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PART I: Watch two episodes* of a current cartoon show featuring at least some human or “humanoid” (therefore, no Spongebob but a show like Arthur is okay) characters and then analyze one. Note: Be sure this is a current program aimed at children 12 and under. Neither The Simpsons nor Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programs, for example, are aimed at children. Please submit your analysis via Blackboard. (* Many half-hour children’s TV programs have two separate fifteen-minute segments with separate storylines. This would count as two episodes.)
1. CONTENT: (Please note channel or streaming service and time and day of viewing) a. Briefly summarize what happened during this episode (if your show had two episodes, summarize only one). What was the “plot”? Define the show’s regular plot structure. How close the show’s regular “formula” is this episode? Who are the main characters? Who does what to whom? How does it all come out? (200 words)
b. Content Analysis: count the number of acts of violence in this episode. Is anyone killed on the show? Is there “verbal violence”? Does this program teach any form of constructive engagement? Or does it only teach conflict and violence? Could it give a child an idea that certain types of people are victims and certain types of people are allowed to victimize? What do you think the significance of your data is? (150 words)
c. Quality and Quantity of representation are each worth analyzing. How stereotyped are the characters? Specifically, describe how the show handles class, race, ethnicity, and national stereotypes. What would Omi (“In Living Color” handout) say about this show’s ethnic representation (be sure to show you know the author’s key concepts and can apply them here)? What would Lemish (GR book, p. 403) think about the messages this show sends to other cultures around the world? Note: Pay attention to who’s missing as well as who’s present when considering representation and what early stereotyping is being taught to kids. What “stages of representation” do you see for different groups (if relevant)? (200 words)
d. Gender roles: Discuss how the show handles gender roles. Are women respected? Are the males? What would the creators of the “Consuming Kids” video say about the gender roles being taught here? What would Kilbourne (of the video “Killing Us Softly 4”) find praiseworthy or objectionable in this show? What would Lemish say about this program’s gender representation (GR book, p. 364)? (125 words)
e. If this episode portrays adults, are they competent, reliable, trustworthy, caring? What does this show tell kids about grownups? Do the kids in this show respect adults? Do the adults like the kids? If the adults are somehow unstable, could you read this show as a kids’ “empowerment fantasy,” or do you still see it as a sign of unhealthy neglect? Remember, if there are no adults in the show, you must still comment on the meaning of their absence. Finally, how well represented are older people in this program, if at all? (100 words)
f. How good is the show aesthetically—the animation or camerawork, the soundtrack? Graphically, would you say this show is “great,” “okay,” or “poor”? Explain briefly. (100 words)
g. Do you think the major appeal of this show is the characters and story or something else (the animation, the action, the noise, the graphics)? (150 words)
h. Dual Age Appeal: Some cartoons try to simultaneously appeal to adults (through the level of humor/dialogue/other content) and kids (via the quality of animation, wild slapstick action, toys, etc.). Does this show do that? If so, are the show’s more adult aspects appropriate for kids? Is this show part of the media’s “KGOY” attitude toward kids (kids getting older younger) as outlined by the Consuming Kids video or does this show let kids be kids? How do you feel about the “KGOY” marketing philosophy? (150 words)
2. MARKETING/PRODUCT TIE-IN ISSUES
a. Is the program essentially a commercial for some product? That is, can you go to a toy store and buy products related to this show’s main characters (search on-line for this)? Does it bother you when the shows are linked to specific products? (125 words)
3. CRITICAL REACTIONS a. Referring to the assigned readings, what might Winn (The Plug-In Drug) say about this show? Levin/Carlsson-Paige (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” handout)? Gerbner (of the video The Killing Screens)? Or Lemish (“The Future of Childhood,” on p. 423 in the big Gender, Race, Class in Media book)? (Write 100 words each on two of these critics.)
b. Critic Mary Ann Watson argues that television has “socialized the national personality” in some very negative ways in terms of manners, language, respect for others, and both social and sexual relationships. What might she say about this show? And what do you think of her overall critique of TV as one cause of a “decline in American standards of comportment”? (200 words minimum—note: take this quote at face value—there is no reading you need to know here.)
c. What is the content Rating of the Show (TV-Y, TV-Y7, etc; this should appear in the upper corner of the screen as the program starts)? Does the show’s rating seem to match its content? Why or why not? Does the content of the show’s ads also seem to correspond with its rating? Why or why not? (100 words)
d. A lot of kids watch programs that are not rated as acceptable for their age group. Would you let a five-year old watch this show? At what age would your child need to be before you would say “yes” to this show? Even if the show isn’t particularly bad for your child, would there be any good reason for this child to watch it? Would you let a child whose age matches the show’s rating watch this show? Why or why not? Explain in about 100 words.
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