Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alex Presents: Commando

While reading the Langer article on the global reach of Western consumer culture, I was reminded of this video that was produced by African relief NGO Mama Hope. The video shows a nine year-old Tanzanian boy named Alex narrating the plot of Commando, one of the more vacuous of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1980s action films.

The clip is hilarious, and Mama Hope is trying to make a point about showing the positive side of African society and culture. It also clearly shows the reach of American popular culture. But I think it challenges some of Langer's conclusions about globalized culture as this wholly disruptive and damaging force, and children as its helpless victims. Despite what I'm sure is a pretty dire socio-economic situation, Alex doesn't look very culturally oppressed to me, anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Buckingham's "The Material Child"

©2011 Polity Press/David Buckingham
Via one of your classmates, Lisa, heads up on an article that appeared in yesterday's Globe and Mail on...coincidentally....David Buckingham and his new book, The Material Child: Growing Up in Consumer Culture. Notice that the article frames his argument in terms of kids not being as "corrupted" by marketing as anti-consumerism advocacy groups claim, and yet Buckingham himself espouses a very middle ground approach (typical for him and his work, as discussed in class this week). For example:
I’d say that there are some areas where you can say kids really genuinely are savvy. I think there’s a lot of research that suggests kids understand how TV advertising works from a fairly young age. But the world of marketing to kids has changed quite significantly. A lot more electronic forms of marketing are much more invisible, much more pervasive. You could say there are areas there where kids don’t know what’s going on but I’m not sure adults do either.
So true - when it comes to viral marketing, data-mining and experiential/emergent forms of cross-promotion, much of which happens below the line and behind the scenes, very few people of any age really understand what's going on. Add to this some of the ways in which transmedia intertextuality and user appropriations are mobilized in increasingly sophisticated ways (again, as discussed in class this week), and it's quite a murky territory filled with difficult questions. Looking forward to picking up a copy of Buckingham's new book and seeing how he's dealt with some of these challenges.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Extra Materials of Potential Interest

Here are some of the additional materials we've discussed over the past two weeks:

Via Fiona, re: critiques of Bettelheim:
1. Zipes, J.(2002). On the use and abuse of folk and fairy tales with children. Bruno Bettleheims' moralistic magic wand. In J. Zipes Breaking the Magic Spell. Most of the chapter is available on Google Books: here.

2. Dundes, A. (1991). Bruno Bettleheim's uses of enchantment and abuses of scholarship. The Journal of American Folklore. 104(411), 74-83. Available (if accessing from UofT or otherwise logged into the library/JSTOR) here.
I'll add the Dundes article to Blackboard in just a minute.

As for the Harry Potter fans vs. branding/corporate IP owners documentary I mentioned this afternoon, here's a link to the movie's official site: We Are Wizards: The Movie. The film itself is available to view online for free on Snag Films, but only in the US ;)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fairy Tale Adaptations: Fables

©2006 Bill Willingham and DC Comics
Last week, we talked briefly about the new influx of fairy tale themed TV shows, specifically Grimm and Once Upon a Time. We'll talk more about this today, no doubt, as well as some of the recent films, videogames and various other media that have engaged in the continual reinvention, reiteration and reinterpretation of the fairy tale over the years (particularly in recent years). One example that I really like is Bill Willingham's amazing Fables comic/graphic novel series, a gritty, funny, and sometimes twisted imagining of what would happen if all the characters from fairy tales and fables were exiled in modern day Manhattan. The series is not only extremely well written and illustrated, but engages quite deeply (and reflexively) with fairy tale conventions. You can read the first volume for free at the DC Comics website, and/or download it in PDF form here.