PLAYING WITH POWER IN MOVIES, TELEVISION, AND VIDEO GAMES by Marsha Kinder

PLAYING WITH POWER IN MOVIES, TELEVISION, AND VIDEO GAMES

From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-520-07570-6
Page count: 190pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991