April 19, 2007

Ideal Viewers of Children's Cartoons

Term Project -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Kids today are born into a media-saturated environment, so they're starting young with screen time"

Iser’s theory of the implied (ideal) reader “is a transcendental model which makes it possible for the structured effects of literary texts to be described” (Keesey 147). He goes on to claim that the “concept of the implies (ideal) reader offers a means of describing the process whereby textual structures are transmuted through ideational activities into personal experiences. So if we were to try and create an implied (ideal) viewer for children’s television where would one start. I imagine that the personal experiences would not come from the viewers themselves. There would not be enough prior knowledge for the viewer to try and understand in order to comprehend the material playing out before them. Instead, this idea would come from the creators of the shows. They would be this idea of an implied (ideal) viewer. They would have to use their own experiences to create the viewer themselves. This would be completely subconscious. There are times in all programming where the material seems to go over the heads of the child and fall into the lap of the adult. Through their use of intertextuality the material may seem beyond the intended viewer; though this may be a way to open the viewers mind to new topics. If the implied(ideal) viewer is infact the subconscious of the creators then of course there is going to that moment where the material may seem a bit mature, or too much for the actual audience, but that is just the reflection of the implied(ideal) viewer.

This idea of an ideal viewer would be proposed from the standpoint of the creatures of the programming. This leads us to a more mature adult standpoint, not the innocent point of view of a child. Which leads to the question then, is the ideal viewer really the ideal viewer for children’s programming. (We) state no. Look at the popular children’s shows of today - Blues clues: a grown man who talks to tables, salt and pepper and a dog. He is trying to figure out the clues by following the directions of the audience(children) but does a poor job of doing so, since it takes 2-3 times for him to finally understand what the children is saying.

Children cartoon creators are very well aware of the fact that adults and children are going to be watching their programs. They have a very hard job because they somehow have to keep both the parents and the children entertained. There is no doubt cartoons like, Tom and Jerry are targeted to young children, but they also included adult references that would go over a child’s head.

“So the various kinds of reader-response critics find much to argue about. But they agree on one main point: since the “poem” exists only when the reader (however defined) encounters the text, literary criticism must focus on that encounter” (Keesey 138). Since we are not reading literature, but rather watching it we will make the claim that: Children cartoon creators have the intention to keep both the child and the parent entertained. Should cartoon creators be held responsible for everything that they include in their episode? Are they teaching your children or are you? Children could only get so much out of what they are watching because they do not have the awareness that they need to make everything become understandable. Sometimes, parents and adults seem to get that confused because they are not looking at the cartoon through a child’s eyes. It is important to note that we can not protect our children from everything and we should prepare them for the future and alert them of some problems that they may become faced with during their childhood.

For example, in August 2006, Turner Broadcasting announced that they were reviewing thousands of old Hanna-Barbara cartoons, which include The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, the Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo, to delete any scene that glamorized smoking. We note that in, Tom and Jerry, smoking usually appears in a stylized manner and is frequently not condoned” (Riedemann). This seems a bit extreme because they are trying to erase history. Children need to also understand that people learn from their mistakes. Can companies like Turner Broadcasting censor out every violent act as they plan on doing to the scenes filled with smoking? We have to have a limit and realize that we can not protect our children from everything! If a cartoon has a sexual reference or a derogatory statement that they can not understand – maybe the cartoon creators put it in for the parents, so you do not get bored. “When watching Tom and Jerry, expect to be entertained. Dating from an era of active media censorship, the series is clever, daring, and filled with unlimited subliminal messages -- grown-up viewers will definitely enjoy looking back and finally grasping all the references they missed as kids” (Sheppard)

Examples of Today’s Cartoons:

Dora and Diego are young children left alone in the forest by themselves. They can not even figure out how to follow directions by looking at a map in front of them. These shows do have some positive aspects to them, but there overall structure should be a little alarming to the parents of the children who watch them. The fact that both the shows rely on the help of the audience can be both positive and negative. Positive in they allow the child viewing the program to feel apart of the show but negative because it doesn’t allow for wrong responses. It just assumes the child is responding correctly. There is no explanation as to why the answers are right or wrong.

Then looking at the Wonder Pets you get a show about animals that go out to help other(s) animals. The show stresses the importance of team work, cooper5ation, and problem solving. They do not rely on outside sources (the viewer) to help them, but they do explain why the make the decisions they make. The big difference between the 2 shows mentioned first and the 2 shows we mentioned last are the way the shows deliver their message. The first 2 don’t explain enough and they take their audience for granted. That is one of the problems with children’s shows period. The creators don’t take the audience into account enough. They assume too little or too much of the audience. Where the second 2 shows don’t take too much for granted, they open the door for further discussion between the audience (children) and their parents. These shows take their audience seriously enough to project smart entertaining material.

When you switch to shows like the Backyardagins and the Wonder Pets you get a more functional child program. You have 5 children who live next door, who go on grand explorations all over the world/galaxy/and time periods. But they do it through their own imagination; they never leave the protection of the families. They learn how to share and how to construct ideas with the help of one another. They do not allow the fact they some of their yards are fenced in to stop them from playing with one another. They do not talk to imaginary objects, or rely on the audience to pull them out of trouble. They tackle the task at hand. This show also opens the door to discuss new ideas with your child, Shakespeare.

Link to Myspace Page:


Posted by GinaBurgese at April 19, 2007 1:23 PM | TrackBack

Gina I just loved youir presentation, the job you did was wonderful. I loved the webpage you created and the material was very thought provoking. Great work I loved it.

Seriously, great job partner, I really want to tell you thank you for the work you put in. Thanks.

Posted by: Mitchell Steele at April 20, 2007 10:41 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?