Researching Children's Popular Culture: The Cultural Spaces of Childhood

Researching Children's Popular Culture: The Cultural Spaces of Childhood

Researching Children's Popular Culture: The Cultural Spaces of Childhood

Researching Children's Popular Culture: The Cultural Spaces of Childhood

Synopsis

The place of childhood in popular culture is one that invites new readings both on childhood itself, but also on approaches to studying childhood. Discussing different methods of researching children's popular culture, they argue that the interplay of the age of the players, the status of their popular culture, the transience of the objects, and indeed the ephemerality - and long lastingness - of childhood, all contribute to what could be regarded as a particularized space for childhood studies - and one that challenges many of the conventions of "doing research" involving children.

Excerpt

As an entry point to this book, we use a personal recollection, a childhood memory of watching Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Jacqui recalls, as a child, being terrified by the scene in the film where the evil stepmother stands on a cliff shrieking and gesticulating her anger against the young woman who, according to the magic mirror, is the “most beautiful of all.” As a near-sighted child, frozen in her seat in the darkened movie theater, the impact of the Gothic image of the witch on her overrode any possible pleasure in any conventional “happy ending” Disney could produce in his demonstration of the triumph of good over evil. Jacqui recalls enduring nightmares for several days after this experience, and she remembers being haunted by images of an apparently omnipotent evil bearing down on her. Afterwards, as she remembers it, she preferred to read fairy tales, especially the “original” versions, or to watch Disney fairy tales on the small television screen, where she was in control of her mobility, so different from being unable to move around in the cinema, and where she had the power to close the book or turn off the television set. While this memory of watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be interpreted in many ways, ranging from one based on Jungian psycho-analysis to one rooted in a feminist analysis of stereotypes, what interests us is the contrast between the size, mobility and potency of the popular image of evil and the fixity and powerlessness of the small (naive) child. The contrast in size is such that the individual child seems pitted against a witch=feminine ogre=masculine ogre of such proportions that it has the power of a collective force.

It has often seemed to us that in the popular literature on children and popular culture as well as in some of the critical literature, variations of this Gothic image similarly haunt adults concerned about childhood culture. Popular culture, especially mass media culture, is often constructed as a monolithic giant, while the child is depicted as a powerless object who is about to be consumed. The researchers seem to see themselves as the off-screen saviors, rushing in to save the child who is unable to save himself or herself: the researchers, battling and conquering evil, play the role of the prince in fairy

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