SAMPLE RESPONSE PAPERS
Below is a collection of strong (and exceptionally strong) response papers from students.All received high grades.They are good examples of insightful thinking and strong writing.I would especially encourage you to notice that most of them don’t have obvious organization; most of them let their ideas develop and wander.Many of the best responses are later in the list.I continue to add to this collection as I find new examples of strong writing.As always, I will look at drafts when I can.[Please Note: Responses here are single-spaced to be read quicker.]
The first example, however, is one I wrote as a sample for the first reading response.
Of all of the common assumptions that we discussed in class, I think one of the most common is the idea that a children’s text should in some way teach the reader something.We of course talked about the term didactic, and how a didactic book strongly pushes a lesson onto the reader, telling them that they should believe this or that.Many times a reason for that lesson isn’t even given, as though the young person reading the book should just accept that lesson because they are told to, because the other knows better.As I was reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, the book I selected for the assignment, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as didactic as most other children’s books, and that it would be as playful and exciting as I remember as a child.On the last two pages of the book, however, the absent mother returns home, the cat has disappeared, the children are behaving nicely, sitting in chairs, and it is pretty obvious that even though they got into mischief they are still good children after all.Nothing really has changed at the end of the book.Although all sorts of things got played with, and the children broke the rules I am sure they know about (like, “Don’t fly kites in the house”), major boundaries were never crossed.
We talked about how the opposite of a didactic book might be an ambiguous book, or a book that encourages the reader to think about issues, to make decisions for themselves.In that kind of book, the author usually wants to the reader to think for her or himself, to understand that some things are difficult, even for adults.The author may present a problem and ask you what you think, or might just never come around to saying exactly what you are supposed to believe.The last page of Cat in the Hat ends with the narrator saying, referring to the mother, “Should we tell her about it? / Now what SHOULD we do? / Well . . . / What would YOU do / If your mother asked you?” (61).In some ways, this is probably a pretty ambiguous ending.The author asks the reader that if your mother left, if someone wanted you to do what you weren’t supposed to, if you did it anyway, and if you didn’t get caught, then would you tell your mother or father what happened?Most adults wouldn’t tell what happened themselves, but the question is there anyway, and it seems to be really asking children what they believe.
But it doesn’t seem really that ambiguous.If the book were really ambiguous it would be breaking the Typical Case Prototype of children’s books, and in almost every other way the book keeps to those prototypes.As Nodelman describes it, children’s books are typically bright, colorful, funny, entertaining, and maybe sometimes rhyming.Children’s books portray children as the way adults typically think of them, as crazy kids who aren’t serious like adults, or innocent angels who would never really do any harm when they play.Dr. Suess portrays typical kids, bored by the rain, wanting to do something wild.Although Seuss’s style is strange, the children even look like the sort of standard white children that appear in most books, the girl in a dress and ribbon in her hair.We saw in class how these children are a lot like the standard one’s in Cassie’s history textbookAnd although strange things happen in the book – a talking cat, a couple of strange Things, a lot of things getting thrown around – it is the kind of play we come to expect in children’s lives, especially in the sorts of standard things shown on television and in movies.
In fact, the children never quite seem to trust the Cat, and they always just sort of watch him play.The children never really do anything that crazy themselves.The Fish, who sounds a lot like an adult, is always there to warn them, and in the end everything gets cleaned up.Of course the book is fun and playful, and is obviously one of the most famous and liked picture books ever made, but it is still pretty straightforward.Cat in the Hat reinforces and demonstrates almost all of the typical assumptions about childhood, and it fulfills all of the typical case prototypes of children’s books.Examining it made me think about how the book might have changed in recent years, especially since children are rarely bored when they are at home any more (with all of the stuff they own to play with).But more than that, it made me think about why we expect all children’s books to be like this, why it is always considered one of the best books for children.Although I like typical children’s books, it makes me also interested in books that don’t do what we expect.The book was written 1957, and in so many ways children’s books have become so incredibly different since then.But in a lot of other ways, some good, some bad, they haven’t changed at all.
STRONG EXAMPLES FROM STUDENTS
The book George and Martha (as well as all of the other books in the series), by James , is in most ways a typical case prototype.The reading level that is assigned to the book is for ages four through eight.Each book is divided into five stories, and the stories are about two hippopotamuses that are best friends and act like humans.Each of the stories starts with a title page that has bold yellow bubble letters.As the pages are turned the left hand page has the print for the story and the right hand page has the illustration for that portion of the story.This is very much typical case prototype—very consistent, very simple in both a visual and a reading sense.And each story is short in length endorsing the idea that children get bored easily.
All of the illustrations are simple—basically white backgrounds with bold black outlines and three or four colors used to emphasize certain parts of the images (namely grey, green, yellow, and red).The pictures tell the story of everything that is going on, which makes it more or less unnecessary for a child to be able to read in order to understand what is going on in the story.In fact, the pictures include almost no object in that is not directly involved in the story, meaning there is nothing used in the background of the pictures to fill the space.
The story is as simple as the illustrations using little or no complex language or difficult vocabulary.The story, however, is not told using rhyming endings or any kind of rhythm in the sentence structure, which is less typical case prototype, even though plenty of children’s literature does not utilize rhythm or rhyme.The story also includes only two characters (save the image of the dentist in the last story).There are no other characters introduced which also keeps the story simplified.
George and Martha supports many of the assumptions posed with typical case prototypes; in some cases the story even supports two opposing assumptions about children.The assumption that children like books about fantasy is supported in that the main characters are animals that have the characteristics of humans—they are hippopotamuses walking around on two feet, wearing clothes, and talking to each other.At the same time, the assumption is made that kids are so egocentric they only like literature to which they can personally relate.While the main characters are animals, everything else about the book is based very much in a reality they can understand.George and Martha live in a world like ours, where everyone lives in houses, cooks meals, takes baths and goes to the dentist.The issues brought up in the book are even those to which children could relate, such as: not liking split pea soup but having to eat it, losing something that is dear to you, irritating habits that friends have, or invasion of privacy.These are all concepts that a child can understand, and therefore it fits this typical case prototype as well.
The book is extremely didactic.Each story ends with the moral that is presented in it, and the morals are very plainly stated in no uncertain terms.There is no real room for coming up with one’s own ideas or opinions on how the presented situation should be dealt with, because the answer is given—the writer’s view of the issue at hand is almost shoved in the face of the reader.In some ways, a child who thinks beyond simply what the book is telling him/her, might look at what takes place and determine how he/she might have dealt with that situation, but so many people treat reading as such a passive activity that they simply would not occur to them to look any farther than what is directly presented.
Though the book seems so simple at first glance, it might also be argued that the book brings up more adult issues in the sense of right and wrong, such as in the story in which George is peeking through Martha’s window when she is in the bathtub.Now, on the surface this is an issue presented and treated in that it is wrong to invade one’s privacy, but looking at it more deeply might be suggesting peeping-toms and a much more sexual elements of invading privacy than is obvious at first, and that is certainly not a typical case prototype.Nor is the response that Martha has when she realizes that George is peeking in her window, which is to dump the bathtub on his head and yell at him; that could be construed as a violent reaction.The story of the mirror brings up the issue of vanity or even pride.George deals with Martha’s pride in her own appearance by pasting a funny picture on her mirror to trick her into not looking at it anymore.That is a scenario that may be funny to children, but it may also be looking at the more “adult world” of the seven deadly sins for instance—pointing out the negative tendencies of the human being.
Despite these deeper rooted possibilities of what the book may be trying to convey, in most cases it would be considered a typical case prototype.It is built around most of the assumptions made about kids and their views of literature and of the world.Only when looked at closely does this book show any evidence of underlying meaning or issues being presented, and those clues may be simply a complete coincidence.
Nodelman discusses the Typical Case Prototype portrayed in adult-written children’s books.Nodelman’s stereotypes include bright colors, fantasy, common childhood experiences, and simple linguistics.Richard Scarry’s picture book, THINGS TO KNOW demonstrates all of these qualities producing a didactic anecdote.
Color radiates from the pages of this short story.From the pink background on the front cover to the bright blue costume worn by an elephant on the title page, the book is filled with bright shades.The use of color culminates to the very last page, which exemplifies and identifies the colors used in the book (23).The book ambiguously teaches correct color schemes by ensuring each object is the color found in nature.For example, in the “Seasons” grass is green, the sky is blue, sand is brown, apples are red, pumpkins are orange, and snow is white; the author easily could have painted these objects in hues of imagination, however the writer chose to demonstrate these objects in their naturally expected forms, encouraging standard ideals of the world (14,16,18, 19).
While the color usage discourages imagination, Scarry’s use of fantasy promotes creative ideology.A personified animal or insect represents every character in the book.Animals play instruments, eat with spoons, count to ten, have hands, arms, and noses, rake leaves, watch TV, write, and eat cookies (5,6,8,12,11,17, 22,9).Scarry limits the readers’ imagination, allowing only classic fantasy.Richard Scarry personifies the characters to be similar to his readers.
Nodelman’s research suggests the ideal that children enjoy characters they can relate to.Scarry creates childlike characters based on their actions.Illustrating childlike behavior, a pig spills a glass of juice, a cat wears an inner tube to swim in ankle deep water, and a worm jumps in a pile of autumn leaves (8,16,17).The children are distinguished from the adults by size, position, and in some cases clothing.On page one, a giraffe sits on a stool wearing a suit and tie reading a book to a tiny, casually dressed mouse.Of course the mouse is the childlike character and the giraffe is the adult; the giraffe know how to read, is formally dressed, and is much taller than his counterpart. This example signifies the view of adults being superior to children and being responsible for the knowledge children gain.In the manners section a tall pig wearing a dress helps a short pig in red overalls put on a rain jacket, obviously this is the mother aiding her child (10).This suggests that children require parents to guide them even in simple tasks.
Finally, the language of the book signifies children’s short attention span and the idea of reading levels.The syntax is limited to include no more than eleven words, the longest sentence being, “We rake the falling leaves and pick apples in the autumn.” (17).The vocabulary of this book is simplistic, using predominately one or two syllable words to identify objects, directions, or sizes.The book contains only two four-syllable words; accordion and interrupting (5, 8).The language is simple for young readers and the identifying nature of the book is most likely targeted toward a preschool audience.
The book overtly teaches the things adults believe small children should learn; like distinguishing the four seasons and naming body parts (13-20, 11).The most obvious example of a moralistic or instructive agenda is the section titled “Manners”.Scarry devotes four pages to “Manners”, while most other topics have two pages.Scarry clearly encourages his ideas of etiquette when he writes, “Everyone should have good manners. Do you? I hope so.” (9).Other examples of the educational goals appear in sections labeled “Count to Ten”, “Opposites”, “Shapes and Sizes”, “Things We Can Do”, and “Colors” (12, 3, 1, 21, 23).The book didactically impresses children with adult view of essential knowledge and encourages the stereotypical natures Nodelman mentioned.
In the 2003 Universal Pictures version of “Peter Pan,” the children are depicted as strong, independent individuals with their own agency throughout a great portion of the film.However, there are numerous examples of interpellation, during which the children fight against and conform to the interpellation of family and society.In the following paragraphs, I will explain how “Peter Pan” is a movie with both interpellation and agency.Also, I will explain how the film is adult-centered in spite of the agency the child characters possess.
The movie “Peter Pan” begins with three children living in a nursery all together.One day, the children overhear the adults talking about Wendy, the oldest child in the nursery.They are saying that it is time for her to grow up and spend more time with adults.Wendy does not like the idea of growing up, and the children go on a magical adventure where children never grow up, where there are pirates, fairies, and countless adventures.However, soon Wendy realizes that she truly does wish to grow up and decides to return to her home with her parents.In the end, Wendy, her brothers, and the lost boys all end up home with parents.However, Peter Pan still refuses to give up his childhood fantasies and flies away forever.
The adult characters in “Peter Pan” are highly interpellated into their roles in society.For example, the mother and father are wealthy socialites who attend grand parties, wear grand clothing, and (attempt to) conduct themselves in a dignified, proper manner.At one point, the father is seen practicing his small talk because Aunt Millicent has told him that “wit is very fashionable at the moment.”They are very much concerned with what the neighbors will think of them and their proper place in society.Wendy’s adult family has been interpellated into their roles in society.However, the children are still concerned with fun, games, and adventures.The thought of growing up is not an appealing one for them at this point.It simply does not look like it is any fun.
In one scene, the entire family is gathered together in a family room.The children are telling stories and being generally silly.When Wendy begins to talk of her dreams of adventure, her Aunt Millicent puts a stop to it.After all, a young lady should not think of adventure, but marriage according to the interpellation in this film.During this scene, Wendy talks with her Aunt Millicent about her future plans.“My unfulfilled ambition is to write a great novel, in three parts, about my adventures,” Wendy says.Aunt Millicent replies, “What adventures?”“I’m going to have them,” Wendy says, “they’ll be perfectly thrilling.”Aunt Millicent clearly indicates what role she believes Wendy should possess in society with her reply, “But child, novelists are not highly thought of in good society, and there is nothing so difficult to marry as a novelist.”In this same scene, Aunt Millicent asks Wendy to walk toward her and turn around so that she might appraise her.Afterward, she declares Wendy as having possession of a “woman’s chin” and a “hidden kiss” on the corner of her mouth.She declares the kiss as the “greatest adventure of all” and states that it “belongs to” someone else.Aunt Millicent clearly thinks that Wendy will believe that possessing woman-like qualities will make her want to act more grown up and that possessing a hidden kiss that belongs to someone else will begin Wendy’s search for a respectable husband.Aunt Millicent is attempting to convince Wendy that her proper place in society will be an adventure if only she lives up to the expectations of her family.Aunt Millicent is attempting to interpellate Wendy into a certain role.She addresses the “problems” of Wendy’s need for adventure and desire to become a novelist, neither of which will do for a young lady in high society.
By watching the whole first half of the film, one might believe that Wendy has not been interpellated into the role her Aunt Millicent wishes for her.She is clearly against the idea of giving up her adventures to become a wife.Soon after, she meets a magical boy and runs away with him, along with her brothers to a world where children have their own agency.In Neverland, children live with no parents, do as they please, and fight their own battles.There are Indians, mermaids, and pirates.It is a great adventurous place for children to live when they do not wish to be interpellated into a role in society by their parents.
During one Neverland scene, Hook has captured Wendy’s brothers and taken them to the .There, the adult pirates treat the children as worthy adversaries.This indicates that the adult pirates believe that the children do, indeed, have their own agency.The pirates do not indicate for a moment that these are only children and easily defeated.Rather, they wait in ambush for Peter Pan and Wendy to attempt to rescue the boys.Wendy shows Peter that she is entirely capable of brandishing a sword against the pirates.Here, Wendy is displaying her own agency and letting him know that she will not need protection any more than the boys.Then, Peter tricks the pirates into releasing the other children.This shows that the children in the scene are much more cleaver than the adults.Afterward, a great fight scene ensues between the children and the pirates.The pirates sword fight with them as if they were adults.In fact, the children manage to defeat the pirates and escape unharmed, once again indicating that they have their own agency in that they are clever and able to take care of themselves.When there is a problem, they figure out a way to get out of it on their own.They do not rely on adults to solve their problems.
In spite of all of the agency the children display during the Neverland scenes, I would argue that this film is adult centered.After being in the Neverland for a while, Wendy realizes that she does not belong there and chooses to return to the safety of her family.Even the Lost Boys desperately want a parental figure in their lives, and they end up returning home with Wendy and her brothers to live with their parents.Wendy has been interpellated by her parents after all.She realizes that she wants her life that she left behind.The power that Wendy felt at the beginning of the film seemed repressive to her; however, it has become ideological.In other words, the ideological power that Wendy’s family has over her has worked.She now sees that her happiness lies in the role that her family has been trying to establish for her.Furthermore, Wendy’s brothers and the Lost Boys all realize that they want to have parents who will care for them and that growing up is not all that bad.In the end, all of the children have parents except one.And, all of the children seem happy except one – Peter Pan.
While it is odd to think of a film having both interpellation and agency, I am suggesting just that.However, I am also suggesting that there are two separate worlds in this film in which the two issues occur.Interpellation clearly occurs in the beginning of the film while the children are with their parents and Aunt Millicent.They are taught how life should be and who they should be when they grow up.The Neverland world is a place where children have agency.It is clear to the adults and children in Neverland that children are to be taken seriously and treated as equals.However, in the end, the children choose interpellation over agency and return to the nursery and their home with their parents.In this film, the children have been interpellated to believe that their role at home will be much more fulfilling and rewarding than the agency available to them by remaining children forever in Neverland.
In closing, Peter Pan is a complicated film that displays agency and interpellation.While it displays both, the film is adult centered, as the children end up interpellated into the roles their families wished for them.
Resisting Interpellation: Beauty and the Beast
As a little girl, I pretended I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I wanted desperately to find my prince charming. I danced around to the songs, and I would have loved a castle filled with enchanted creatures, or a library filled with books up to the ceiling. Years later, after watching the same story unfold, I can honestly say that Belle could be a role model for me in the way she lived her life. Her personality is one of strength, open-mindedness, and abundant love. Throughout her story, Belle is faced with opposition and obstacles that push her to define and think about who she is. Gaston and the rest of the townspeople try to push and mold Belle into the type of person that they feel is “normal.” The story of Beauty and the Beast is one of Belle defying the idea of what is normal, what is right, and what is supposed to be.
A major way of society interpellating a person is by shunning the marriage or union between people with huge differences. Society applauds when the normal path is taken, whether it is a marriage between a man and woman, or the relationship between two people of the same race. The main motif or theme of Beauty and the Beast, which occurs in many children’s stories, is that of two people of different species falling in love and overcoming their obstacles. Belle, a human, and the Beast, a human enslaved in a beast-like body, are blinded to reality by their love. They do not look at each other with eyes focused on appearances, but look through the skin into each other’s souls. In the garden playing with birds, the Beast and Belle come to realize that they care for each other, despite the hesitations that first accompanied their situation. The beast is surprised that “when we touched she didn't shudder at my paw,” and Belle is taken aback “ that he's no Prince Charming but there's something in him that I simply didn't see.” Though surprised, Belle resisted the temptation to fall in love and marry a human, thus not giving in to interpellation. This movie also expresses distaste for interpellation in the sense that it expresses the acceptance of things not of the norm. It basically says that you do not have to settle for the town football hero, just because you are the cheerleader. Instead, you can hold out, find a person with whom your souls connect, and live happily ever after. There is also a trace of the “if you truly love them, let them go, and if they love you too, they will come back” theme present in this movie. For example, when the Beast releases Belle as his prisoner, he gives her the freedom to truly love him. It is only through this relinquishing, that Belle can understand her true feelings.
A different way society tries to interpellate a person or a person’s life is by giving them a name. By naming a person, the parent is predetermining their child to answer and identify with that name. The name Belle translates to beautiful or beauty from the French language. Yet while Belle is beautiful, she does not let her name, or it’s meaning, get in the way of her personality. Traditionally, an interpellated “Belle” would be flirtatious, using her good looks to gain social standing. This type of behavior would be accepted in Belle’s community, as other seemingly beautiful women gush and moon over Gaston, throwing themselves at him in the hopes he will throw them a bone. though, almost seems unaware of her good looks. For example, while Belle walks through town, her head buried in a story, she is oblivious to all the commotion she is bringing about. One man even goes as far as to say, “Now it's no wonder that her name means 'beauty' Her looks have got no parallel!” As the story unfolds, she does not dress to impress anyone, and never gives the impression of caring what others think of her appearance. I believe the rose in Beauty and the Beast is a reminder of Belle’s inconsistence with the typical towns lady. The rose, while beautiful and seemingly fragile, has managed to live for ten years. While it is enchanted, the rose must still be protected, and is held in high regard. Belle, similarly, is beautiful and dainty, but strong. She earns respect through her decisions, and does not need to be taken care of. She is strong enough to find her father, strong enough to give her life for his, and strong enough to stand up to the Beast.
Belle also questions the interpellated messages she receives from the general public. The people of Belle’s town believe that, as a young lady, you should live up to specific social standards. Belle breaks these traditions in numerous ways. To begin, even as Belle walks through the “quiet village,” the townspeople talk about how she is so strange and unusual; how she does not quite fit the mold. They shake their heads and cannot understand why she is “Never part of any crowd.” She “doesn't quite fit in” with the ladies trying to find a husband, or with the ladies who sit around doing what it is the conventional ladies do. Instead, she is described as “Dazed and distracted” because she always has “her nose stuck in a book!” It is evident that Belle is resisting interpellation by continuing to read, and to read often. Instead of succumbing to the ideals and values of the townspeople who feel “It's not right for a woman to read--soon she starts getting ideas...and thinking,” she relishes her stories, and continues to be excited about new possibilities. She also does not try to hide the fact that she loves to read. She sat on a fountain, in the middle of the town, and sang about her love of books. People like Gaston, who try to force their ideas on society, feel that all a woman should be is a “little wife, massaging [her husband’s] feet, while the little ones play with the dogs.” When Belle flat out refuses Gaston’s attempts at wooing her, the other ladies of the town, who have fallen into the common way of thinking, say, “What's wrong with her?” Yet Belle knows that “There must be more than this provincial life!”
Indeed, there is a different way to live life, at least for Belle. Unlike many women, Belle is not one to be influenced by appearances, good or bad. She is not impressed with Gaston’s impressive looks or rippled muscles (because he is, after all, “Perfect, a pure paragon”). Instead of dreaming about being Gaston’s wife, Belle is more interested in enjoying life, taking care of her father, and being true to herself. She does not fall into the trap of liking the cool guy, just because everyone else does. She knows that Gaston is “handsome all right, and rude and conceited and” not for her. Another example of Belle’s passiveness towards appearance occurs with the Beast. While her first reaction to the Beast is terror, she does not actually fear him. If she feared him, she would not have spoken out to the Beast like she did. Not intimidated by his looks, she talks to him like the mean-spirited person he is. This showcases the amount of agency Belle has determined is rightfully hers. In many instances, she does not give in to the Beast’s demands, even though, technically, she is his prisoner. For instance, she does not give in to the Beast’s demand that she come to dinner, instead, she tells him, “I'm not hungry” and refuses to eat with him.
Some may feel that Belle is the typical young lady, looking to find her prince. After all, her favorite part of the book she reads by the fountain is when the girl meets her prince, but does not know it yet. I would argue that the books she finds so intriguing are an escape. While the particular storyline read by the fountain does predict the outcome of the movie, it also illustrates and shows how Belle is feeling. She feels trapped, like the only way she can escape her suffocating world is to read about others where there is adventure and romance. She may want the romance and the white knight on the horse, but she is not willing to compromise who she is inherently, for the gain of something she does not deem true and worthy. Belle turns to her books because, as she puts it, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell/ And for once it might be grand/ To have someone understand/ I want so much more than they've got planned.” So she is not dreaming of her prince, or a life as a princess. She wants to be a person, first and foremost, and have someone understand what she feels. Before meeting and falling in love with the beast, the only “people” who understand her, are the people in the books she reads, because they have the same desires as she.
Belle avoids the interpellation of her peers and society through staying true to herself, and, in the end, she gets her prince. She does not succumb to the prodding of Gaston, and even her father in the beginning, to marry and become a mainstream household wife. Instead, she uses her ability to love truly to find the man, or beast, with which she is meant to be. It is through this rebellion of society’s norm that Belle uses her agency in life to stand firm against interpellation.
“: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” is a true depiction of carnivalesqueimagery. The entire film is centered on a movie the children go see, called “Asses of Fire.”This movie causes great controversy between the children and parents, because its only purpose is to, make fun of bodily functions, and curse as much as possible.The children in “” love this movie, and even claim that it will make their lives “complete.” The idea of carnivalesque is that is mocks and humiliates what is supposed to be official, and customary by focusing on humorous and grotesque bodily functions.These children who praise a movie that is clearly derogatory, and gross degrades the ethical teachings they should be learning.The stereotype for children is that they should learn valuable, and critical lessons that will help them in life.“” greatly destroys these lessons, as the children perpetually get more offensive and silly as the mimic the actors in “Asses of Fire.”
The movie also demeans authority figures such as, the government, the president, teachers, principles, parents etc.One of the best examples of this idea of carnivalesque is when Cartman defies his authority figures.While sitting in class Mr. Garrison (the boy’s teacher) demands Cartman to answer a question.Unwilling to cooperate, Cartman instead curses at the teacher and is sent to the office.In the office, he again curses at the principle. Both authority figures are surprised by these acts of defiance; they do not know how to punish this behavior.Instead, Cartman is free to say and do what he pleases, to whomever. This scene depicts the role reversal of authority.It is Cartman who holds the power, and not the typical adult authority figure.Throughout the movie the adults struggle to gain power over their children’s tainted behavior.They are repeatedly unsuccessful.This is the essence of carnivalesque, as it uses absurdity and humor to undermine what is normally revered.
proves to be a progressive movie for a number of reasons.Although, it is seemingly playful, silly and gross, it explores new grounds by mocking norms for children’s movies.Much like a traditional Disney musical, “: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” begins with the character Stan singing a song.In this scene, Stan is walking down a snow-covered street as he sings about his “quiet mountain town.”Deer cross his path, and beautiful Pine trees line the road.As Stan approaches his town he is singing about how wonderful it is, and how people treat each other well.However, it is obvious, that the people are actually pushy, rude and hateful towards one another.By no means is this place the “quiet mountain town” Stan describes.In fact, by the end of the song the entire town joins in on the chorus and adds that they live in a “quiet little white trash redneck mountain town.”This is an ironic twist to how the film first began.In the beginning “” seems to be a normal children’s movie.It depicts the innocence of nature, and a song about love, happiness, and people getting along. As the song continues, it drastically changes from pleasant, to disturbing and silly. People are cursing one another, babies are being thrown through windows, and homeless men are drinking on the side of the road.These images mock and criticize the normal innocence in children’s film.Therefore, with its mocking nature “” challenges what we deem as a stereotypical normal children’s film and proves to be progressive.In addition, “” is progressive as it gives power to those that would not normally have it.Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny all have a great amount of power within this movie, as they defy their parents and curse at authority figures.
However, this movie also gives a great amount of power to a woman.Kyle’s mother consistently gains command as she speaks out against the two Canadian actors in “Asses of Fire” that have contaminated the children’s minds.In one seen Kyle’s mom pushes President Clinton out of the way of a camera interview and provides a speech on ending the actor’s lives to save the children. Her forceful behavior of pushing the President out of the way shows how “” truly defies the norm.In a normal situation the President would be seen as the highest authority, but here a mother from a “redneck town” is depicted as stronger. By giving power to both the children and the mother, “” is extremely progressive by challenging and defying the ideas of a stereotypical normal children’s movie.
Much like the “” movie, the TV series “Family Guy” also portrays carnivalesque imagery.One of the main characters in “Family Guy” is Stewie, a baby who has an adult British male’s accent.His hilarious, uncommon voice greatly shows carnivalesque.Unlike a normal baby, Stewie not only can speak his mind, but he also can do it articulately, like an adult.In fact, he is smarter, more talkative and wiser than the stupid immature dad, Peter, in the show.Specifically, the episode “Emission Impossible” shows how Stewie is more competent than his parents.Repeatedly, he disrupts his parents from making love in order to stop them from creating another baby. In one scene Stewie walks into his room, hits a button on the wall, which collapses and shows a hidden spaceship behind it.He uses the spaceship (which shrinks to a microscopic level) to go in Peter’s body and terminate all his sperm.Stewie succeeds and the parents never end up having a baby. Symbolically, the spaceship represents all the power Stewie has in his life. Such a complicated, high-tech machine for a baby to control signifies how he has the command to manipulate what he pleases. By inhibiting their chances of creating a baby, Stewie clearly portrays the carnivalesque idea of role reversal.It is not coincidental that Stewie’s strong character is that of a baby.“Family Guy” is using this role reversal of giving a baby power over it’s parents to, like “South Park”, mock what is supposed to be authoritative.Parents are normally the ones that direct the life of their baby.However, Stewie diminishes this norm, which is an apparent depiction of carnivalesque ideas.
“The Simpsons” is another great example of carnivalesque.In the episode “Tis the Fifteenth Season,” Homer realizes he is a selfish person and thereby declares he will become “the nicest guy in town.”However, already holds that title. In result, a battle breaks out between them, as they struggle to gain the title of the “nicest guy in town”.In one scene Homer becomes jealous when he hears has given everyone a Christmas gift.He therefore begins to plan on how he will buy everyone a car to exceed act of generosity.However, Lisa stops her dad and explains, “Dad you don’t have to out-do .Just remember the spirit of the season.”She then declares that Christmas is not about presents or competitions, but about family and love.Once again, the roles are being reversed.Lisa, a little girl, has to explain an extremely important concept to her father.Parents are usually the ones to teach these lessons to children; however, Lisa is the true “parent” in this scene.In addition, this episode depicts Homer to be as dumb as a cat or dog.All three (Homer, the cat and the dog) are wearing Christmas sweaters. As the dog and cat roll on the ground biting at theirs, so does Homer.Carnivalesque often portrays these types of role reversals, and undermining of authority.Stereotypically, the male adult figure is one that carries the most knowledge, power and authority.However, Homer truly acts like a child.He is selfish, silly and immature.Instead this intelligent and powerful status is given to a seven or either year old girl.Carnivalesque is depicted, as a complete opposite role reversal is apparent.Without Lisa’s insight and awareness, Homer would have succeeded in ruining the concepts of Christmas.
Both “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are progressive as well.The strong characters in these two shows are the children, Stewie and Lisa.These shows dramatically change what is normally viewed as traditional.Parents no longer teach their kids, rather the children teach them.In addition, the parents do not have the ability to direct their children’s lives; instead their children are directing their lives. Much like “,” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” depict families as if they are on the other side of the mirror.They are merely reversed.These thoughts encourage us, as the audience, to rethink what we consider as normal.In addition, like the “” movie, both of these shows counter and mock stereotypical children’s shows.Conservatively children’s shows are supposed to protect innocence, show adults as authority figures and teach what is typically right. “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” obviously bend these rules and are therefore extremely progressive.
“,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” are only a few of the shows that possess these ideas of carnivalesque and progressiveness.However, all three portray these concepts beautifully.From role reversal, to degrading authority, and to using humorous situations, voices, and bodily functions to mock the revered, these shows are carnivalesque.In addition, they break the stereotype that creates a conservative work.Instead they are progressive as they challenge us to rethink what should be, and uniquely see the ideas that contradict our norms.
The fairy tale Snow-white and Rose-red, by the Grimm brothers, is an excellent example of a conservative, adult-centered text.In this text, the agency is with the adults and the children are seen as nostalgic images of childhood.Snow-white and Rose-red prove that children are good and follow the direction of adult figures even when the adult may not be present.
The conservative nature of this text is overwhelming.The author is not challenging children to do anything; but rather teaching them that if they are obedient then they will be happy.For example, Snow-white and Rose-red are described in various ways throughout the story: “ . . . the sweetest and best children in the world, always diligent and always cheerful . . . they always walked about hand in hand whenever they went out together . . . they drew round the fire, while the mother put on her spectacles and read aloud from a big book and the two girls listened and sat and span . . . the tender-hearted children . . .”The children are described as wonderful and obedient children who help anyone in need.They are seen as a quaint family that never argues, listens to their mother read stories around a fire, and did traditional “girl” things like spinning.The ending shows that because of their good hearts they were rewarded: “Snow-white married him, and Rose-red his brother, and they divided the great treasure the dwarf had collected in his cave between them.The old mother lived for many years peacefully with her children . . .”This “fairy tale” ending shows that if you are a good child then good things will happen to you.The text does not wish for children to challenge the things that their mother tells them to do.The text reinforces a sense of good behavior and family closeness.
In this family, the mother is the one with the authority and all of the agency.The girls are attentive to the instructions of their mother and follow them with haste.There are several things that the girls did to help their mother around the house and around the woods: “Show-white sat at home with her mother and helped her in the household…[they] kept their mother’s cottage so beautifully clean and neat that it was a pleasure to go into it…the mother sent the children into the wood to collect fagots…the mother sent the two girls to the town to buy needles, thread, laces, and ribbons.”This shows their obedience because the children did what their mother told them without hesitation or argument.In an adult-centered text, children understand that adults know better than children so they must follow what adults say.Another example when the children listen to the knowledge from their mother is when the mother tells them, “‘Rose-red, open the door quickly; it must be some traveler seeking shelter.’ Rose-red hastened to unbar the door… ‘Snow-white and Rose-red, come out; the bear will do you no harm; he is a good, honest creature.’”The text ends with the mother being correct when the bear’s “skin suddenly fell off, and a beautiful man stood beside them, all dressed in gold.”By listening to the mother and her knowledge, the story had a happy ending.This shows the readers that children should listen to their mothers or other adult figures because, of course, they know more than a child.This adult-centered trait is highly visible throughout the text.
Yet another image of the children, in this adult-centered text, is when they follow the directions of their mother even when she is not there.The mother has engrained the children with the importance of being kind to everyone.They show kindness to the dwarf throughout the story even though he was not nice to them.Some of the rude comments that the dwarf makes about the girls are: “‘You stupid, inquisitive goose!’… ‘Crazy blockheads!’… ‘Curse these rude wretches, cutting off a piece of my splendid beard!’… ‘you toadstools’… ‘Couldn’t you have treated me more carefully?You have torn my thin little coat all to shreds, useless, awkward hussies that you are!’” The girls have saved his life three times and yet the dwarf can only be ungrateful and mean to them.This does not deter the girls from their kind-heartedness and helping anyone in need.“The girls were accustomed to his ingratitude, and went on their way and did their business in town.”This shows that, without their mother’s advice, the girls continued to rescue the dwarf and treat him with kindness.This is an excellent example of an adult-centered trait.
Snow-white and Rose-red are perfect symbols of the nostalgic childhood images who end up being rewarded for their good nature and kind hearts.The authors are showing that if a child is obedient and good then they will surely receive a reward in the end.There are many attributes of an adult-centered text that this story has which contributes to the conservative nature of the text. This text is extremely conservative and adult-centered in various ways.
“Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children,” begins Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s famous fairy tale, “Hansel and Grethel.”“Hansel and Grethel” is a magical tail about two children who cleverly outsmart their evil stepmother, and a wicked witch to stay alive.This fairytale encompasses some of the topics we have discussed in class.It not only is incredibly child centered, but it also is progressive.
“Hansel and Grethel” is extremely child centered. The Grimm brothers depicted both Hansel and Grethel as smart, capable people.After she told her plan of leaving the children off in the woods alone to the father, the wife maliciously stated, “They will not find their way home again, and we shall be rid of them.”Fortunately, Hansel and Grethel both heard this speech, and decided something must be done to outsmart her evil plot. As Hansel dropped pebble after pebble on the road to help them find their way home, the wife noticed that he consistently looked back at the house.“Hansel what art thou looking at there and staying behind for,” the wife demanded.He replied, “I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me.”“Fool, that is not thy little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimney,” explained the wife.Although Hansel’s answer is silly, the wife and father did not suspect his pebble trail.Therefore, his plan worked and he and his sister are able to find their way home after being left in the woods.By, having the ability to outsmart the adults, Hansel proved to have a great amount of agency.He not only had the courage to secretly plot against them, but also managed to trick them into believing he was just a childish boy fantasizing about his cat.His lie about the cat is significant because it shows that he understands adults have these assumptions that children are childlike in their thinking.He is able to use this stereotype about children against his parents, ultimately tricking them into thinking he is incapable of “adult like” complex thinking and planning.
Grethel also had her moment of greatness when she tricked the witch.Smartly, Grethel told the old witch she did not understand how to get in the oven.The witched replied haughtily, “Silly goose, the door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!”As the evil hag climbed into the oven, Grethel courageously shoved her inside and locked the door.Ultimately, the witch was engulfed in flames resulting in her ruin. Like Hansel, Grethel is depicted as a stronger, smarter character than the adults, especially the witch, within this fairytale.Since, child-centered texts always portray the children as the most powerful, capable, independent characters, it is fitting that “Hansel and Grethel” would fall under this category.Both children easily trick the adults.In addition, they have the power to find their way through the woods at the end of the story with no pebbles or bread to guide them.The two children truly have an enormous amount of agency as they not only can outsmart the adults, but also can manipulate nature to help them.As they came to a “great piece of water” on their journey home from the gingerbread house, they realized they had no means to cross it.However, Grethel noted, “a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help us over.”Indeed, the duck does help them, and they return home safely.It is as if Hansel and Grethel gain more confidence, and agency as they manipulate and conquer every obstacle crossing their path.
Another example of why this text is child-centered is how the adults are depicted.First, it is important to note that it is only the children who have names.All of the adults in this text are referred to as, the “father,” the “wife” and the “old witch.”This is a very child-centered quality, as it gives no individuality to the adults, thus exemplifying their lack of importance.In addition, the adults are all portrayed as selfish, weak, and evil.The wife was clearly selfish and evil, as she wanted to “be rid” of her children so she could have more food to eat.In complaint to his wife’s wishes the father replied, “How can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces!”Selfishly and uncaringly the wife cried, “O, thou fool! Then we must all four die of hunger, thou mayest as well plane the planks for our coffins.”She would rather her children be torn to pieces by “wild animals” than have to share her food, and sacrifice her own hunger.
Also, although, the father was undoubtedly seen as the “good” parent of the two, he was plainly a weak character.The father barely stood up for his children, and let his wife send them to their deaths. After agreeing to go along with her plan he sadly said, “But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same.”Not once, was the father threatened by his wife. He merely gave into her, even though it was clear that he loved his children dearly.This lack of confidence completely undermines the father’s authority as an adult.Although he is a good character, he has no power to stand up for what he believed and felt strongly for. In addition, describing the old woman with the candy covered house, the Grimm’s wrote, “she only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the house of bread in order to entice them there.” She, like the stepmother is evil. Therefore, it is apparent, that all three adults in this story are perceived as evil or weak, making this a truly child-centered text.
In addition to child-centered, “Hansel and Grethel” also is significantly progressive.In the beginning of the story, when the stepmother described her plan to leave the children, she stated, “They will not find their way home again.”The stepmother assumed that the children were naïve and incapable of taking care of themselves.She believed that they could never locate their way out of the woods because they were mere children, and would have no adult to guide them.However, they break these assumptions by finding their way through the forest not once, but twice. This is extremely progressive, because it challenges some of the stereotypical assumptions about childhood.Children are often thought of as very dependent on their parents and innocent; however, Hansel and Grethel clearly do not need their parents to find their way.They are also far from naïve.They are well aware of the stepmother’s wicked intentions.
In fact, the children not only found their way through the confusing woods and saved themselves from the horrid witch, but they also saved their father. The Grimm brothers wrote, “Grethel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them.”This shows how much agency the children had, as they saved themselves and then came home with enough diamonds and jewels to support their father as well. The story ends, “Then all the anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness.”This fairytale is truly progressive as gives the power over to the children. In a more conservative text the father would have been the savior; however, it is Hansel and Grethel who hold all the power and save the day.
“Hansel and Grethel” is an excellent example of a progressive, child-centered text. It challenges assumptions about children, and gives children a great amount of agency.Hansel and Grethel are depicted as capable strong characters, whereas the adults are seen as evil and weak.The children also reject the norms of childhood that suggest life for a child is simple and fun, as they understand their lives are complex, and they work hard to control the situations around them. In total, “Hansel and Grethel” challenges us as readers to truly see how powerful children can be.
8.(from Final Exam)
~Interpellation is the idea that we are “bred” to think, act and react in certain ways.
~We are interpellated from the day that we are born into specific roles that society has created for us
~Girls being portrayed in magazines playing with dolls and loving the color pink is an example of gender role interpellation
~Interpellation is subtle—the point of interpellation is for a person to feed into something without even realizing that they are doing so.
~ Interpellation is used in almost every aspect of our society, especially in the marketing of merchandise
~Interpellation can be found in many situations, but the most prominent example of interpellation that I always think of is the typical male and female roles that we are “assigned” from a very early age. There are certain things that are “normal”, if not expected of a boy, simply because he is a boy. By there same token, there are certain things that are expected of a girl to maintain her societal femininity. From a young age, we are lead to believe that boys are the dominant, more powerful sex. Females are portrayed as care takers and are often seen as being more compassionate and caring then males are. Men are expected to rougher and less sensitive. The men are expected to work hard to bring home money to support their families. Females are often portrayed as being more in touch with their emotions. None of these ideas applies to any one person any more so then do personality traits, but our society interpellates these ideas into our minds every minute of every day. The following passage is from my paper on the Goonies, in which I highlight some examples of the interpellation typical female and male roles in this movie.
“The interpellation of society’s view of typical female and male roles is very obvious in this movie. The boys seem to be portrayed in the usual ways, as being mischievous and thrill seeking, while the girls are shown as weak and scared. The oldest girl, Andy, seems more concerned with her crush throughout the movie then she does with finding the gold and taking an active role in the adventure. There is a point in the movie where Mikey tells Andy that she may want to hold his hand because it was dark up ahead and it may be dangerous. This is another example of the girls and the guys being put into common roles that society has created for them. As we have been told since we were young children through fairy tales and everyday life, men are supposed to take care of females and be there to protect them. Another example of interpellation is when Brent, Mikey’s older brother, makes a comment in the movie asking why he couldn’t have had a little sister instead of a little brother, as if to say that only a boy is daring enough to start the trouble that they are in.This statement reaffirms the idea of interpellation of typical male and female roles in this film.”
~ The following excerpts looks at an example of interpellation from the 1980’s classic, The Goonies:
“Something that is interesting in this movie is that the Goonies all seem to be misfits. There is a scene where the developer’s son drives past Mikey’s older brother, Brent. The developers son is driving a convertible and wearing his letter jacket and has two girls in his car, while Brent is wearing ratty old sweats and is riding his little brothers bike. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the rich kids are cool and popular, while the poor kids are unpopular and outcasts.”
“Mikey’s family seems to be having some emotional problems. Mikey’s older brother, Brent, always makes fun of their father and doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for him. This shows the idea that families who don’t have a lot of money are less stable and ultimately less happy.At the end of the movie, when the family realizes they have enough money to save their home, they come together and hug each other and really show affection towards each other for the first time in the movie. Again, interpellation is shown in that money and material things bring happiness. “
~We seem to idealize wealthy families in our society because we are under the warped impression that they are happier then ourselves because they have everything that they want. Children who are born into wealth and privilege are showcased in reality television and documentaries, further rubbing our noses in the fact that there are parents who can provide for their children in ways that you or I could never imagine (from a material standpoint). Our culture seems to go out of its way to display this quality, to make those who have more feel better about themselves and those who have less feel worse. We are interpellated be jealous of other peoples luck and fortune, when we should be thankful for the opportunities that we have instead of being angry about the opportunities that we don’t. I think this reoccurring theme is strong in the Goonies. As described in the excerpt Mikeys family is portrayed as poor and unhappy. Nothing seems to go right for them, mainly because of the fact that they don’t have any material wealth. The rich family holds the happiness of the poor family in its hands. The rich family has all of the agency while the poor family has none. Like in our society, the poor are at the mercy of the rich.
~We are interpellated to believe that the main centers of power and authority in our society, i.e. the government, our parents, the president, are inherently good and always right—they(the powers that be) do this to try and keep us in our place. They want to keep power in the hands of those who have always had it, and usually on of the only ways to do that is to interpellate society to believe that that is where the power and authority belong in the first place.
~Like the magazine add that you showed us that said “All girls love princesses, pink and parties” (or something to that effect), we are spoon feeding interpellated gender roles to our children. Certainly, all girls DON’T love princesses and all girls don’t love pink. In fact, I always hated princesses and pink for that matter. By saying “All girls”, marketing agencies are really embracing interpellated gender roles and using them to try and sell their product, which often works (unfortunately).
~I wrote about the role of interpellation in Jack and the Bean Stalk. Below are some detailed examples of interpellation that I found in this particular version of the story:
“Jack goes into town to sell Milky-White to try and get money for he and his mom. He is stopped along the way by a strange old man. The picture of the old man in this story is interesting because the old man is dressed rather uniquely. I think that this shows interpellation because it shows that strange people dress differently from normal people. The illustration provides the reader with a distinction between “strange” and “normal” based solely on appearance. It reaffirms the idea that one can determine who is normal and who isn’t, simply by looking at them.”
~I think that this is a common idea in our society. In the , we assert ourselves and are identity at first impression, based solely on our clothing. We have been interpellated to look critically on those who dress strange or different then ourselves and are often interpellated from a young age to be weary of those who “look” different from us. Like I said in the paper, distinctions between strange and normal are made all of the time based on clothing. If I were to dread lock my hair, someone might look at me and think I was perhaps dirty or unprofessional, when my goal is doing so was only to embrace a low maintenance lifestyle. We make assumptions like the previous constantly, based on appearance alone. First impressions, based almost entirely on looks, determine who we do and don’t interact with. We are interpellated to believe that we must dress certain ways for certain occasions. Different outfits are appropriate for different events and not knowing what is appropriate when can prove to be a very big problem in some people’s eyes.
~Below is another part of my Jack and the Bean Stalk paper which highlights an example of interpellation through male and female roles within the text:
“The depiction of typical male and female roles in this story are almost overwhelming. After Jack climbs the beanstalk, he finds the giants wife, who just returned from picking flowers. He asks her for something to eat and she says that she will make him something to eat, but that they must be fast because her husband gets home soon. The female giant is portrayed as the common “homemaker” type. She is patiently waiting for her husband to get home and is picking flowers to pass the time and she is the one who does all of the cooking for her husband. The wife also seems to be at the mercy of her husband. In the story she invites Jack inside but warns him that her husband likes to eat little boys. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the giant has the control over his wife and her opinion on the welfare of Jack is irrelevant to him. As soon as the giant gets home, he demands dinner and his wife, who has already had it prepared, brings it to him right away. Again, this is reaffirming typical male and female gender roles in that it is the female’s responsibility to wait on her husband. Another good example of interpellation is when the male giant says “wife, bring me my bags of gold, and I will count my money before I take a nap” (11). The female giant seems to act like a servant to her husband; throughout the story he demands things and she brings them for him right away. It is also interesting that the husband is only concerned with eating, sleeping and money, which is a very typical depiction of males.
~ We are interpellated through religion, politics and the school systems.
Kingdom Hearts as a Child-Centered Text
In the Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts, players are introduced to a young boy named Sora who is thrown into a struggle to save not one, but multiple worlds from a mysterious force known as the Heartless. Sora finds himself suddenly wielding a magical weapon called the Keyblade, which just happens to be the only thing that can fight the Heartless, and an artifact that Donald Duck and Goofy have been ordered by Mickey Mouse to find. Sora has a different mission- he is looking for his two best friends, Riku and Kairi, who disappeared when his world was destroyed by the Heartless. Together, Sora, Donald and Goofy venture to different worlds, meet many other Disney characters, and battle the Heartless in hopes of restoring balance to the worlds. However, their quest is much more complicated than saving the world from evil- the line between good and bad becomes blurred as the corrupting power of the Heartless affects Sora’s friends, and Sora himself must learn where his strength lies and decide whether or not to use it. At first, Kingdom Hearts appears to be a light fairy-tale about good fighting evil, but it soon becomes apparent that Sora and childlike characters like Donald and Goofy are dealing with issues not typically found in adult-centered texts, and more importantly, they are doing it without the aid of just, authoritative adults.
The adults in Kingdom Hearts are a far cry from the knowledgeable, caring, strong individuals typically found in adult-centered texts. The first major group of adults consists of the villains from various Disney movies who are working together with the Heartless to take over their worlds. This group includes such characters as Jafar, Captain Hook and Maleficent, all of which are most likely already infamous to the player for their deeds in their respective films. The game presents them as completely irredeemable- they are evil, corrupt, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it means dealing with the mysterious Heartless. Of course, one by one their plans backfire and they are either defeated by Sora or betrayed by the Heartless, which is a rather adult-centered way of dealing with bad adults. However, the second major group of adults makes up for this. These characters are the heroes that the villains originally battled- Aladdin, Tarzan and Jack Skellington, for example. While they are on Sora’s side, these characters are still far from all knowing and perfect, and can even act more like children than Sora does. Upon arriving in , for example, Sora, Donald and Goofy are shocked to see that Jack has recruited the Heartless in the annual Halloween festival. Fortunately, they soon learn that Jack doesn’t actually realize how dangerous they are- he just thinks they’re really scary-looking and would be a great addition to the celebration. In addition to these two groups of adults, Kingdom Hearts features adults that appear to be in positions of authority, but in reality have little or no power over children. In the world of The Little Mermaid, King Triton has lost much of his control over Ariel- the scene where he originally destroys all of her treasures becomes much less devastating in the game, where he only destroys an item that is later revealed to be useless anyway. In fact, Triton’s power as an authoritative figure is decreased so much that Ariel and Sora have to save him from Ursula. The game makes brief mention of Sora’s own family, but it is clear that like King Triton, they have very little control over Sora. His mother is heard once at the beginning of the game, where she calls him for dinner, but the same exact scene shows Sora sneaking out of the house through his bedroom window. After that, there is no mention at all of his parents- Sora doesn’t even appear to miss them. Mickey Mouse is the closest thing to a central authority figure the game has because he is the main reason why Donald and Goofy are exploring the worlds, and thus, the reason why Sora is brought along. He also knows much more about the invading Heartless and the Keyblade’s powers than anyone else. However, it is interesting to note that Mickey is more of a childlike character than an adult, due to his being an animal.
In addition to Mickey Mouse, Donald and Goofy are also very childlike. Donald still has a short temper and is very annoyed at the idea of the legendary Keyblade Master being a kid. He and Sora do not get along very well, but their arguments are small and childish, and they usually make amends shortly after. Goofy tries hard to be the mediator between the two, but he usually ends up doing what Donald tells him to avoid causing more trouble. Both characters display a large amount of agency late in the game when they are forced to make a difficult decision regarding being with Sora or following Mickey’s orders- Sora loses the Keyblade for a short time, during which Donald and Goofy leave him because they can’t let it out of their sight. However, Goofy soon realizes that Sora is too good a friend to just abandon and has a change of heart. Donald is a bit more stubborn, but sees Goofy’s point and rejoins them. Sora himself also has a huge amount of agency, possibly more than anyone else in the game. His agency is represented by the Keyblade, which is regarded as a symbol of great power in every world he visits. When he loses it, he can only get it back by realizing that its strength comes from his heart. Sora receives the Keyblade by resisting the Heartless when his world is destroyed- it recognizes that he is strong and good-hearted. When he learns of his destiny as the Keyblade Master, he embraces it rather than running from such a huge responsibility, if only because he hopes that it will lead him to his missing friends. One of Sora’s friends, Riku, also displays agency, but it comes at a price- instead of resisting the darkness that destroyed his and Sora’s world, Riku joins it and ends up being possessed by the leader of the Heartless. However, he realizes that he is being used to hurt his friends and fights back. In an attempt to atone for the things he did while working for the villains, Riku offers to help Sora seal off the Heartless, but this act will leave him trapped with the Heartless as a result. Sora is distressed at the thought of being separated again, but Riku insists, and his confidence in Sora allows them to seal away the Heartless.
Kingdom Hearts still has some elements common to adult-centered texts, one of which is the mostly conservative plot. Sora is trying to restore the norm instead of change it, and the forces trying to cause change and disrupt the balance are the Heartless and the Disney villains. Even so, bringing order back to the worlds is not Sora’s main concern- to him it is just a means of finding his friends and repairing his own world. Sora also learns lessons throughout the game by interacting with the various characters within the Disney worlds. These morals typically connect back to Sora’s search for his friends- for example, Hercules and other competitors in the Olympus Coliseum teach him that true strength comes from friendship, and Tarzan teaches Sora that his friends are always with him if he keeps their thoughts in his heart. The lessons are highly didactic and Sora ultimately accepts them, but at the end of the game, it is clear to the player that he is still given the choice of acknowledging them or not. Finally, there is the question of what the Heartless truly represent. There is no doubt that the Heartless are pure evil- they corrupt everything they touch and bring out the very worst in anyone who deals with them. By looking at the Heartless as an adult-centeric
There is a reason that a mother’s love, in its purest form, is visceral and even violent. This same reason explains the volatility of relationships with our mothers and why they often don’t make sense in logical terms. The reason is this: We are doomed by the nature of biological cycles to never be able to thank them enough for having facilitated our existence. For reasons I’ll explain, there exists a permanent deficit of appreciation toward our mothers.
Picture the moment you begin to grow in your mother’s womb. You have no speech to greet her although she’s probably talking to you already in whispers and in her thoughts. You are a kernel of futurity. You occupy her mind constantly, and many of her activities involve preparing for your arrival. She changes her diet, she reads about what’s best for you, she imagines what kind of person you’ll be. She watches the news and worries about bringing you here, to this death-drive civilization. People give her constant unsolicited advice and turn her into an alien yet holy allegory. You’ve changed her from a woman to a mother, which brings with it all kinds of unanticipated social consequences. She worries what you will do to her body. You are indifferent; you stretch it. Your presence changes the status of her relationship with her partner; something about you growing in between these two bodies alters the way they relate to one another.
Your arrival is marked by a tearing of flesh, something no one wants to think about. This physical pain will be an ellipsis in your mind when in your twenties you hastily scribble her a greeting card in the car outside her house on Mother’s Day. This is not what you think about when you respond with a couple of lines to her long, detailed, and grammatically meticulous emails. In the thoughts about your mother, you naturally omit the labor and blood of your own coming into being because you have no personal recollection of it and because it’s unpleasant to imagine. You cannot conceive of your conception nor of your birth. You cannot make the cognitive jump between the stretchmarks on her body and the very existence of your own. My own mother told me a joke once about a man who comes home to his pregnant wife sitting exhausted on the couch. He asks her, “What did you do today?” and she replies, “I made a lung.” This simple joke helped me realize an obvious fact that I’d never considered before: My mother grew me. Her body was the site and the circumstance of my being. Her bodily expenditures meant that I could live.
Were the resources she shared with me given or lent? The baby is in some sense a parasite that feeds off its host until it can live on its own. It can also be imagined as a plant or a pet or a project, a beautiful thing in which all energies and attentions are invested. This remarkable process of one person growing inside another like a matryoshka doll complicates our sovereignty as individuals. We know ourselves only as autonomous beings, but she knew us first as an extension of her own body. This smudging of the line between self and other must also contribute to the strange pulls and pushes of the mother-child relationship. A mother must wonder how something that sprang out of her own body could ever turn renegade.
So now you’ve made your entrance. You exist. But you cannot care for yourself. Your parents mobilize their energies and give you all the necessities for survival. For this reason, fatigue is a key feature of parenthood. As a miniature autocrat, your small will controls their world. You stink. You are cranky and needy, but they still bow to your authority. They would even kill on your behalf. Your mother’s body gives you food, warmth, and the sounds, smells, and textures of comfort. You still cannot say “thank you” yet. This continues for some time, but even when you finally acquire language, thanking your mother is probably not the first thing you do.
This first and constant postponement of gratitude is the principal cause of all motherly turbulence. To have a mother is to be in perpetual deficit of thanks toward her. This missing gratitude is a kind of high-interest loan that can never be paid back. She is asked by society to forgive this loan, to love you unconditionally because she chose to bring you here and because it’s her duty to give without taking. However, to be a mother is to be relentlessly, albeit often subconsciously, aware of this deficit and to try to balance the books over a lifetime in sometimes alarming and counterintuitive ways. Some mothers withhold their love; others triple or quintuple their love and attentions, if only to make the terms of repayment even more daunting. The belatedness and insufficiency of our gratitude could be one of the reasons that our interactions with her differ so greatly from our interactions with our father. Good fathers certainly sacrifice something of themselves in our early years, but their initial biological contribution to our existence was the most fun part of bringing baby into the world. They forego the nausea and epidurals.
Mother love tends toward maximalism and excess, with peaks and troughs and unpredictable, fearsome swerves.
Love is no accounting sheet, but somehow economic language (deficit, loan, repayment, interest, expenditure, investment) seems particularly well suited for describing the terms of our sentimental encounter with others. While what I’ve proposed here may sound like an economy of guilt, it is rather the plain recognition of a fact: We can never catch up in giving thanks, which shouldn’t produce feelings of guilt but rather a surrender to the permanent discrepancy that will separate us from our moms.
I am not a mother, but I have verified the truth of this assessment in every mother I’ve ever known, particularly those with children in their teens and older. Mother love tends toward maximalism and excess, with peaks and troughs and unpredictable, fearsome swerves. There are undoubtedly calm and even-keeled mothers around, but the default mother mode seems to be one of unruly fluctuation. What can account for this? The laziest way to deal with the phenomenon is to simply call them crazy, a statement that is commonly and casually blanketed on all women. This term has been called into question in recent years, and rightly so. Someone’s use of the label “crazy” has more to do with that person’s incapacity to understand the one they judge than with an actual psychosis. It is also irresponsible to attribute motherly tempestuousness solely to hormones in flux. Hormones undoubtedly play a role in the moods of the mother, but the deficit of thanks I’ve described could better explain the high degree of maternal intensity and volatility.
With awe, I watch my friends and colleagues who are mothers trudge through their daily lives with composure and terrifying competence. They do far more than is necessary in their professional and motherly lives. They take on tasks that no one else will, they aim beyond perfection, and they look great while doing it. They will be denounced as martyrs, visibly suffering and self-sacrificing so that others will have to notice their exertions and consent to sanctify them. One colleague in particular impresses me every day with her collegial spirit and her level of commitment to her teaching, research, and university service. I watch her with her son and see that she loves this boy with fury. She glides from faculty meeting to soccer practice to seminar to violin lesson with a kind of ethereal grace, all the while looking like a Greek goddess. How can we make sense of such a woman? How could years of gratitude from her colleagues, friends, partner, and child ever be enough? She is beyond our thanks.
Everyone’s mother is different and I suspect some examples of your own mother’s zeal have come to mind by now. My mom’s takes form as unrestrained giving. If you mention in passing that you like chocolate-covered cherries, you will receive several boxes of chocolate-covered cherries from her for every occasion for the rest of your days. As another example, she gave me a printer’s tray for my birthday, which I planned to fill with little souvenirs from places I visit in the future. I won’t have the chance: A month later, I got a box in the mail full of dozens of little trinkets she’d found somewhere. In one fell swoop, she filled my entire printer’s tray herself. She invents new family traditions every time I see her. She talks more and faster than anyone I know and laughs hysterically at things no one else finds funny. She is a talented florist and she insists on making the casket piece for any member of the family who should, unfortunately, require one. You look at these jaw-dropping masterpieces she’s spent hours creating by herself in the middle of the night, despite her mourning, and you know she has infused them with her soul. She works herself to exhaustion at family holidays so that everyone else can have a nice time even if the extra work puts her in a foul mood. She would die for her children without hesitation.
This essay is a roundabout way of thanking my own mother and acknowledging that I know any thanks I give her will always be belated and insufficient. I’ve noticed in recent years that the slightest gesture of gratitude on my part toward my mom is welcomed with an understandable insatiability. In my younger years, I mostly saw what displeased me in her and what didn’t correspond to my own values. However, over the past few years, all of her beautiful quirks, talents, sufferings, and sacrifices have become suddenly obvious, glaringly so. We will always be behind in thanking our own mothers. But thank them anyway, excessively, and thank every mother you know. While the deficit will never dwindle, we can join them as partners in excess.
Christy Wampole‘s essay collection, The Other Serious,is forthcoming from Harper, in July, 2015.