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

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

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

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


"This book is a welcome addition to the literature on children and the media, and a most stimulating application of social theory to questions of the child in contemporary film and consumer culture."-Ellen Seiter, author of The Internet Playground: Children's Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education

Since the 1980s, a peculiar paradox has evolved in American film. Hollywood's children have grown up, and the adults are looking and behaving more and more like children. In popular films such as Harry Potter, Toy Story, Pocahantas, Home Alone, and Jumanji, it is the children who are clever, savvy, and self-sufficient while the adults are often portrayed as bumbling and ineffective.

Is this transformation of children into "little adults" an invention of Hollywood or a product of changing cultural definitions more broadly? In Coining for Capital, Jyostna Kapur explores the evolution of the concept of childhood from its portrayal in the eighteenth century as a pure, innocent, and idyllic state-the opposite of adulthood-to its expression today as a mere variation of adulthood, complete with characteristics of sophistication, temptation, and corruption. Kapur argues that this change in definition is not a media effect, but rather a structural feature of a deeply consumer-driven society.

Providing a new and timely perspective on the current widespread alarm over the loss of childhood, Coining for Capital concludes that our present moment is in fact one of hope and despair. As children are fortunately shedding false definitions of proscribed innocence both in film and in life, they must now also learn to navigate a deeply inequitable, antagonistic, and consumer-driven society of which they are both a part and a target.


Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet
Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly
normal, thank you very much. They were the last
people you'd expect to be involved in anything
strange or mysterious, because they just didn't
hold with such nonsense

—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley's nice and normal suburban bourgeois life is shattered the day they find their nephew, Harry Potter, on their doorstep. The day itself starts off ominously. A large tawny owl flutters by their window while they eat breakfast. On his way to work, Mr. Dursley spots a cat reading a map and people in cloaks gathered in bunches whispering the name Potter. Harry, now only a baby, will eventually turn out to be more powerful than the Dursleys. He is a wizard who will soon discover his ability to live by magic, while his aunt and uncle will remain routine-bound [Muggles] who want their lives to go on unchanged. Here we have a tale that speaks of a fear (and a hope) that is at least as old as the notion of childhood, which historians tell us became solidified only in the eighteenth century—that our children will turn out to be strangers to us and live in a world distinctly different from ours. However, Harry Potter also turned out to be a brand name that spearheaded a marketing campaign that sold not only the series of books but also . . .

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