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Are cartoons made for children?

April 21, 2010

For many parents, cartoons have become a trusted television element for their children to enjoy without the concern attached to other television genres. Parents have entrusted Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and The Disney Channel with their children’s spare time, and many parents have turned these channels into the babysitter on many occasions. The cartoons displayed on these channels are considered children’s cartoons, but the emergence of a genre of adult cartoons has slowly infiltrated television and has captivated audiences. These cartoons are not meant for children, but their presence and popularity among television audiences has influenced the content of current children cartoons.

The cartoon “Family Guy”, which airs on TBS is one of the most popular adult cartoons currently out. Its content deals with subjects such as sex, drugs, and even violence, but while pushing the envelope it has still abided by the FCC guidelines. Following the road paved by cartoons such as “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy” has maintained a healthy audience of all audiences. The adult topic matter can be viewed in clips such as these.

The clip shows “Stewie”, the child of the family, beating “Brian”, the family dog, for owing him money. The scene slowly gets violent, and demonstrates the extreme violence used to induce laughter from an audience. This genre of adult cartoon is so popular that Cartoon Network has devoted an entire lineup of programming meant for adults. The channel, which is primarily viewed by a children audience, switches instantly to adult programming without much of a warning. The children being entertained previously while watching Cartoon Network could possibly be exposed to graphic and violent content the next, without the parents even noticing. Mature content is not only being seen in the genre of adult cartoons but also in children cartoons such as “Spongebob Square Pants”.

The show “Spongebob Square Pants” is made for a children’s audience, but has recently been used in other genres such as commercial advertisements for Burger King. During a promotional series for Burger King the cartoon character SpongeBob Square Pants is seen rapping to the song “Baby Got back” by Sir mix-a-lot. Though the words have been changed to the song, the song is popular enough for many audiences to make a connection between the content of the actual lyrics to the cartoon character. The actual lyrics are describing the female attributes of women who are well endowed in the area of the buttocks. Below is a video of the commercial.

The song describes Spongebob Square Pants as having a buttocks with phone book implants. This description leaves a child wondering, what are implants? A topic which may or may not be appropriate for a child depending on the age, but because Spongebob Square Pants is being used a hook to reel in both adult and children audiences, the child suffers as a result.  The video was removed shortly after it appeared on network television, but my question lies on why the creators of the video found it appropriate to link this cartoon character with such an adult song. The falsely assumed likeability of the commercial lie possibly with the rising increase of adult cartoons, and the inability to create a barrier between adult and children cartoons.


Necessary Violence

April 21, 2010

The media has a hold on the opinions and actions of society, but the society also plays a role in what media is broadcasted to the masses. Through the years, we have seen the media become open to more liberal forms of entertainment and increasingly relaxed when it comes to the broadcasting or exposing violence, sex, and foul language through images and video. Though there has been a noticeable change in the boundaries set by the FCC in terms of what is aired, many Americans would like to maintain conservative programming for the under 18 demographic. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry “Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness”, and this has been the common thought process when creating television geared towards our children and adolescents. But can violence be used in television to evoke not a negative reaction but positive actions from a group of adolescents? That is the question pushed into my head after viewing a Public Service Announcement geared toward adolescents airing in Europe.

The video is graphic, realistic, and extremely violent. The message behind the video, to stop texting while driving, is understandably needed considering the rise in car collisions in recent years as text messaging has become more accepted. Though the message needs to be brought to the attention of the masses, was this graphic and very mature video appropriately targeted towards adolescents with the content of the material. The video does not merely show a car crash, but it details the traumatic events breaking bones, losing friends and family, and immediate recovery. As an adult I was taken aback, shut my eyes on parts, and squirmed throughout the PSA. So I can only imagine the reaction of a person younger than me, but I also will not be texting and driving anymore. Other PSA’s about this topic have been used here in the States, for example

This video appeals to the masses by evoking sympathy, and the use of a child attracts more appeal also. The video is not overtly graphic, but does show images of a car crash. It also speaks about the trauma associated with a car accident as a result of texting and driving. Both of these videos have effectively illuminated a societal issue, but one is extremely more graphic and violent. Is one more effective than the other? I cannot make that decision, but as an individual I am moved to stop texting and driving after watching the first video. Maybe it is time to use violence as a tool for positive change in society.

The changing face of advertising?

April 21, 2010

Race and the evaluation of racism has been brought to a new forefront with the election of our first United States President of African American heritage. This discussion on race and racism within America has been chronicled on CNN’s Black in America series and Latino in America. The discussion on whether the treatment of races within the United States is fair and just in the distribution of resources and opportunities is not debatable because history supplies the evidence to evaluate this question. The new question for evaluation is whether as a nation we have overcome many of the racial stereotypes which have contributed to the oppression of various races within the United States. If this question is assessed through the examination of how advertisements have altered their characterization of race and ethnicities the answer would be no.

Race is a social construct created to justify the overtaking and oppression of various ethnicities throughout history, and as a country a climate of racism has plagued our generations due in part by the perpetuation of stereotypes through the media. Radio, Literature, and television can all be referenced as outlets to at one time confirm the not true stereotypes associated with different races. For example, the early stereotypes of African American dealt primarily with the notion of African Americans being savage people whom are not clean, smart, or trustworthy based solely on the color of their skin. This ad produced for Fairy Soap illustrates racism through advertisements. The caption at the bottom of the ad says “Why doesn’t your mamma wash you with Fairy Soap”. The African American child is dirty and poor through the depiction, and apparently if she uses Fair Soap like the White child she will no longer be of a lower social status. The picture also breaks down one of the oldest and most detrimental philosophies within America, that White is right.

Currently in the 21st century we have come very far as a nation to avoid racism such as this in advertisements. Unfortunately this statement is easily debated through the referencing just a few current advertisements for both Sony and Intel. Though many can conclude these ads are not meant to be racist but by accident can be misconstrued only allows me to make the claim that possibly, as a people, racism is innately programmed as to come to light even when it is not our intention. Looking at the Sony billboard we view a savagely depicted African American woman being chastised by a white woman.The caption reads, “White is coming”. Does this mean black will be taken over, oppressed, and pushed aside? Possibly. Though the race may not be “racist”, the ad is culturally insensitive to the history of our country. Very similar is this Intel advertisement.

We have a white man standing offer hunched down black men. The caption reads, “Multiply computing performance and maximize the power of your employees”. The word employee seems in this case to be comparable to the word slave, just a thought.

History has a way of creating a memory archive which subconsciously develops the way we think and perceive the world around us. Possibly the memory archive of members of oppressed races makes them ultra sensitive to current advertisement which is not actually racist in connotation, or maybe the ads are just racist.