in his heart. The lessons are highly didactic and Sora ultimately accepts them, but at the end of the game,it is clear to the player that he is still given the choice of acknowledgingthem or not. Finally, there is the question of what the Heartless trulyrepresent. There is no doubt that the Heartless are pure evil- they corrupteverything they touch and bring out the very worst in anyone who deals withthem. By looking at the Heartless as an adult-centerictheme, this could be a way of enforcing a common assumption about childhood-that they symbolize “adult” issues that children should not have to deal with.They could also represent the antithesis of an adult in an adult-centered text-they are called “heartless” because they are not capable of being caring, just,or anything that an adult is supposed to be. Then again, the Heartless couldalso represent a more child-centered view- that children have the ability to resistevil. Sora wields the Keyblade,which is the only weapon that can truly stop the Heartless, and he gains it byresisting the darkness. Meanwhile, Riku, who is a fewyears older than Sora and therefore less childlike,willingly joins the Heartless. Also, the adults who indulgein the evil perpetrated by the Heartless end up being defeated, or worse,completely swallowed by the darkness. However, the game makes it clearthat it is not childlike innocence that allows Sora,Donald and Goofy to effectively fight the Heartless- as a child-centered theme,the Heartless represent a false sense of maturity and power that can only beovercome by a strong sense of right and wrong, friendship, and courageousness,which the trio have gained by working together. Rikualso realizes this after being used by the Heartless, and therefore he alsogains the ability to fight them.
While KingdomHearts features didactic lessons and a conservative storyline, the focus ofthe game lies with the childlike characters. Sora hasonly enlisted himself in the fight against the Heartless because he hopes itwill lead him to his friends. The Disney characters he meets throughout hisjourney act more childlike than he does, and even Mickey Mouse, the centralauthority figure of the game, is childlike. While there are some adult-centricideas present in Kingdom Hearts, the game is mostly a child-centeredtext because the children and childlike characters act with a great amount ofagency and deal with things that are typically not associated with commonassumptions about childhood, while adult figures are either powerless, bad, orflawed and complicated themselves.
Assumptionsof Children’s Literature as Seen in
Anne Tyler’sfirst children’s book, Tumble Tower, fits several classic assumptionsabout children’s literature while it breaks down others. The simple story relates an incident of aflood that enables Princess Molly the Messy, a member of a tidy and neat royalfamily, to rescue her them through her messiness, and ultimately shows thevalue of her individuality. With itsbright, quirky pictures by Mitra Modarressi,the story’s look and length fit the typical case prototype of a children’s bookeasily. However, examining Tumble Tower using Perry Nodelman’sfindings on typical expectations of children’s literature reveals that thestory bucks several norms.
The mainarea where
However,parts of the story do embody typical ideas about children’s literature (thoughsometimes with a twist). One such twistrelates to the belief that “children are innocent by nature, blissfully naïveand inherently good” (Nodelman 73). In
A Closer Look into“Mary Poppins”
The classicDisney movie “Mary Poppins” is a wonderful story ofhow a stereotypical, upper class family in
Whenwatching the film and trying to figure out who has agency over whom it seemeddifficult because of the fact that there are several characters that areinvolved. When the film beginseverything seems to be typical when it comes to agency. Mr. Banks is the man of the house and tellseveryone what to do and everyone in return obeys him. The first song Mr. Banks sings is about howproud he was of how orderly his life was.He felt that it was his duty to give commands and do everything in theexact order that they were supposed to be done in a stereotypical sense. It seemed that all was in order and thatorder was given by Mr. Banks alone. Theminute that Mary Poppins comes into their door theagency is taken away from Mr. Banks immediately. Even though he has no idea that he no longerhas power because of the fact that Mary Poppins iswise enough to know that if she lets him think that he tells her what to do andthat he comes up with all of the ideas then he will never know. This does create a slight fight for powerbetween Mr. Banks and Mary Poppins because Maryalways has to stay one step ahead of Mr. Banks and he is always a very closestep behind her. When the dynamics ofthe household become so happy and seemingly perfect Mr. Banks is angry becausehe can almost feel himself losing his power which is what causes him to becomeso bossy. When things involve Jane andMichael they are not directly given any agency but seems to be able to takesome of the agency away in certain circumstances. Anytime they seemed to disobey an adult itwas either a misunderstanding or they were quickly turned around. The only obvious time that agency was displayedby the children was when Michael was at the bank and he was adamant that hismoney go to feeding the birds instead of in the bank. When Mary, Bert and the children jumped intothe picture they were able to go out on their own for awhile withoutsupervision but that would be the person with the agency allowing them to havea little leeway. Mary gave them chancesto be their own judge but she was always there to pull them back and take overwhen things were out of hand. Sheallowed agency to be taken when there was a lesson to be taught in letting themgo. After Mary has accomplished what shecame to do, which would be to show the family how to be a family and how tohave fun and take the time they have and cherish it, she allowed the agency tobe taken back by Mr. Banks. It was very interestingto see how manipulative Mary could be when dealing with people and getting herway; it was apparent that she was an expert at stealing agency fromothers.
This filmdrips with interpellation even though it is not always obvious. The first example that comes up is the factthat Mr. Banks has the final say in everything and that is played out as if itshould be that way. I found it ironicthat the spunk Mrs. Banks had when Mr. Banks was not around was astounding butthat changed as soon as he enters the picture.She is introduced in the film as a women’s rights activist and how sheprotests all the time and is incredibly active in things that could easily gether arrested; when Mr. Banks is home she is extremely submissive. For example when she is leaving the house togo to a protest Mr. Banks runs into her at the door and tells her to sit downand start taking notes and immediately she then replies “yes dear” with a smileand obeys. Though there may be somesarcasm meant by the writers of the film it still says to society that it isokay to have your own opinions as a women but when it comes to her husband shebetter be obedient and believe what he says.Mrs. Banks opinions are totally contradictory to things that Mr. Bankssays but when she talks to him she agrees with everything he says. Something else that was interesting is thatMary Poppins is continuously viewed as being“practically perfect in every way” which makes people believe that she is theideal women. Her description is rosycheeks, never cross or cheery disposition, she is thin, and this is what mostwould consider very ladylike as well; this all points to what women arecontinuously told to be. When Mary, Bertand the children are in the painting and they get on Merry-go-round horses Maryrode the lavender one with a smug ladylike look on its face, Jane rode the pinkone with long eyelashes, Michael rode the blue one with slit eyes and Bert rodethe orange one. Even though this was asmall detail of the movie it still displays what girls and boys should be like andwhat colors they should wear. When thechildren went to the bank with their father the whole trip was centered onMichael, even though Jane went along he was the one that was supposed to investhis money and see what his dad does. Thethought of Jane investing her money in the bank was never even thought of oreven the idea that she had any money.Men are supposed to take care of all the money and be the ones that earnit and that is what the whole bank tripreinforced. Michael always seems to bethe one taking the action, in the end when they go fly a kite Michael is theone flying it with his father and Jane and Mrs. Banks are in the backgroundwatching. And when the children run fromthe bank and Bert grabs Jane she is the one that’s helpless and Michael istrying to get him off. The film interpellates us to think that the men are supposed to bethe ones acting on their feelings and saving people and even thinking. The only dominant role that a women plays inthe film are the cook, maid and nanny; Mary Poppinsis a controversial character because of her ability to do as she pleases evenaround men but she still plays right into the stereotype that the male shouldbe in the dominant seat. The film does seem to have a hint of sarcasm about therole of the women as stated earlier but in the end it seems to be just a bit ofhumor that does not disprove the interpellation.
In the endeverything is “as is should be” says Mary Poppins asshe leaves. Apparently “as it should be”means that the father is back in a domineering role although he is a bit morerelaxed and the mother is still beneath him.Things seem to all fall into the stereotypical place that society likesfor them to be in both in terms of agency and interpellation. It seems as if in this case interpellationcoincides with agency which seems to put the happy ending to the movie.
In Disney and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, there are many characters thatattempt to gain agency by resisting interpellation—in both its ideological andrepressive forms. The movie is about acolony of ants that spends most of its time gathering grain for thegrasshoppers, who intimidate and frighten them intodoing it. It leaves the ants little timeto gather food for themselves before the rainy seasonbegins, but it is a part of their culture, and so they continue to repeat thetradition year after year. In thebeginning of the movie, the ants are preparing their yearly offering when it isruined by Flik, an ant in the colony. The grasshoppers are very angry and demandthat they gather twice the amount of food before the last leaf falls. Flik decides totravel to the “city” to find “warrior” bugs to help fight off the grasshoppers. He finds what he thinks are warrior bugs, butare actually circus bugs, who in turn think that Flikis a talent scout. They travel back withhim to the colony, impress everyone, and then discover their real purpose forbeing there. They end up stayinghowever, and the ants come up with a plan to keep away the grasshoppers—theymake a bird to scare them. They all worktogether, but in the end their plan is foiled.Flik, however, stands up for the colony, thegrasshoppers are scared away, and the head grasshopper, Hopper, gets eaten by abird. In the end the ants no longer haveto gather food for the grasshoppers—only themselves.
The firstcharacter I wanted to talk about that demonstrates resistance of interpellationis Flik. Flik is like the black sheep of the ants, but only becausehe’s trying to help out but ends up making things worse. The main problem is that through trying tomake things better for the colony, he brings in new ideas that the colony isnot willing to accept. They are so stuckin their old ways/traditions, that anything new seems threatening or bad. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Flik comes up with an invention that will cut down grainstalks, so that it’s easier to gather the grain, instead of having to crawl upthe stalk and get each grain piece by piece.The problem is, the invention isn’t perfect at first and almost injuresPrincess Atta.One of Atta’s advisors gets angry with Flik and says to him, “. . . You wannahelp us build this thing, then get rid of that machine, get back in line, andpick grain like everyone else!” Theadvisor is essentially telling Flik that he needs tofit in with the rest of the colony—be interpellated—inorder to help the colony. He is almostrepressively interpellated, in that the other antstry to force him to act like everyone else.Another advisor (a bit older than the first) even says, “We’ve harvestedthe same way since I was a pupae.” This provides the viewer with the informationthat almost every ant but Flik is dedicated topreserving their culture and traditions—everyone else is ideologically interpellated—they all wantto work hard just like they feel they are supposed to. An example of this is while the ants are inline to deposit their grains onto the pile; a leaf falls on the path of theline, and the ant it falls in front of freaks out. All of the other ants know so firmly what isexpected of them that when anything different is expected, they can’t handleit—they are interpellated to do exactly as every otherant does. Whenthat is impossible, they flip out.
Flik resists interpellation, which also provides him withagency. There are several examples ofthis throughout the movie, one of which is the way that he stands up toHopper. In the beginning of the movie,he tells Hopper to leave Dot (Princess Atta’s sister)alone, and then at the end of the movie he gets beaten up by Hopper because headmits that the making of the bird was his idea. He tells Hopper that ants aren’t meant toserve grasshoppers and are a lot stronger because they are so numerous. In this way, Flikgains agency because he acts on behalf of himself and admits that he resistedinterpellation purposefully.
Another exampleof Flik gaining agency is when he left thecolony. He thinks that he’s leaving ofhis own will, but in actuality the princess and her counsel were going toprobably kick him out, due to his resistance of interpellation. The colony did not like that someone tried tobe different than what was expected of them, and were willing to punish Flik because of it—another example of how theirinterpellation is repressive. Flik, however, decides to go off on his own to try (again)to help his colony. He acts as a freeagent in that sense—it was his idea to leave, although he did have to getpermission.
Another resisterof interpellation is the ladybug. Theladybug is actually a male, but is constantly being hit on by males and assumedto be den mother to the Blueberries (Dot’s scout group). He usually gets pretty angry when thishappens, and tries to inform the other bugs that he is a male and being aladybug does not necessarily make him a lady.In the end, however, he becomes more feminine, due to his affiliationwith the Blueberries. In contrast isHeimlich, the caterpillar who desperately wants to fit in with his species bygrowing wings and becoming a butterfly.He mentions this several times during the movie, and finally at the endwe see him fall out of his cocoon with teeny wings on his back, which, becausehe is so fat, can’t help him to fly.However, he is incredibly happy because as a caterpillar, he wanted sobadly to go through the same transformation that other caterpillars gothrough—due to ideological interpellation.In this way, Heimlich is a foil for the ladybug—they represent opposingdesires and goals.
Additionally,Dot is a marked contrast to her sister, Atta. Dot is younger and likes Flikbecause he is different, while Atta is older and moreworrisome, and she doesn’t like Flik because he makesher look bad. As leader of the colony,everything is Atta’s responsibility, including thingsthat go wrong (Hopper informs her of this).Dot is very rebellious and attempts to gain agency in a few ways, thefirst of which is trying to use her wings to fly before they were fullygrown. She knows that she’s not supposedto, but she tries anyways because she is a free-spirit. However, her desire to fly could also beattributed to interpellation—she wants to be able to do what everyone else isable to. But Dot also demonstratesagency by leading the Blueberries into hiding from the grasshoppers when theycome to collect their grain at the end of the season. She goes on her own to find Flik to bring him back and help the rest of the colony—andthis time she is able to fly. Herability to fly and the complete growth of her wings can be interpreted as asymbol of her independence and power.When she finds Flik, she gives him a rock (torepresent a seed) to remind him of what he told her in the beginning of the movie:she may be just a small seed, but she will one day grow into a big, strong treeand be able to do anything. So Dot, thelittle girl, teaches Flik, the young man, a lesson,which helps her to gain agency.
In contrast isPrincess Atta, who tries throughout the movie tofollow successfully in her mother’s footsteps.Atta is ideologically interpellatedto believe that she must be infallible in order to govern the colony. She seems very rule-oriented and unable tofunction unless she knows what it is she is expected to do. She seems to be unable to simply observe asituation and come up with an answer—she has to know what was done in the past,what her mother did, etc. In this way,Princess Atta is deeply interpellated;she can’t even think outside of what is expected of her. However, by the end of the movie, Atta gains agency, in that she is crowned as Queen by hermother, who apparently decides that she is ready. Atta also resistsinterpellation—she saves Flik by grabbing him andflying off with him. He tells her to flyaway from the ant hill while it is raining (which is very dangerous for theants), and she responds that the ant hill is the other way. It would be in her nature to return to theant hill in a time of danger, but she resists and listens to Flik, who leads her and Hopper (who is following them) to abird’s nest, and the bird eats Hopper.
Some of the characters in the movie resisted interpellationin a healthy way, and some were interpellated in ahealthy way, but some were also interpellated in anunhealthy way. Heimlich’sfollowing was healthy because it made him very happy to become a butterfly;Dot, Atta, and Flik wereall happier after representing their individualism and gaining agency; and thecolony were interpellated to such an extent that theycould not function if anything changed.In the end, however, everyone recognized that change was good, becauseeveryone started using Flik’s invention and relaxinga bit more—they had no more grasshoppers to gather for, only themselves, andthey had plenty of time, as Flik’s invention sped upthe process.
Meta-textual sources call attentionto themselves as a created thing by being self-referential, breaking the fourthwall or defamiliarizing their audience. This causes the source, whether it istelevision, movies or books to recognize itself aswhat it is, and for the audience to also realize that they are indeed only anaudience and are not actually a part of what they are witnessing. Meta-textual sources do not offer the experiencein which one gets lost in what they are watching or reading, instead it causesthe audience to do the opposite and remember exactly what it is that they aredoing. This paper will reflect some ofthese meta-textual ideas by giving examples of ways these ideas can beportrayed.
Whenwatching Full House as a kid I felt as if I was right there on stage with DJ,Stephanie and Michelle. I loved theclose nit family that they shared and when watching it nearly every night ontelevision after school, I began to feel a part of it as well. Those girls were my sisters and theexperiences they went through seemed to always be exactly what I was feeling aswell. Sitting in the middle of my livingroom floor I would be completely engrossed in what was happening on TV that Iwould not even remember where I actually was.The final episode was tragic because it seemed like my family wasleaving me forever; however, that alone was not enough but the editor of theseries probably made the biggest mistake it ever could. Once the episode was over, without anycommercial interruptions, the cast lined up across the kitchen floor and took abow and I heard the roar of an audience.The camera paneled up, through the fourth wall of the set and showed mewhat I never knew had existed, because there, giving a standing ovation, weretons of fans of the show watching as the cast took their final bow. Not once in any episode had I ever wonderedwhy I had never seen that fourth wall of the kitchen, bedroom, living room orgarage, instead it seemed like I was actually there in the midst of it all withthe fourth wall behind me. Finding outthat Full House was actually a television show and that Michelle, Stephanie andDJ were all actors and were not related to each other or mein any way completely broke my heart, and I still have not forgotten thatfeeling to this day. Breaking the fourthwall completely ruins the feeling of getting lost in the episode, and takesaway all closeness the audience ever shared with the cast.
In themovie Monty-Python and the Holy Grail, the cast chooses to act without the useof many props, or the ones that you would typically expect, and also the plotand scene location is oddly chosen; yet, the movie gives off the appearancethat all of this is taking place during medieval times. The main character is acting as if he is theKing, and goes throughout the countryside, not on horseback but followed by hissidekick with clinking coconuts, claiming that he needs to find the HolyGrail. Watching throughout the entiremovie the audience is thinking that they have been taken back in time, untilthe very end when cop cars pull up to the actors, get out and start arrestingthem. The director closes the scene andall of the extra characters in the background take a knee and rest while thecops are asking what is going on. Themain character claims that they are just filming a movie, however the copsstill shut down their attempts anyway.This is a prime example of a movie being self-referential because itdedicated an entire scene to show the audience that they are not back inmedieval times, but are actually in the rural countryside of modern day
The firstscary movie that I ever saw was Scream when I wasabout eleven years old. I had never beenmore terrified in my life, and the first time I saw little through crackedfingers over my face. But as I continuedto watch it, literally over ten times, and as the sequels came out they becamemy favorite and always promised a good scare.Then during the first few years of high school, stupid comedies began tobe the biggest blockbuster hits and with these came the release of ScaryMovie. At first it did not seemappealing to me, but eventually I was dragged by one of my friends and thiscomedy brought about an entire new meaning to my favorite scary movieseries. Seeing that goofy looking screammask with the tongue sticking out, and watching the horrible acting of a girlrunning from the killer completely defamiliarized meto the movies that I loved most. Afterseeing this new series of “scary movies” I got together with a group of friendsto actually watch the real Scream series, and we could barely make it throughthe first half of the first movie before we were laughing our heads off. I wish I had never seen those movies becausethen I would still be able to sit down and watch them and get a good scareevery now and then.
Inconclusion, I feel as though meta-textual texts are an entity of their own andare capable of providing entertainment if that is what the audience is in themood for; however, if the audience is not expecting it and it is not plannedproperly, as I feel in the Full House situation, it can ruin the audience’sexperience and their connection that they once shared with the show. If one knows that what they are going to beseeing is funny, fictional and is established in order to provide them with agood laugh, then I feel that meta-textual sources are capable of providinggreat entertainment for the people that experience it.
InShel Silverstein’s picture book, The Giving Tree,many of Nodelman’s common assumptions are reinforcedand challenged throughout. The book doeshave an emotionally powerful story that shows a tree sacrificing itself overthe years to make the boy happy. In many ways the tree is like the boys mother,who would sacrifice anything for their child just to bring them happiness. The tree having human qualities, such asspeech and the ability to feel emotions, gives the book a fantasy aspect whichis one of the common assumptions found by Nodelman. This factor does make the book more appealingto children by appealing to the imagination but uses this to bring about moreserious themes which many wouldn’t assume to be in a children’s book.
The treebeing represented as a mother figure is used to challenge many of the commonassumptions. The tree starts out lovingthe boy for no apparent reason besides he is there like a mother would love anewborn baby. As a child the boy plays all the time with the tree and as hegrows up he begins to only come to the tree when he wants something. The tree acts as an old woman being visitedby her son in a retirement home, asking the boy to spend time with it byclimbing up the trunk and swinging from the vines, only to have him wantingmaterial objects. Instead of money andthe old family house, the boy takes the trees precious apples and the majorityof the trees body to build a house and a boat.The ending is bittersweet for the tree which gets what it wanted all along,to just be with the boy, but the tree has been reduced to an old stump becauseof him. The tree is like an old womanwho sacrificed her medication money for their son and is dying because of it,but still feels happiness to have that same son come and visit them. Such an ending does go against the commonassumption of having a happy ending, because the mother figure in the story istaken advantage of and the son of the story doesn’t learn a lesson at the end whichleaves the reader with an ambiguous ending.
Theambiguous ending does challenge the assumption of teaching valuable lessonsabout life in a fun way. It is true thatthe valuable lesson in this book could be interpreted as to never takeadvantage of a mothers love, but there is nothing funny about the mother figurein the book being used up at the end and the so called “boy” as an old man neardeath. It could be seen that the old man came to the tree to die; he says thathe needs “just a quiet place to sit and rest.I am very tired.” The boys’tiredness would probably not be seen as being near death in most children’sminds, but parents should notice the subtleties. The image of the only human character in thebook being shown right before death is definitely not a typical happily ever afterending.
The twocharacters in The Giving Tree rely on each for different things. The Tree relies on the boy for his happinessand company, while the Boy relies on the Tree for the different objects it canprovide him. The two are on commongrounds at the end when the only thing the Tree can offer the boy is a seat andits company, and all the boy wants is a place to sit. But throughout the story the Boy and the Treearen’t the most positive of role models which challenges one of the commonassumptions about children’s literature.The Boy doesn’t realize that he is hurting the Tree and cares only abouthimself, asking it to sacrifice itself for his own good. The Boy does love the tree, but smiles whilecarving his name into the tree which would hurt a living emotional creaturesuch as the tree. The trees desperationfor love seems rather pathetic as it willing gives up its body to him, also thefact that everything it gives up was its own idea and not the Boys adds to herdesperation. A positive role model wouldbe confident and show dignity, which are two qualities that neither of thesecharacters posses.
At thestart of the story when the Boy is actually a boy, he seems like more of a rolemodel possessing innocent qualities much like the children reading the bookwould contain. As the story theprogresses the boy’s age drastically changes from child to teenager to adult toelder to a frail dying old man. Such avariety of ages couldn’t possibly be related to by a child of any age and thusgoes against the common assumption that children only like books they canrelate to. The child innocence the boypossessed is the only stage of the Boys life any child could truly understand. The desires for a wife and a home are thingswhich children never desire. But theyare aware of these things from interacting with the adults in their life, justnot able to fully comprehend the need for such grown up things. A child couldmost likely understand the Tree and its need to make the Boy happy since many childrenwould do anything to make their parents happy.
One of themost disturbing ways that the Tree tries to make the boy happy is when it tellshim to cut it down so he can make a boat out of it. This leaves the tree as nothing more but astump, which is what is left of a tree after it was chopped down andkilled. But the tree remains alive andsays how it isn’t really happy when in the past it has been happy to sacrificeitself for the Boy. This makes the imageof the Boy carrying away the tree seem frightening because its true that thebranches and the apples could be seen as part of its body but taking away itstrunk seems like taking away its whole body, leaving its soul in thestump. This challenges the commonassumption that frightening images can’t be shown in children’s stories. It’s true that the cutting down of the treeis not nearly as grotesque as cutting an actual person in half, but the tree isa character in the book with emotional resonance with the reader. So, cutting the tree down is the emotionalequivalent of cutting a character in half and could be a frightening image tomany children.
In Shel Silverstein’s picture book, The Giving Tree,many of Nodelman’s common assumptions are reinforcedand challenged throughout. The book doeschallenge more than reinforce many of Nodelman’slisted common assumption or typical case prototypes. The story starts out more accustomed tochildren’s common assumptions, but drifts into more of an emotion heavy storythat challenges many of the prototypes in order to get the theme across. The story maintains its status as achildren’s book because of the human qualities associated with the tree and thepictures, even though they are not bright.The theme is evident in the story and should be realized by mostchildren after multiple readings and talks with their parents.
When I was little, there was nopublic library where I lived. A service was started when I was five years old calledThe Bookmobile that would come to our county every three weeks. It would parkat specific sights and people could come and check out books or read magazines.To this day, I vividly remember the first book I ever checked out—Dr. Seuss’ GreenEggs and Ham. I was absolutely fascinated by the book. I remember how shinyand new it was compared to the Bible story books and fairy tale books that Ihad, and how it was filled with wild and wacky looking creatures. I read itover and over and tried my best to see how fast and far I could read thedifferent sections without taking a breath. If I could read the last sectionstarting with, “Say! I like green eggs and ham!” all the way to the end whereit said “Thank you Sam-I-Am” (59-62) without taking a breath, I considered it avictory worthy of the title “World Rhyme Reading WithoutTaking a Breath Distance Champ.”
Of courseat that time I wasn’t concerned with whether anyone thought this was anappropriate book for children, I just knew that I liked reading it. However, ifyou were searching for a book that reinforced the typical case prototype which Perry Nodelmanwrote about, then this book could be the poster child for this type of book.For example, one of the assumptions Nodelman pointsout is the belief that children’s books should have simple texts. In this book,if you count the hyphenated name of the character Sam-I-Am, there are only twowords in the entire book that are larger than five letters long. The other wordis anywhere, which like Sam-I-Am, can be separated into words of less than fiveletters. It’s almost as if the goal from the start was, “Let me see if I canwrite a book for kids with words no bigger than five letters so I know they canunderstand and read it. I’ll make an exception for anywhere because it stressesthe importance of the idea of eating what we’re given, and it can be brokendown into words a child can understand.”
Not onlythe words are simple, but the illustrations are simple, being a few steps abovea line drawing. There are only six different colors used in the entire book,which makes it visually simple—almost like a children’s carton of the 1950’sand 60’s, which is when the book was written. The creatures are extremelyimaginative, but even though they are fantastic, they are not in any waythreatening, for threatening and scary creatures are a no-no in the typical case prototype.
The very nature of the rhyming, asin, “I would not, could not, in a box. I could not, would not, with a fox.”(34), is also indicative of the assumption that is sometimes made thatchildren’s poetry should rhyme or they will not understand or enjoy it. It alsoreinforces the assumptions that children have short attention spans andlearning must be made fun. For instance, while the book itself is fairly longfor a picture book, most of the pages contain little text. Also the rhyming,rhythmic nature of the words encourages young readers to make a game of therhymes, just as I did as a child. The premise is that this will keep thechildren from being bored and will “trick” them into continuing to read evenwhen the pages contain more text.
GreenEggs and Ham also supports the contention that books should teach a lessonor moral. While it is not didactic to the point that it specifically says, “Eatwhatever your parents tell you to eat or whatever they give you,” that lessonis made perfectly clear when the unnamed main character eats the green eggs andham and is rewarded by having something new that is good to eat. This lesson isalso not given as a directive that should be obeyed without question. Ratherthe lesson is you shouldn’t be stubborn. You should be reasonable—“Try them!And you may (like them).” (53) I think this aspect of the book, despite thesimple words and pictures, makes the book very adult centered. It is also veryadult centered in that the book has a happy ending. In the beginning of thebook, the unnamed character very specifically states, “I do not like thatSam-I-Am” ( 9) and “I do not like green eggs and ham.”However, by the end of the book he has tried them and discovered that greeneggs and ham “are so good, so good, you see!”, and he and Sam-I-Am are nowfriends. This friendship is evidenced by a change in attitude and bodylanguage, and most obviously by his putting his arm around Sam-I-Am at the endof the book (62).
It does deviate, however, from thetraditional child and adult roles in some ways. One way it does this is in thecharacteristics of the two main characters. Although the smaller, child-sizedcharacter of Sam-I-Am keeps asking “Would you…?” much like a child tends to ask“Why?,” he is obviously in the role of the nagging adult who keeps trying toget the larger, newspaper reading character to eat the green eggs and ham. Thelarger character is also childlike because of his very stubbornness, which inthe assumptions Nodelman wrote about could beconsidered the opposite of maturity and adulthood. It is possible this rolereversal was done as a devise to stress how unreasonable it is to act in thisway. Being stubborn and unreasonable is the opposite of how an adult would act,so therefore this type of behavior is shown to be even more undesirable andincorrect and children should strive to behave like Sam-I-Am.
While this book is in most ways atypical case prototype, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Every child isdifferent, with different reading levels, interests, and levels of maturity. Tosay that only one style of book is good for children and should be read bychildren is to limit them and possibly foster bad connotations with reading. Iknow that this is not what Nodelman is advocating;rather he is attempting to point out that there is a lack of logic andconsistency in these assumptions. I loved this book as a child and still loveit now. Green Eggs and Ham gave me an opportunity to play with and enjoyreading at a level I was comfortable with at that time. It also encouraged meto try and make up my own rhymes and fantastic creatures. There is a very important place for this typeof children’s book, just as there is an important place for books whichchallenge children and make them think about sometimes difficult subjects. Iknow that I loved this book as a child and I still love it now. All of my boysloved it and my ten year old still takes it out sometimes just to have the funof reading, listening, or playing with the rhymes. I’m sure they will probablyread it to their children one day, but I know I’m still the “World RhymeReading Without Taking a Breath Distance Champ,” –atleast in my family.
Of all the books we will read in class this semester, perhaps nonechallenge the typical case prototype quite like The Bad Beginning from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Itpractically spits in the face of nearly all common assumptions what children’sbooks and childhood in general should be. Many, certainly most,children’s books are based upon at least some of the notions of childhood thatwe’ve discussed: children’s books should be colorful, simple, and cheery tokeep the attention of the simple-minded, easily distracted child. Theyshould not tell of death, violence, or evil, nor should they present scary orthreatening situations because children do not really understand what “evil”is, and they may try to imitate the bad behavior which they encounter.Kids need to have good examples set for them so that they will grow intogood, clear-thinking adults, and they need to have these lessons taught to themin a fun way because children, as a rule, don’t like to learn or be taught.
But the Lemony Snicketbooks clearly do not hold the listed assumptions as truth, instead presentingthe strong, smart Baudelaire children to prove each generalization false.Right from the first line – “If you are interested in stories with happyendings, you would be better off reading some other book.” – weknow that this is not your typical children’s book. It opens with adeath, features the children in uncomfortable and miserable situations, anddescribes only darkness and pain. In a more traditional children’s book,few, if any, of these events would take place, and if they did occur then itwould be made clear that there is an overwhelming goodness that will eventuallyprovide for a happy ending.
Thecharacters are not what one would expect either. Violet is afourteen-year-old inventor, Klaus is twelve and a brilliant reader, and eventhe infant Sunny is very bright but has trouble saying what she means with onlybaby-talk. Adult characters are either evil geniuses or bumbling foolswho refuse to take the orphans seriously. The Baudelaire orphans cannotturn to a trusted adult for help in their hardships; they must rely on theirown intellect and cunning to save themselves.Indeed, it is the adults that they are most often fighting against.This is also quite uncommon. Usually, grown-ups are there to helpand guide the children; it is still quite controversial for an adult to beportrayed in such a negative light. Furthermore, children areconventionally shown to need help and guidance, but here the Baudelaires prove themselves to be remarkablyself-sufficient. The children are intelligent, eager to learn, and ableto think about and react to the situation at hand.
Anotherrelatively uncommon feature of this book is that it is not didactic in anytraditional sense. The adults in the story are certainly not role models,and they do not display behavior that a parent would wish their child toimitate. There is no moral, no happy ending, andno clear “good path” to take. The children succeed because they aredifferent from the adults, not because they have been assimilated intominiature versions of them. Typically this sort of writing makes someparents nervous that their children will learn to be rebellious, but really theauthor is depicting these children’s mental autonomy and ability to make theirown decisions and forge their own path.
Becauseit is so vastly different from the typical case prototype of a children’s book,The Bad Beginning helps the reader to question some of the common assumptionsabout children, mainly that they are simple-minded andcannot understand complex situations. This is most readily shown when Mr.Poe comes to the shore to tell the Baudelaire children that their parents havedied: “‘Your parents,’ Mr. Poe said, ‘have perished in a terriblefire…‘Perished’ means ‘killed.’” Here we have these brilliant childrenfaced with the horrible death of their parents, and all Mr. Poe can think isthat he might be using words that are too big for them. “‘We know whatthe word ‘perished’ means,’ Klaus said crossly.” The children are fullyaware of what is happening to them; furthermore they realize that Mr. Poe isbeing condescending, and they don’t appreciate his looking down on them.
Butthis is what the children are used to dealing with. In fact, they areunsure of how to act around the friendly Justice Strauss because they “were notused to kindness from adults, and weren’t sure if they were expected to doanything back.” Far from being as “childish” as the adults seem to think,the Baudelaire orphans work themselves out of situations that seem way beyondtheir control, using their wits and superior intellect to rescue each othertime and time again from the evil plans of Count Olaf.
By challenging the common assumptions about whata children’s book should be and what childhood should be,The Bad Beginning proves itself to be a very progressive text. Itdistances itself from the conventional cheery brightness of so many “fluffy”books and actually acknowledges that children aren’t always happy and playful.Much of children’s literature seems to overlook the fact that kids canhurt and feel pain; the Lemony Snicket books seem torevel in it. But rather than being the simple creatures that we are usedto seeing in so many children’s books, the Baudelairesare fighters and not easily defeated. And rather than struggling againsta dragon or monster, they fight against the adults who try to take advantage ofthem.
The Bad Beginning goes counter to everytraditional assumption listed in the beginning of this paper. It’s dark,dreary, child-centered, and full of dangerous adults – everything that manypeople think a children’s book should avoid. And yet, the Series ofUnfortunate Events has become one of the most popular and highly-regardedseries around. By producing a body of work so fresh and different, LemonySnicket has created a world that draws readers in andprovides a much broader look at childhood and the children’s book than storiessuch as The Littlest Elf ™ could ever hope to do.
“BoyMeets World” episode 1-6 Boys II Mensa, is didacticin the sense that we learn a lesson from the experiences and mistakes of youngCory Matthews. From the opening scene through the end of the show the viewerwitnesses Cory’s attempts to please and impress the adults in his life. Hisadmiration of grown-ups, along with his character’s portrayal of thestereotypical “imperfect child,” makes this a very adult-centered text.
The first character displayed inthe opening scene is that of Cory’s intelligent teacher, Mr. Feeney. He ispassing out book reports, showing his superiority by dressing in a suit andstanding tall, requiring the sitting students, whose papers he just evaluated,to look up to him. The viewer then sees Cory putting on a clown nose and makingsilly faces. His behavior is quite a contradiction to the composed anddignified teacher in the scene, leaving the audience with an impression thatadults are more perfect than children. Mr. Feeney does not punish Cory formisbehaving in class, but instead, in a disappointed tone, says, “Mr.Matthews,” which demonstrates his respect for the child and reminds Cory of hisadult presence. This presence is intended to correct the child’s fallacy andget him back on track. The “track” is a pathway to a more perfect world, theadult world.
As Mr. Feeney continues to pass outthe book reports he congratulates a student, named Rick, for his efforts. Hethen returns Cory’s paper, saying that the report was not one of his betterefforts. This causes a sudden change in Cory’s expression. He is no longersmiling and appears confused. Cory glances at Rick’s paper and discovers thatthey both received the same grade. Still wearing the clown nose, Cory tells Mr.Feeney, “Hey this isn’t fair. Rick and I both got C’s. How come you tell him hedid good work and you tell me it wasn’t one of my better efforts?” With thisstatement the child is desperately seeking the adult’s approval and praise. Heappears frantic and upset that his teacher isn’t satisfied with him, whichgives the adult the power role in the story line. Mr. Feeney, who unlike Cory,is very collected in his appearance, thoughts, and behavior informs Cory thatRick worked hard for his C and Mr. Feeney respects him for it. The teacher thenlooks down at Cory still wearing his large red foam nose and suggests that henot waste his time being the class clown. Cory’s concern with Mr. Feeney’sopinion of him will later cause the child to do anything,even misbehave, in attempt to impress the adults in his life.
In this episode Shawn, Cory’s bestfriend, finds an IQ test in the trashcan after both boys finish their detentionsentence. Then, a janitor walks by the misbehaving boys, bringing an adultpresence to the scene which symbolically reminds the boys that they are “doingwrong.” When Shaun sees the adult, he hides the paper behind his back andsmiles in attempt to depict “the innocent child.” As though reciting what anadult had once told him, Cory objects to the idea of reading answers to a testthat he will soon be taking. He then contradicts himself, by looking at thetest, because he wants Mr. Feeney to think that he is a genius. He knows the“right thing” to do, but demonstrates his stereotypical inability to make awise decision, probably because the choice was not assisted by an adult.
The scenethen changes to Cory’s home. His mom and younger sister, Morgan, are discussingwhen Morgan can get a Halloween costume. The mom tells Morgan that she is verybusy with work but that Eric, the oldest son, will take her shopping. Ericenters the room and asks Morgan, “Want to learn how to be a big girl?” Morganwith great excitement answers, “Yeah!” This sends the message to the children viewingthe show that being a “big girl” or grown-up is more desirable than being achild. Eric responds to her excitement by saying, “Because big girls know howto take out the trash so their brothers don’t have to.” Morgan knows betterthan to fall for this, but the scene exemplifies interpellation in the sensethat Eric has been given a typical male job. Morgan becomes impatient and againannounces her desire for a Halloween costume. Eric agrees to help but can notdo it unassisted. He still needs his mom to take them to the store and his dad,when he gets off from work, to then pick them up.
Morgan returns home with a costumeof a Zombie. Because of her interpellations of what little girls should be,Morgan’s mother is somewhat upset that she didn’t choose a princess costume.She looks at Eric, giving blame to her older son, and announces that she wantedMorgan to pick out her own costume. This is giving the child agency andallowing her to express and expand her own imagination. Later in the episodethe mother is asked why her daughter’s clothes do not match. She explains thatMorgan picks out her own clothes because they like to give her freedom ofexpression. The question contains illocutionary intent that if an adult hadpicked out Morgan’s wardrobe then it would be considered more perfect than thechild’s attempt. This is another example of interpellation, because whoeverdecided clothes have to match or what should be considered a match? WithMorgan’s costume, the parents are upset that Eric influenced Morgan, though itis never proven that she did not choose the zombie costume herself. It isthrough the parents’ and our own gender interpellations that we assume thatMorgan, if left alone to decide, would have chosen a princess costume, the moretypical “girl-costume.” Morgan then announces that she choose the costumebecause, “The undead are cool.” The audience assumes this is the childparroting what her older brother said in the store showing an inability tocreate her own ideas, but it is quite possible that she is expressing an earlyrebellion of social interpellations. Though the parents do not seem to approveof the child having a scary costume, the Dad says, “Ooohnice hanging eyeball,” while smiling and playing with her. It seems as thoughthey are trying to protect her from the messages of disappointment that theyare sending to their older son Eric. The director, in this scene, displays anagreement with the common assumption that children are innocent and need to beprotected.
We thenreturn to Cory’s school, the results from the IQ test have been determined andCory is, by score, a genius. Mr. Feeney congratulates him verbally but appearsdoubtful through his facial expressions. Cory is worried that Mr. Feeney knowshe cheated and that he will tell his parents. He announces that he does notlike lying to his parents. Shawn attempts to reduce Cory’s fear and convincehim that they are both “innocent victims.” He concludes that if adults had nothave given them detention, then they never would have found the test andeverything following that moment would not have occurred. However, they fail torealize that it was their initial mistake that caused the adult to give thedetention sentence. Following “We’re innocent victims,” Cory exclaims, “It’s goodto be a kid.” Cory is not expected to be perfect. He knows that adults assumethat he is fallible and will love and take care of him despite his mistakes.
The bellthen rings and Mr. Feeney announces that he wants to talk to Cory. The studentlooks nervous and gets out of his seat slowly, as though he is about to meethis death. This is an example of how an adult’s opinion is so highly valued tothe child. Cory looks as though he is going to be physically hurt, though heknows Mr. Feeney is only going to talk to him about his high IQ score. He asksShawn to tell his mom that “He went out like a man.” Cory, throughinterpellation, considers men as strong and brave in tough or violentsituations. This quote also reinforces his admiration of adults because he isassociating Mr. Feeney’s poor opinion of him with dying. Cory’s final requestbefore dying is to insure that his mother (again an adult figure) has apositive perception of him.
Mr. Feeneysits down with Cory and asks if there is anything he wants to share. Heexplains that Cory will be transferred to an advanced school where the schoolis committed to giving children all that they deserve. Mr. Feeney then says, “Ithink you deserve everything you are going to get.” He stresses the word “get” to add an empowering tone andensure that Cory realizes that the child’s secret is known. Cory is aware thathis parents and teacher know that he cheated on the IQ test. The “all-knowing”adults guide the child to tell the truth instead of punishing him by making itevident through their tone, as opposed to diction, that they are aware hecheated. They give him this agency to allow for Cory’s personal growth, feelingthat Cory will learn his lesson more thoroughly if he admits to his ownmistake.
Beforefinally admitting to his parents that he found the answers to the IQ test, Corytakes a second intelligence test. This test reveals that he has the IQ of anaverage sixth grader. Cory proudly says, “Yep, that’s me. The lights are on butnobody’s home.” By saying “nobody’s home,” the writer indicates that someone ofsixth grade intelligence is brainless. It is this common assumption that addsto the adult-centeredness of the episode because adults like Mr. Feeney areportrayed with high intelligence, while the child is not corrected when callinghimself a moron.
At the endof the episode Cory tells his parents and teacher the truth; which gains himthe respect he so desired from his teacher. The episode is didactic becauseCory has learned that he should tell adults the truth and he should nevercheat. He accepts the fact that he is inferior to adults, a point which I donot like about the episode, but a typical adult-centered characteristic. Coryis grounded for his actions, but being the “good parents” that they are, Cory’sgrounding begins the day after Halloween and under the condition that he nolonger cheats. This positive portrayal of parents makes it impossible for theviewer to be mad at the adults for punishing Cory, especially since Coryrealizes that he deserves punishment, and therefore, is not upset. Though Corymakes mistakes, he is a “good child.” Everyone, including the audience, ishappy at the end of the episode, all problems were solved through adultguidance, and a lesson was learned, stereotypically making this episode a veryadult-centered text.
The fairy tale, The Little Mermaid was story that Icould not go to sleep without hearing. I was about six years old when I firstheard this story and it allowed my imagination to meander into the world ofmermaids. Whether I was at the beach swimming like a mermaid in the ocean orsimply reading the story over and over, I was fascinated by the mermaid worldunder sea. I was nearly obsessed with mermaids and wished I could be one ofthem. This story created the magic in my imagination; however, as I read thestory more and more, I came to see the practicality in it. Maybe I wasconvinced that there really were mermaids out there so the story becamepractical to me? Also, maybe I related her death to reality and relating thedaughters of the air to the mermaid’s kind of heaven? Most children have seenDisney’s version of The Little Mermaid, and although it is one of my favorites,it does not give the original version of Hans Christian Andersen’s justice.
Typically, the elements in a fairy tale aresimilar to the type case prototype of children’s books. When I think ofchildren’s books, the first few things that come to mind are fantasyadventures, good triumphing over evil, and, of course, happy endings. The taledescribes the youngest sister as “a curious child, silent and thoughtful”(Andersen 31). To illustrate, The LittleMermaid portrays a young mermaid with these typical characteristics, butAndersen takes it a step further. The mermaids in each version of the storydiffer greatly, especially the reasons behind each mermaid's wish to go to landwith the people. Andersen's mermaid wants to be a human being so she can havean eternal soul after she dies. While I was young reading this story, I thoughtthat the little mermaid was risking her life to gain the prince’s affection;however, my take on this story has changed. After reading it again, I realizethat it is a story about the mermaid’s lack of soul, and how by falling in loveshe was able to gain one. As the story tells, the little mermaid “would give awhole three hundred years I have to live, to become for one day a human beingand then share in that heavenly world” (Andersen 53). She is driven to become ahuman. The little mermaid “longed for their [humans] company. Their worldseemed to her to be much larger than her own. There was so much that she wouldhave liked to know” (50). Indeed, the little mermaid’s main purpose of becominga human was to gain an eternal soul.
Disney made The Little Mermaid a traditional fairy tale, because Andersen'sideas could not be translated into a modern cartoon that was socially acceptedfor children. So Disney used the classic battle between good and evil, which istypically understood everywhere, instead of themermaid's battle within herself as Andersen wrote. In my mind, fairy talesrepresent the good conquering over the evil after a significant challenge. Incontrast, Andersen displays the sea witch winning the battle. The littlemermaid does not look back on her life under the sea, but looks forward to herchance to attain an eternal soul. Although, for example, I found it odd thatthe sea witch exclaimed, “How stupid of you! Still, you shall have your way,and it’ll bring into you misfortune, my lovely Princess” (Andersen 58). Whywould the sea witch say such a thing that might change the little mermaids mindabout becoming a human? I assume that the reasons for this line may be toenforce the adult figure in the story. The sea witch is older; therefore, sheis wise and guides the young mermaid. Another large difference between Disney’sversion and Andersen’s that is definitely not a typical case prototype ofchildren’s stories is the fact that the sea witch cuts the little mermaid’stongue out instead of stealing her voice through a shell like in the movie. Toillustrate, the sea witch states, “Put out your little tongue and let me cut itoff in payment; then you shall be given the potent mixture” (Andersen 59).Moreover, the ending portrays evil winning because of the little mermaid’sdeath.
Andersen’s version of The Little Mermaid does not follow the traditional case prototypeof children’s books because of its shocking ending of the little mermaid not marryingthe Prince. For example, Disney reveals the story to have a happy ending inthat the little mermaid and the Prince marry. One could conceive the ending tohave different meanings. For instance, the Prince cries about his new Princessto be the one who “rescued me, when I was laying half-dead on the shore. Oh,I’m too happy!” (Andersen 69). For this purpose, the little mermaid “kissed hishand, and already she felt her heart was breaking. The morrowof his wedding would mean death to her to foam on the sea” (69). Thelittle mermaid had failed and evil had won. However, this tale is much deeperand suggests that the main theme is the mermaid’s internal struggle withherself to gain an eternal soul, not to marry the Prince. Although this was nota huge theme in the story, it definitely helps to prove that Andersen’s styleis not that of a traditional fairy tale author.
In the original Andersen story, The Little Mermaid, she does not marrythe Prince, which is what seems to be what she should do. Still, she learned tolove unconditionally, and did not turn into sea foam, as mermaids do. Sheascended and obtained a human soul from entering the daughters of air. Thedaughters of air are portrayed to be a spiritual movement. When I read thisstory as a child, I can see why I related the daughters of air to heaven. Forexample, the narrator describes the moment as a “voice of melody, yet sospiritual that no human ear could hear it, just as no earthly eye could seethem. They had no wings, but their own lightness bore them up as they floatedthrough the air” (Andersen 74). Finally, by losing her life, she wins the hopeof immortality because of her 300 years of good deeds. Specifically, the littlemermaid’s decision not to kill the Prince and his new bride was what, Ibelieve, rewarded her with an eternal soul. It isalmost like viewing death as a reward in this story because she in fact did winand gain her immortal soul.
Incontrast to many fairy tales, Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid ended unhappily, as well as presented gruesomeevents that are also not typical prototypes in a children’s text as discussedin class. After reading the story at age nineteen, what really struck mewas how the little mermaid did not get what she thought she wanted, but endedup with something much more important or valuable: her immortality. As a result, I have discovered that this tale is not justabout the selfless love of a mermaid who endures every suffering for the sakeof her beloved Prince, but more importantly, the little mermaid’s endlessdesire to obtain an immortal soul.
Many of today’schildren’s books fit the typical case prototype of a book. This means that they fit what we would assignto children (right or not). Somequalities include being didactic, easily relatable to children, it’s notfrightening, and the books are bright and colorful with happy endings. This,among other terms, will be used to weigh through the book Giraffes? Giraffes! By Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey to assesshow it relates to other books.
On absolute first glance, this bookis the perfect example of the typical case prototype children’s book. It fits the look of an educational book. What I mean by this is that when I think ofan educational book, I associate lots of photographs, small amounts of text(simply to explain the background information or captions to pictures), and aparticular layout for their pages. Thisvision of a particular educational book is founded in the strictly educational,typical case prototype books I used to read as I was younger; the Eyewitness book series used to be myabsolute favorite book to read for the very same reasons listed above. They disguised learning to be fun andpainless. To continue on, this book has avery similar layout to that series. Partof a series itself, the authors and designers purposely tried to model thevisual presentation of an Eyewitnesslook in this satiric series, as to help create its ambiance. On every singlepage there is at least one photograph in which the surrounding textpertains. The diagrams or drawings areall clearly labeled, as well as the photographs, to keep things clear. Moreover, there is a pocket on the backinside cover of the book where they provide several activities to complete. These activities are representative of onesthat someone might find in a Chick-fil-A kid’s meal(small, educational, and fun activities).Each diagram has a specific purpose; this purpose is to support thetext, and bring it clarity.
More importantly than the picturesor layout of the book, is the actual text.As mentioned earlier, at first glance the book looks like it set thestandards for the typical case prototype book.When one reads the text, however, they are shocked from the lack ofvalidity, completely crushing any thought of this book fitting the typical caseprototype. I believe this is true,because the text of a book is far more important than the pictures. The book goes out of its way to make fun ofall educational writing. Every situationpresented in the book is presented as fact, no matter how farfetched itis. It is as if the book is telling jokeafter joke, and keeping a straight face the whole time. The text is comprised only fictionalscenarios or facts, while the pictures and layout design lead you to believeotherwise. One of my favorite paragraphsfrom the whole book is in reference to a giraffe’s legs; I think that thisproves it’s absurdity very nicely. “The legs of a giraffe are filled withvarious types of fruit juice. You see,giraffes love drinking fruit juices…but their bodies have no real use for fruitjuice, so it all trickles down to their legs where it stays and squishesaround. This shouldhave been obvious to you” (pg 9).This is only one example of how the book is so unbelievable; on everysingle page, there are multiple examples of such ridiculous statements.
The mere appearance of the book isshockingly similar to those I have read as a tool to induce learning. Instead of being completelyfalse, the book Giraffes? Giraffes! Doescontain a small amount of educational material in it. For instance, on page 48, there are twodiagrams of fish; one of the colored pictures labels the outside organs of thefish, while the other informatively labels some of the inside organs. This does not have much to do with thatpage’s text (it does, however, pertain the slightest bit) but it accuratelylabels the fish. The same case occurs onpages 6, 9, 13, 38, and 43. A child reading this book would be able to sort outthat this piece of information is correct, compared to the extremely farfetchedtext of the story. Because the wholerest of the book is in outfield, learning about the fish is somewhat disguised. Even if the reader has some negative stigmatowards learning, they will not realize what is happening. The reader is subconsciously focused on notbelieving anything about the giraffes.When they see information that is true, they do not remember that theyare learning. These comparatively smalldiagrams in the book are a very good reference for information.
For this reason, I feel that thebook has both typical and atypical case traits.The appearance of the book and hidden learning tools are created forchildren to induce learning. Theridiculous text, however, completely bashes any hope of it fitting into thetypical case mold. The book is just tooprogressive and turns how we would normally react to a story from natural tounnatural. The readers have to beconscious to how they respond to such material, as opposed to a conservativebook that reinforces old ideas or beliefs.For these reasons, the text outweighs the visual presentation, meaningthat the book does not fit the typical case prototype of a children’sbook.
Because this book fits so strongly(in a visual sense only) the typical children’s book, but yet so strongly andmore importantly disproves itself as one with it’stext, it makes us look at educational books in a different perspective. This defamiliarizationcauses us to challenge all that we have known to be true about educationalbooks. Going back to the example of the Eyewitness books, it made me think ofhow naïve of a reader I used to be. WhenI read those books, I would never give a second thought to whether or not whatI was reading was true. I wouldcompletely trust the narrator and authors.After reading a book that tricks you to believe that it might be true, Iwill never be able to read an Eyewitnessbook in the same light. That is theheart of defamialization; it permanently causessomething to be looked at differently.
One tool that the author uses to defamiliarize the readers is metafiction.To work through the term metafiction, we’ll use thesame quote about fruit juice from earlier, it is also a good example of how thenarrator does too much of his job. “Thisshould have been obvious to you”, is not something a narrator typicallysays. The irony in this quote, is thatwhat the authors are claiming is so absurd, that there is no way it would beobvious to anyone. No one would know tothink that, because it is not based on any hint of truth. The narrator defiantly steps over the line ofwhat is considered appropriate for a reader/narrator relationship. This concept is one of several that helpexplain the term metafiction. In metafiction, notonly does the narrator do too much or too little, the lines between thefictional world and the real world are blurred.The book is doing something, whether it is a quote, picture, etc., todraw attention to itself as an artifact and make the reader think about thecontent. After reading the abovementioned quote on page 9, and also looking at pages 7 and 13, it becomes clearthat the author is drawing attention to the absurdity of the text. This tool is used to heighten the satiricnature of the book.
To work from this same quote,(because I feel it encompasses many of the book’s themes in this one quote) thesheer statement, “this should be obvious to you”, makes the reader second guesswhether what you are reading is true or not.From pure common sense, we know what the text claims is not true (aboutfruit juices); such claims have no scientific standing. We, as readers, have grown to trust the narratorso much in stories, that when he says something like “you should have alreadyknown and believe this completely false fact”, we second guess ourselves. When the author also jokes later in the bookabout personifying words, we have to second guess that as well. On page 20, the author once again blursreality by saying (referring here to words), “…they cannot be printedhere. (They were not dirty words, they simply cannot be printed here because they arecurrently vacationing in
This challenge is seen asprogressive, and breaking the mold. Essentially, Giraffes? Giraffes! is avery unordinary book, and should be taken in as something trite.
A children’s film that strongly demonstrates the concepts ofbeing adult and child-centered and also displays agency is the 1990 movie HomeAlone. This film illustrates the main character, an eight-year-old boynamed Kevin McCallister, as a mischievous yet sincerechild who when left alone in his house, discovers that family relationships area crucial part of growing up. Home Alone also showcases many stereotypesof children that coincide with the typical case prototypes discussed in class. Metatextual concepts are featured in this movie as well,which help to involve the child audience. These concepts, as well as thecharacter of Kevin, discover the underlying meaning of the movie. I believe thecenter of Home Alone is the consistent change noted in Kevin’s behaviorand attitude. He not only breaks free of the typical child roles and standards,he is able to use the thought of them to his advantage when confronted with twoburglars attempting to break into his home. By Kevin saving his house, herealizes he is much older than he thinks and begins to appreciate his life andwhat is in it, mostly his family. This interpretation of Home Alonepresents more than it just being a humorous movie about a boy and two robbers.
Once hisfamily leaves for a Christmas vacation in
Home Alone does a great deal ofdisplaying typical child case prototypes throughout the film. Adult perceptionsof children are especially construed through the two burglars, Marv and Harry. The two men are completely confident thatthey can break into the McCallister home becauseKevin is the only one there. Marv repeatedly says toHarry, “He’s a kid. Kids are stupid,” “Kids are scared of thedark” and “He’s only a kid. We can take him.” These stereotypes relateto the ones discussed in class, characterizing children as innocent and not yetcivilized. The perception that children do not know anything is clearlydemolished by Kevin, because he is able to exceed the burglar’s expectationsand not only deliver them to the police, but send them through many traps andpainful excursions along the way. Marv and Harryfinally realize this as Harry says, “I think we’re getting scammed by akindergartener.” This aspect in the movie demonstrates that children aresmarter and more intuitive than adults, even when faced with danger. Kevin wascompletely aware of the situation but still continued to fight the burglarsbecause he knew he had to defend his house. Protecting himself and his housebecame more important to Kevin than doing what stereotypical children do andrun away.
In one particular scene, there is areference made that does go against these typical case prototypes, which isalso one we have discussed in class. While Kevin’s mother is riding home with atraveling polka band, the lead singer played by John Candy is talking to themother about how she left Kevin all alone for Christmas. He then tells her astory of how he left his child alone one day at a funeral parlor. He makes ajoke about how his child was impaired for a few weeks after but then says,“Kids get over things, they’re resilient like that.”This is a great comment to show how children can go against stereotypes. Thischaracter was implying that children are not permanently damaged by certainexperiences and I think this is an incredibly important feature of the movie asa whole. If his family leaving him alone for days had negatively affectedKevin, then he would not have recovered and would not have learned the lessonshe did by being put in that situation.
The less obvious element of HomeAlone is the metatextual concept. Throughout thisfilm, Kevin is constantly talking to the audience, because no other charactersare around him. The narrator-like characteristic Kevin has in this movie makesthe audience aware that he is talking directly to them, letting the viewersknow what is going on and what Kevin is doing. There is one moment where Kevinactually does speak directly to the audience, looking straight into the camera.After Kevin learns that his family is not in the house and no one to be found,he says out loud “I made my family disappear,” with a concerned and nervousedge in his tone. Then, contemplating all the possibilities he now has withbeing home alone, he looks right into the camera and repeats the line “I mademy family disappear,” this time with a conniving tone and devilish grin. Kevinbreaking the fourth wall and creating this metatextualmoment in the movie lets the audience in on the upcoming events as if it were asecret between them and the narrator.
Another concept I noted is the deus ex machina role. In thefilm, this role is played by the elderly neighbor, who Kevin is afraid of forthe majority of the movie. However, after talking and the old man admits thathe has become a different person because of lost relationships in his life,Kevin provides him with advice as well as takes it himself. Kevin becomes awarethat he needs his family and does not want to lose them like the old man losthis. So the two agree to change and do something about their unfortunatesituations. After this conversation, Kevin returns home but once he has used upall of his traps to mislead the two burglars, he runs next door to call thepolice. The men are aware of his game this time and catch him before he is ableto. Then, when it looks like there is no escape for Kevin, the old neighborhits both burglars and saves Kevin, taking him out of the house and away fromdanger. The adult character coming in at the end to save the child is typicalof many children’s texts and also relates to the child and adult centerednotion also featured in this film.
Throughout HomeAlone, Kevin embraces being a kid with no parents to listen to and no rolesto follow. However, over the days he is left by himself, he demonstrates agreat amount of change. At first he is scared of Marvand Harry trying to break into his house. But later he states, “I can’t be awimp. I’m the man of the house” and overcomes his fear of the burglars as wellas his fear of less important matters, like his basement. Kevin recognizes thathe must take some control of the situation, because riding sleds down thestairs and turning the whole house upside down is unacceptable behavior whenthere are criminals trying to break into his house. Kevin begins to take ontypical adult roles, including going grocery shopping, doing laundry andwashing dishes. These are not chores most eight-year-olds complete on a dailybasis. Kevin is forced to become more mature throughout the story and does soby not only outsmarting burglars, but also by accepting the fact that hisfamily is important to him and wanting them to come back.
Even thoughKevin McCallister displays a great deal of agency, Ido believe Home Alone is more adult-centered than child-centered. Hisfamily is the center of the story and is the element that is continuously referredto. Kevin is given total freedom to do whatever he wants and although he doesuse this to his advantage in the beginning, after awhile he begins to miss hisfamily and regret ever saying he could live without them. His family becomesmore important to him than the ability to do whatever he wants and he evenmakes it his Christmas wish saying, “Instead of presents, I just want my familyback.” While watching this movie, I could not help but compare it to Wherethe Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In thatbook, the main character Max wants to be away from his mother and not have toobey her as an authority figure. While living with the wild things though, Maxtakes on an adult role, much like the one of his mother. He also begins to misshis mother and miss the idea of being a kid.
This is exactly the change Kevinreaches in Home Alone. Although he enjoys having a break from parentsand rules, he does long for his old life where although there were some hardships,he was surrounded by people who love and care about him. Children need familyrelationships and in these particular texts, the children only discover thiswhen those relationships are deterred from. Although I stated earlier thatKevin matured throughout the film, I also think he became more vulnerable atthe same time. Accepting such a dramatic change in their lives leaves thechildren in these texts very sad and distressed. So as much as children can goagainst their own stereotypes, they can still manage to “act like a child.” Ido not think Home Alone is predominantly didactic, but I do believe there is avery subtle lesson to be learned from this movie and that is to be careful whatyou wish for. Fortunately for Kevin, his situation was temporary, but forchildren watching it could stand as a lesson to cherish and respect therelationships in your life, particularly with your family, because you neverknow when they can be taken away.
In fifth grade Officer Brown, my D.A.R.E. instructor, askedmy class to draw a picture representing the physical characteristics of atypical drug dealer. I drew an evillooking man with snake like eyes. He waswearing dark black clothing, and he was standing on a grungy street corner infront of an abandon warehouse. Thepurpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that anyone could be a drugdealer. A drug dealer could be a sweetSuburban soccer mom who bakes homemade cookies for her children, or a drugdealer could be that evil looking guy wearing black clothing on the streetcorner. Officer Brown explained that asa society, we tend to associate negative characteristics with drug dealersbecause the media depicts drug dealers in this manner. As a result, this negative imagine of drugdealers have been imbedded into our minds at a very young age.
Disneymovies have been instrumental in influencing children’s views of good versusevil. The movies place great emphasis onthe characters’ physical appearance. Forexample, In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is beautiful and skinny. She has long flowing red hair, big brightblue eyes, perfectly full red lips, and she seems to have a glow abouther. She is very feminine, and her voiceis high pitch but pleasing to the ear.The males in The Little Mermaid are strapping and handsome. They have big bulging muscles that can aidthem to rescue mermaids if they get into trouble. The men also have a full head of hair thatalways says in place. The “good”characters in Disney movies are always portrayed with good characteristics. In fact it is as if they are perfect. On the other hand, the “evil” characters aredescribed as perfectly repulsive.Ursula, a sea witch, in The Little Mermaid is an ugly darklooking creature with a long pointy noses, and long fingers. She has monster sharp teeth and a gruff manlyvoice. Ursula does not possess onepositive quality. Like other “evil”characters, Ursula is on the other end of the continuum compared to Ariel.
Theenvironment is also use to depict differences between the “good” and “evil” inDisney movies. For example, in TheLittle Mermaid, Ariel lives in a well-maintained golden castle. The water surrounding the castle is crystalclear. On the floor of the sea, there isgreen seaweed and bright colored flowers.There are also various forms of life swimming around the castle. The fishes, shrimps, crabs, and other animalsare bright vibrant colors. Ursula on theother hand, lives in a dark dreary cave.During parts of the movie, the water surrounding the cave is black, and atother times, the water is dark blue.Ursula’s cave is unkempt, and it is full of dieing souls andskeletons. The only form of life nearthe cave is Ursula’s assistances, eels.The eels are black with slanted snake like eyes that glow ayellowish-green color. The floor ofUrsula’s cave is not made of grass.Instead the floor is made of dirt and rocks. The entire atmosphere surrounding the castlerepresents death.
In thepervious paragraphs it was alluded that the use ofcolor also helps distinguish between “good” and evil. Scenes involving the “good” characterscontained an abundant amount of color.There are mostly bright vibrant colors, such as yellows, reds, oranges, purples,and blues. For example Flounder, Ariel’s friend, is bight yellow with a mixtureof dark and light blue strips. Most ofthe fish in the sea are a mixture of two colors. The fishes are either red with yellow fins,purple with yellow fins, blue with red fins, and blue with purple fins. Other animals are red and orange. There is also some pink mixed among theanimals. The scenes involving the “evil”characters lack color almost entirely.The little color that is use is cold and dark. The most abundant color representing Ursulais black. Ursula herself is a darkpurple, and there are some dark blues and greens. There is also the yellowish-green glow thatcomes out of the eels’ eyes.
OfficerBrown was on to something when he stated that the media influences ouropinion. It may not be obvious tochildren as they watch The Little Mermaid or another Disney movie, but thatmovie is influencing their opinion. Themovie gives children a template as to how “good” individuals should look, howthey should act, and even what they should possess. Of course, the movies also give children atemplate for “evil” individuals. Thetemplate teaches children that “evil” individuals should look, act a certainway. It also teaches them that evilpeople should not possess certain items.For example, in The Little Mermaid Ariel lives in a castle, but Ursulawas not even good enough to have a house.Instead she lived in a damp dreary cave.As they grew, children take these images of “good” and “evil” and adoptthem as their own beliefs. Louis Althusser coined the term interpellation, the idea that asindividuals we tend to accept society’s norms as our own. Therefore in the beginning of the paper whenI described my picture of a drug dealer in the fifth grade, it could beconjectured that I obtain those images from society, and not from reality. In reality there is no such concept as a“typical” drug dealer. As officer Brownstated, anyone could be a drug dealer.
In a way, I revisited my childhood over the weekend. Growingup, I read Freaky Friday over andover. In fact, I still have that same paperback copy of the book—the cover ishalf torn off, passages are penciled, its got the little grease spots where Iate potato chips while I read it, and there is even a stain where I spilledsome Pepsi. Coming back as an adult, over twenty-five years later, andre-reading this very book and physically seeing the remnants of my thoughtprocess was eye-opening. As a child immersed in the story, I was enthralledwith the idea of a kidbecoming an adult overnight, and of your mother changing bodieswith you. This book took the idea of switching bodies, which is not uncommon,and made it a little different by making it cross a generation. This helps toshow the lesson that is being handed down by the mother, Ellen Andrews, who isvery frustrated with her daughter, Annabelle. So often, in the mother-daughterrelationship, there is a battle between opposing sides and ideas, and it isdifficult for each side to see the whole picture from the other’sperspective…unless you can magically change bodies with your daughter to teachher a lesson. That is what gives this book its subtle,yet overwhelming, adult undertone, and it is clearly defined from the firstchapter of the book.
AnnabelleAndrews, the narrator of the story, is thirteen, and thirteen is an awkwardtime in life. She describes herself in a nondescript way on pages two and threewith “…brown hair, brown eyes, brown fingernails. (That’s a joke—actually, Itake a lot baths.) “ she goes on to say that she doesn’t know what she weighsbut she’s “watching it” and that she’s not “completely mature” in her figureyet. She then goes on to describe her parents and her brother. She complainsthat her mother is overly protective and strict, or “stricter” as Annabellesays (4) and effectively doles out examples of her mother’s unfairness, such asEllen wanting Annabelle to clean her room, make good grades, and be nice to herbrother. As a mother, she wants to protect her daughter and does not allow herin Central Park alone or even with a friend, which is a sore point forAnnabelle, who firmly feels that “…I’m old enough to be given more thanI’m getting” (5) and then laments that she did not get to go to a boy-girlparty because it was not properly chaperoned. Additionally, Annabelle is inlove with Boris, but because her mother made her get those ugly, nasty braces,Boris will never get past who she was in the past and take notice of her. Thelist of wrongs that her mother has heaped upon her, such as keeping her hairneat and nails trimmed, wearing what she wants, going where she wants, andkeeping that room clean only prove to Annabelle that her mother is just unfair(6).
All of these injustices build up and Annabellefinally has it out with her mother and says: “You are not letting me have anyfun and I am sick of it. You are always pushing me around and telling me whatto do. How come nobody ever gets to tell youwhat to do, huh? Tell me that!”. Now, I remember having this conversation withmy own mother, and her response was something similar to Ellen Andrews’ replyof “…when you’re grown up people don’t tell you what to do; you have to tellyourself, which is sometimes more difficult” (6) and it really never answeredthe question satisfactorily then for me, and in this instance, neither did itdo so for Annabelle. The argument ends with Ellen marching out of the roomafter Annabelle says she just wants to be responsible for herself and hermother responds “We’ll just see about that!” (7).
And then, Annabelle wakes up andshe is her mother. The inability for Annabelle to see things from her mother’sperspective propels the switch and reveals the adult centered theme of thisbook. As Annabelle begins to see things from an adult’s perspective, her own,immature and childlike perspective begins to recede. But first, Annabelle isthrilled with the change! She has nice teeth, a good body, and enjoys puttinglots of makeup on ‘their’ face (8-9). She fakes her way through breakfast, getsdressed up, pushes the kids off to school (and notices an Annabelle appears tohave not changed at all) and suggests that she and her father/husband go to seean X-Rated flick; obviously, Annabelle is still a child because she does notthink of the consequences that type of outing could bring (not to mention theemotional scars for life!), and then, after a round of boardgameswith Boris, Annabelle fires the maid (46). But, then things the take a turn andthe day is no longer fun. The situation becomes more than her thirteen year oldmind can handle. In this way, the inability of Annabelle to cope with adultsituations and problems, shows that there is a clearlydefined line between adulthood and childhood. Annabelle is still a child, butas her mother, she has to tackle some adult responsibilities, and Annabelle isclearly not at that point in life where can do so without further confusingthings.
While thestory remains funny and page-turning, it is easy to see what is going to occurhere. It is obvious that this “switch” has taken place to teach Annabelle’s alesson. Also, Annabelle’s bad attitude is to blame for this mind boggling turnof events, so as in all adult centered texts, the strong, caring, and superhumanadult has distributed knowledge and punishment in a justifiable manner. AsAnnabelle’s day progresses, she begins to see that life is not easy for hermother and that she is not prepared to be an adult. As the book continues on,Annabelle begins to see herself as other people in her life see her; forexample, the cleaning lady refers to Annabelle as “a little pig” who’s “got nodiscipline” who will be “on drugs before you know it.” Annabelle is angered bythis statement andtakes this time to fire Mrs. Schmauss(46). Before the incident with Mrs. Schmauss, Boriscomes downstairs to return a colander, and it is during this time that welearn, in no uncertain terms, the Boris hates Annabelle (which is too bad forAnnabelle because she is totally in love with Boris!). She also is embarrassedby her room (the same room which propelled the argument with her mother andcaused the switcheroo to occur) and tells Boris that it is her brother Ben’s (ApeFace’s) room—canopy and all (30). We learn thatAnnabelle four years earlier had cut open Boris’ head with a tin shovel (31)and that Boris thinks that Annabelle is “a bad seed” (31). This continuesthroughout the book, but it happens the most predominantly during theconference at school with Annabelle’s teachers and her principal and learnswhat her teachers really think about her as they criticize her at theconference.
This is theturning point in the book, Annabelle’s catharsis. It is also when we see theauthor handing out a lesson about studying hard and handing work in on time.This is drilled into the reader throughout the conference, and the fact thatAnnabelle is not doing it really hits her hard. When she finds out that she hadflunked English, she goes numb (86) and discovers that she is wasting everyone’stime. She discovers that she has a very high IQ, higher than “a collegefreshman’s” (86) and that her English teacher, Miss McGuirkblames herself for Annabelle’s failure as a student. This opens Annabelle’seyes to see her teacher in a very different, more compassionate manner (87) an by the end of the meeting, Annabelle has realized thather behavior has been bad, and that she needs to start doing better. Shepromises the educators at the meeting that “on Monday morning I’m sure you willsee a completely different Annabelle,” to which the school psychologist replies “Let’s notget our hopes up too high… we can’t expect her to change overnight”(95-96). She leaves the meeting, lookingfor herself—literally.
Annabellehas learned many lessons today and has heard how everyone in her life feelsabout her. It is a humbling experience, especially when she realizes that theperson who loves her the most is the person she treats the worst, her brother(56). When she realizes that he’s not half bad, her attitude towards him beginsto change, and she begins to change as well. It is an event concerning Benwhich really makes her see that she is not ready to be an adult, and that shewants to go back to her own body. Her brother gets kidnapped. Well, not really. But, Annabelle thinks thatBen has been kidnapped. She comes home from the meeting to find that herbrother was taken away by“beautiful chick” (100), described by Boris. Now, as the reader,I knew all along that it was Annabelle’s mother in Annabelle’s body who cameand took Ben away for ice cream, but in Annabelle’s state of panic, the thoughtnever occurred to her. Mainly because in her thirteen mind, she hadcontemplated all the different people her mother may have chosen to be thatday, and Annabelle was uncertain if her mother would even want to be Annabelle.Therefore, when Ben comes up missing, Annabelle freaks out and calls the police, and ends up almosthaving her mother committed for being crazy after she breaks down and says thather mother switched bodies their minds into each others bodies. Of course,these officers do not believe her, and think they have a “fruitcake” on theline (12). Boris takes charge, reveals his love for Mrs. Andrews, and Annabellethinks “what a waste” (114) because he is love with Annabelle but notAnnabelle. Confusing, yes, but not if you read the book. Actually, the entireexchange is very funny, and it shows that some adults are silly, but it doesnot change the overall tone that reveals this is an adult centered book, andthe theme again emerges when Annabelle just gives up and tells the police thetruth, that she is “only thirteen. I’m just a little girl whohas been turned into her mother” (113). Annabelle has had enough and isready to just go ahead and give up. She doesn’t want to do this anymore, she isoverwhelmed, and her brother is missing. In her moment of greatest need, she isin her mother’s room, lying on the bed, and admitting her mother was right.“That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? You wanted to teach me a terrific lesson? O.K. I learned a terrific lesson.” (119). Andpoof! Mom’s back. And, Annabelle has learned her lessons. She even became abeautiful chick (131-133), because Mom was finally able to go and get thebraces off, get Annabelle’s hair cut, and buy new clothes. Annabelle’stransformation is complete—from old Annabelle to Mom to new Annabelle. Herattitude is different, and she has learned that perhaps she should clean herroom-to impress Boris.
At thebeginning of the book, Annabelle wanted to be in charge of her own life, andwanted to know why nobody told her mother what to do, and that she wanted thesame rights. So, Annabelle’s mother switched them to teach Annabelle a lesson,so that Annabelle could understand exactly what she was saying, and to learnfor herself how Annabelle is wrong about adulthood andthe responsibilities that come with it.Many things are revealed to her as she learns through the interchangewith her father, that Annabelle is a constant source of irritation between thetwo of them, and as the book progresses, she becomes more aware of the waypeople view her, and it is not very good. Annabelle is learning a hard lesson,she is hearing what people say about her, how they feel about her, and shefirst reacts in anger by firing the maid and then eventually, changing herinside appearance while her mother changes Annabelle’s outside appearance.Interestingly enough, the physical changes her mother makes result in Annabellebecoming a more attractive person, but at the beginning of the book, she justwanted to be left alone to grow her own hair and chew her own fingernails. And,in an odd twist of fate, Annabelle becomes worried that her mother is not inher body, and that careless Annabelle is dead under a number 7 bus somewhere(99). Annabelle had nagged her mother for freedom, to go to the park, to not betold what to do. Ellen had always denied Annabelle these privileges because shefeared for Annabelle’s safety; when Annabelle realizes just how irresponsibleshe actually is, she becomes worried for her own safety. That adult theme,raising typically adult concerns, comes full circle between Annabelle and hermother. Situations arise, and eventually Mom comes back and saves day andreturns everything to normal—except now the two of them have a better, strongerrelationship build on mutual respect and understanding. And, the fact thatMother knows best.
In the Japanese animated television series Inuyasha,a fifteen-year-old high school student named Kagome is attacked by a monster inan old well on her family’s property. She falls into the well and reemerges tofind herself five hundred years in the past where magic and demons are everydayoccurrences. Kagome learns that the demon in the well attacked her because sheis the reincarnation of a priestess who died guarding a powerful jewel thatgave demons immense power, and that she is now the keeper of the jewel. Whenmore demons appear to try and steal the jewel, Kagome unseals a half-demon, half-human boy named Inuyashaand enlists his help to battle the monsters. During one of these battles,however, the jewel is shattered and its pieces are scattered throughout thecountry, and Inuyasha and Kagome decide to team upand locate all of the shards before they can fall into the wrong hands.However, their quest becomes a backdrop to their budding relationship and theissues they face. Inuyasha, for example, deals withprejudice and isolation because of his heritage. Kagome must fulfill herobligation of protecting the magical jewel from those who would abuse its powerin the past, but at the same time she has to keep up with her schoolwork in thepresent. While many of the major and reoccurring characters are teenagers, andone of major focuses of the series is the interaction between Inuyasha and Kagome, the series is more of a soap operathan a young adult text. While there are some instances of progressive themesin Inuyasha, the show mostly falls back on theteenage mystique.
At the beginning of the series, Inuyasha is very muchthe definition of the teenager as a potential problem. When Kagome firstunseals him, he actually tries to attack her like the rest of the demons inorder to steal the jewel for himself, and is at first reluctant to help Kagomerecover all of the jewel shards. He wants the jewel in order to use it tobecome a full demon, claiming that he desires the power a full-blooded demon has.Inuyasha seems to resent his human blood because itmakes him weaker than other demons, and takes offense to being mocked for hisheritage. One of Inuyasha and Kagome’s travelingcompanions, Miroku, is also depicted stereotypicallyas a potential problem. Miroku is eighteen and aBuddhist monk, but his behavior is extremely atypical of his profession. Beforejoining Inuyasha and Kagome, he used his status as apriest to con people, and even after joining them, he gets food and shelter fortheir group through manipulation. Miroku is alsoextremely lecherous. Almost every time he meets a woman, he pleads with her tobear his children, and usually ends up groping her. While his sexual behavioris usually a source of comic relief, he often gets himself and the others introuble due to it. However, Inuyasha and Miroku’s troublesome behavior changes over the course ofthe series. Miroku develops feelings for anothermember of their group, Sango, and even eventually proposes to her though hestill gropes her on occasion. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Inuyasha resents his human side not only because it makeshim weak, but because of the discrimination he has faced because of his mixedblood. He also begins to consider using the magic jewel to become fully human insteadof demon, or even destroying it entirely so that it can never be misused.
The series also enforces the theme of adolescence as a temporary stage beforeadulthood. This is very predominant in Kagome’s development throughout thestory. At first, traveling with Inuyasha is anecessity for her because of her naivety and unfamiliarity with the world shefinds herself in, but as the series progresses, Kagome learns to better defend herself and even battles demons without Inuyasha’shelp. While her experiences in the past make her more self-reliant, however,she is forced to become more mature much faster than normally. During her briefreturns to the present to make up for her absences in school, viewers get tosee Kagome interacting with her friends. At first, Kagome is still as boy crazyas her girlfriends are, and often comes to them for relationship advice whenshe and Inuyasha are having problems (though sheremains vague about who and what he actually is). However, Kagome begins tobecome distanced from her friends at school as they remain flighty and shegrows more serious. The show does not seem to view this as a necessarily badthing, however- Kagome’s maturity is a positive aspect of her character,despite that she may be growing apart from her friends in school as a result.
The relationship between Kagome and Inuyasha is alsoan example of the emphasis on the development from adolescence to adulthood,since as they mature, so does their love for one another. Many of the initialobstacles their relationship faces are due to stereotypical portrayals ofteenaged boys and teenaged relationships in general. Inuyashais portrayed as extremely stubborn about his feelings and flat out refuses toacknowledge them for most of the series, though it is clear that he developsfeelings for Kagome and is obviously confused about what to do about it. Bothhe and Kagome are also extremely jealous and overreact whenever someone orsomething else comes between them. Kagome, for example, will angrily retreat tothe present time when Inuyasha does not return herfeelings and complain to her mother and her friends, leaving Inuyasha to sit and brood. Inuyasha,on the other hand, becomes extremely agitated if another man tries to wooKagome, and will even overexert himself in battle to prove that he is moredesirable. However, these more stereotypical aspects of their relationshipbecome less apparent as the series progresses and they mature, and when they doarise, it becomes mostly for comic relief. Another interesting point to note isthat Inuyasha and Kagome’s relationship blossomsdespite never becoming sexual- the most sexual experience that they havetogether is accidentally seeing one another naked during baths.
Adults in the series are typically absent or used as comic relief, and very fewof them have a positive impact on the teenaged characters. Inuyasha’sparents are both deceased, and Kagome’s father is rarely mentioned and it isnever stated whether or not he is alive. Their travel companions also havedeceased parents, all of which died in traumatic ways. Two adult charactersthat do appear regularly are Myoga and Jaken, both of which are in subservient roles to youngercharacters and are often the source of comic relief. Myogais a flea demon that was once the retainer to Inuyasha’sfather, a powerful demon lord, and now acts as a retainer to Inuyasha himself. Despite this, however, Myoga is a coward and often runs from battle much to theannoyance of Inuyasha and his companions. Jaken is much like Myoga, thoughhe acts a servant to Inuyasha’s half-brother, Sesshomaru. Jaken, despite beingthousands of years older than Sesshomaru, is in suchawe of his lord that his adoration becomes ridiculous. He is also a bit of acoward, but he tries not to show it in order to impress his lord. Two adultsthat are shown in a positive light are Kagome’s mother and Kaede,an elderly priestess in the past. While Kagome’s mother does not play a verylarge role in the show (she isn’t even given a name), she is very supportive ofher daughter’s obligations in the past as well as her relationship with Inuyasha, and she also offers Kagome advice whenever sheand Inuyasha have been arguing. Meanwhile, Kaede is definitely a mentor figure, dispensing wisdom tothe younger characters and especially Kagome, who also has spiritual priestesspowers due to being a reincarnation of one. Despite her age, Kaede has occasionally fought alongside the teenagedcharacters and is shown as being as powerful and competent as they are.
In Inuyasha, adults are mostly absent, or used ascomic relief, and teenaged characters display troublesome behavior. Kagome’smaturity is viewed as a positive thing, even though she is distanced from herfriends in the present as a result. In general, the show rewards thedevelopment of teenaged characters from adolescence into adulthood. While Inuyasha has some progressive themes, it is mostlyenforcing stereotypes associated with teens.
In children’s film Anastasia (which is not a Disneymovie) there are a lot of forms of interpellation, which I have never noticedbefore. Interpellation is when a film or book works to make certain socialvalues more important. These can be values of race, gender, class, or any othervalues society thinks are important. In the video “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” theylook at how Disney tries to portray values within their films. Some watch thisand can’t believe they did not see it before but that is why interpellation isso important, it is mostly done unconsciously.
Anya is a strong willed, brave, and intelligent girl. Through out thefilm she is learning to become Russian royalty, all the character surroundingher expect her to become the Princess Anastasia. Dimitriand Vladimir have their own selfish reason for trying to trick the EmpressMarie that Anya is her long lost granddaughter Anastasia; they will receive alarge sum of money from her. Anya has always wanted a family and the only clueto any is a necklace that says “together in
Even as a little girl I lovedhistory. The film Anastasia has always been one of my favorite moviesbecause it not only has rich Russian history but it is also about “a rumor,
a legend, a mystery” that is Anastasia’s story. One way society can useinterpellation is through there portrayal of history. Most children’s movies“dumb down” history because the believe children cannot handle the violencethat actually occurred. In Anastasia they don’t necessarily changehistory, but rather don’t tell the whole story. The Romanovswere killed but it was not because Rasputin but a curse on them. Rasputin didnot have magical powers but was with the Romanov because of his influence over TsarinaAlexandra whom he became a personal advisor and confidant to. Also the Romanovs were killed because Nicholas II was not a goodczar and the military took over. This is sort of shown in the movie, butNicholas II is portrayed as good czar. It is much like in Pocahontaswhen the Europeans and Indians think each other are savages, then they realizethere is nothing wrong with each other and the Europeans go home; it nevermentions the genocide of the Indians!
One of the most common was a movieuses interpellations is through gender. Child’s movies portray females as theweaker sex and males as the stronger. When Dimitri,Vladimir, and Anastasia are traveling to
The story of Anastasia is about a Russian girl with Russian men, Dimirti and Vladimir. Then why doesn’tAnastasia and Dimitri look Russian! Both of the maincharacters look more English or American then they doRussian. This unconsciously shows that the
Another form of interpellation is the idea of class, which I believe isused a lot in the movie. When Dimitri and Anastasiacare children, Anastasia who is rich is polite and listens to her fatherwhereas Dimitri who is poor is causing mischief andstealing apples. In another part a poor man sings “I got this from the palace/ It’s line with real fur” this is saying that all poor peoplesteal, which is not true. When Anastasia is “poor” she is in rags and has herhair hidden in a hat but when Dimitri gives her a newdress she comes out looks gorgeous with a tight fitting blue dress and her hairbrushed and in a bow, saying that the rich are cleaner and better then thepoor. At one point Dimitri, who has fallen in lovewith Anastasia says, “princesses don’t marry kitchenboys.” This is society’s idea that a princesses or someone with money shouldonly marry someone within their social class. At the end of the movie, everyonedressed in elegant clothes and go the ballet. Anastasia is dressed in abeautiful purple dress with sparkling diamonds. She not only gets “check out”by Dimitri but it says that only the rich go to theballet. I find it rather interesting that the ballet they are watching is Cinderella,which in some ways mirrors Anastasia’s life. Cinderella had a harsh life withher stepmother and stepsisters but eventually founds her place with PrinceCharming. Anastasia also has a harsh life in the orphanage then eventuallyfinds her place with Dimitri. I also find itinteresting that both Anastasia and her grandmother are wearing purple with isthe color of royalty.
Anastasia is different then a lot of the Disney princesses because shehas a lot of agency over her life. She does dangerous things throughout themovie which some would believe a woman should not do. At the end of the movie Dimitri saves her, but after he saves her, she stands up toRasputin and it is her who kills him. Throughout the movie Anastasia is undergreat pressure to become the lost princess. At the end of the movie she choosesnot to be the princess but instead to be with Dimitri.This could be taken in two ways. One that she is giving up her agency to bewith a man, much like in Mulan when at the endof the movie after taking on the role of a man she once again takes on thewoman’s expected role of getting married. The other way to view this is thatshe took her own agency in not becoming the typical princess but being withouther love because he is from a lower social status.
Interpellation is a process in which individuals take in and“soak up” ideas without first thinking about how those ideas may affect theirlives. These ideas are presented in amanner by which the individual acts as a human sponge and absorbs theinformation without thinking about it.This process is a part of every day life, and is deeply imbedded intochildren’s literature. This is a way forauthors to pass on their ideals without observably stating the idea they wishto pass on. This is how many childrenlearn and eventually form opinions of their own concerning various topics andhow the world works. This can be donethrough books, movies, and the mass media in general. Interpellation affects how individuals viewgender, race, and social or class status of themselves as well as those aroundthem.
The Black Cauldron is a Walt Disney filmbased on the first two books in the Chroniclesof Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. The movie was released in 1985 and was metwith much criticism. The story is abouta young man, Taran, and his quest to keep a powerful,magical cauldron from coming into the possession of the evil Horned King. The story is set in the mystical
Early on inthe film, Taran is set up to be the hero of thestory. He starts his journey as ananxious young pig keeper, and has to work hard to keep the cauldron fromfalling into the hands of the Horned King.When the kind discovers that Hen Wen canreveal the secret location of the cauldron, Taran istold to take the pig and keep her safe.He alone can keep her away from the king, and has terrible odds to workagainst. Dallbenorders Taran to take the pig to a cottage in theforest to keep her safe. As Taran leaves, Dallben makes acomment concerning the responsibility Taran has takenon by stating, “so much, so soon…to rest on his young shoulders.” This is where Taranaccepts the role as hero and protector.This responsibility gives him agency over the situation at hand.
When Hen Wen is captured by the Horned King, Taranis forced to show him where the cauldron is to save both his life and thepig’s. he helpsHen Wen escape and is locked in the dungeon of theKing’s castle. He vows to find thecauldron before the Horned King does so that Prydainwill be safe. While locked away in theking’s dungeon he meets Eilonwy, a princess who wasalso captured to find information about the cauldron. Upon meeting Taran,who is frustrated because he has fialed Dallben, she asks, “are you alord? Or a warrior?”Taran answers, stating, “uh…no.I’m an assistant pig keeper.” Eilonwy responds to this with some degree of sorrow,“oh…What a pity. I was so hoping forsomeone who could help me escape.” Theprincess assumes that because he is just a pig keeper, he is not capable ofhelping her to escape from the king’s dungeon.This also leads the audience to believe that she cannot escape on herown. She is using the princess role andbeing interpellated into the idea that she has to berescued. Later on, she does just that,she is rescued by Taran after he has found a magicsword and he and Eilonwy have met another prisoner, aminstrel by the name of Fflewddur Fflam. As the three of them are being chased by theHorned King’s henchmen, Taran looks to Eilonwy and says, “I am going to get you out of here.” This is the point where he accepts his roleas her hero and she as the damsel in distress.
The threeescape from the castle and set out to find the cauldron. Taran finds Hen Wen with the Fairfolk and one ofthe fairies, Doli, lead the three of them to the lastknown location of the cauldron. Oncethey arrive there, they are “greeted” by three witches. One of them tries to seduce Fflewddur. She is alarger woman, but by far the prettiest of the three. She has rosy cheeks, longred hair, large breasts, and on of the warts that her sisters possess. Taran strikes adeal with the sisters to trade his sword for the cauldron. Once they have received the cauldron, thewitches inform Taran and his companions that the onlyway to stop the evil magic of the cauldron is for someone to willingly climbinto the cauldron and give their life.Before they can decide what to do, the three are again captured by theHorned King. He takes the cauldron andraises his army of dead soldiers. Taran, Eilonwy, and Fflewddur are rescued by Gurgi, arambunctious, childlike creature who befriended Taranin the woods during his original quest to keep Hen Wensafe. Tarandecides to sacrifice himself to the cauldron to save Eilonwyand Fflewddur.However, before he can, Gurgi jumps into thecauldron himself and reverses its evil magic.Taran rescues Eilonwyand Fflewddur again and gets them out of the castleagain before it collapses.
In the end,the witches return, wanting the powerless cauldron back. Taran bargains withthem again and asks that Gurgi be returned to themfrom the cauldron. His demands aregranted but only once he tells the witches that they can keep his sword. Taran has saved theday again and become the hero after all.He has given in to his role as a hero and a rescuer. Eilonwy, howeverstrong-willed and outspoken she may be, has also been interpellatedinto her role as a damsel in need of a rescuer.They leave the forest together….
andlive happily ever after…
I foundseveral examples of gender interpellation as I was watching the movie. Most of these observations are of Eilonwy and the way she is portrayed and treated throughoutthe film. There are few femalecharacters at all in the movie- Eilonwy, Hen Wen, a fairy, and the witches- this is keeping in mind thatHen Wen is a pig with a relatively small, howeverimportant, part.
First ofall, I have to comment on the clothing of the characters. All of the males (Taran,Fflewddur, Dallben, etc.)are dressed in dull earthy tones. Taran wears a dark green, whereas Eilonwyis wearing a pale purple dress. One ofthe fairfolk, a young female fairy, is dressed inpinks of various shades while all the boys are wearing greens and blues andoranges. During one point in the film, Eilonwy crawls out of a dusty tunnel into a dusty room andtakes the time to wipe the dirt off of her dress, knowing that she is going toget just as dirty all over again.
Next is therole of Princess Eilonwy. She is the only major female role in themovie. She is the damsel indistress. She is personallystrong-willed and comes off as independent, but in the end she still needs tobe saved by a male. She is smart enoughto find her way through the castle and even lead Taranout of the dungeon, but she cannot escape on her own. She is under the impression that she has tohave a warrior come and save her, and in the end she does.
Once Taran has gotten Eilonwy and Fflewddur from the castle, we come to a scene in theforest. Taranis playing around and swinging his sword through the air while Fflewddur plays his harp behind a group of bushes. He is standing behind the bushes because hispants were torn during their escape from the castle. Eilonwy is sittingon a log sewing up his pants. This showsthat she is somewhat domesticated. Themen are having a good time while she fixes Fflewddur’spants. Sewing is something that isstereotypically done by a woman. Laterin the woods, the three are discussing their escape. Taran tries to takecredit for their getaway, but Eilonwy points out thatthe sword Taran carries is enchanted, therebytransferring some of the credit to the sword.Taran responds with a relatively sexistremark, “what does a girl know about swords?” This is to say that girls could not knowanything about swords because they are something that only boys would knowabout. Eilonwytries to defend herself and fight back, but eventually gives in to her emotionsand cries. She storms off and he followsher to apologize. This could lead one tobelieve that females are fragile and overly emotional. This assumption of emotion comes up againlater when Taran doubts himself and hisabilities. She supports him and eventells him “I believe in you.” Thesewords would not mean the same thing if they were coming from Fflewddur. Theyrenew Taran’s faith in himselfbecause they come from a caring and emotional person—a ‘woman.’
I noticedthat while there is a distinction between the classes of the main characters,none of them seem to have a problem with the fact that they are from differentlevels of society. Eilonwyis a princess, this means that she is of royal blood, but she seems perfectlycontent to be friends with a pig keeper.Taran is an assistant pig keeper, who becomesthe princess’s rescuer. And in betweenthese two is Fflewddur Fflam,the minstrel. Ordinarily, it would havebeen his job to entertain people of stature such as Eilonwy,but she never asks him to, or orders him to, or even suggests it. They see each other as people, not differentoccupations and places or levels in life.Their differences in status do not prevent them from befriending eachother.
I thinkthat the film wants the audience to walk away with a feeling ofpossibility. Anything is possible. While there are several indications in thefilm that boys are better rescuers, and that women are just emotional and haveto have the assistance of a male, I don’t feel that this is the main message ofthe film. The characters went up againstterrible odds; they faced the Horned King, and defeated him. The befriended total strangers, and in theend they won out over evil. I feel thatthis was the main purpose of the movie, to show that no matter what we arefaced with, there is always a way. Themovie explored the land of the mystical: talking creatures, winged dragons, andmagic cauldrons. This excites theimagination of the audience, and makes all the little idiosyncrasies of themovie seem to fade away. One gets caughtup in the film, and doesn’t notice that Eilonwy’sdress is purple, or that Gurgi is childlike. They see interesting characters who worktogether to conquer a magical king and save the world.