Coining Capital: Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood

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Coining Capital: Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood Jyotsna Kapur. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.

Several years ago the late media scholar Neil Postman wrote a provocative book titled The Disappearance of Childhood, in which he argued that childhood in America was being obliterated. Children, he observed, were becoming more adultlike and adults more childlike, and he blamed the trend on the influence of television in American life. Jyotsna Kapur expands Postman's thesis in the twenty-first century in a new book, Coining Capitalism, in which she affirms the loss of childhood, attributing it to the effects of a consumerist culture.

Kapur, who was born in India and studied in the United States, takes a Marxist-feminist approach in her study of several popular Hollywood movies, including Harry Potter, Home Alone, Toy Story, Pocahontas, Jumanji, and Matilda, in which young people demonstrate self-sufficiency in the face of ineffectual adults. Unlike Postman, however, Kapur does not believe that the image of the independent child is a media effect. Rather, she writes, it is tied to postmodernity: "inextricably connected to the wider historical and material changes in which children are increasingly imagined in culture and social policy, sold to in the market, and tried in judicial courts as adults" (8). Her aim in the book, she explains, "is to answer two questions: What is the new image of childhood that is replacing the old? and What are the historical and material reasons for the transformation of childhood?" (17).

Kapur begins by looking at the nostalgia trend inherent in several late twentieth-century movie remakes of nineteenth-century children's literary classics, such as Little Women (1994), The secret Garden (1993), and A Little Princess (1995). …