PLAYING WITH POWER IN MOVIES, TELEVISION, AND VIDEO GAMES

FROM MUPPET BABIES TO TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Kinder (Critical Studies/USC School of Cinema-Television) argues that the ``supersystem'' comprised of TV, video games, and movies aimed at children not only urges them to buy specific products but also indoctrinates them in the ways of post-modern consumer culture. Drawing on recent work in feminist psychoanalysis, Althusser's economic theories of social indoctrination, and Piaget-inspired studies of child development, as well as her observations of her own son and a small sample of his peers, Kinder maps out a media network that exploits children's desire to master threatening situations through play by prescribing and rewarding precisely the kinds of play that make them dedicated consumers. In an especially probing chapter on Saturday morning TV, Kinder explores the ways programs like Muppet Babies and Garfield and Friends reconfigure their young audience's desires for reassurance, control, and fantasy as desires for a ``virtual reality'' whose stability is associated with the title figures—and, ultimately, as desires for the things they can buy that will guarantee that reality. Other chapters, less bold in their analysis, consider similar ``interpellations''—indoctrinations of children as consumers—by Nintendo games and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A suggestive, unsatisfying conclusion sketches a global economic context behind this intertextual power play, and two appendices explain Kinder's procedures for two informal samplings of children's reactions to TV and video games. Not for casual readers—Kinder depends, especially in her fine opening chapters, on interlinked layers of jargon that will leave concerned, nonspecialist parents far behind—but as provocative and lucidly written an academic study as you could want. (Fifteen b&w illustrations of shots from movies and TV shows.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-520-07570-6

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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