Images of the Child
Harry Eiss University of Wisconsin Press, 1994 Library of Congress HQ784.M3I48 1994
This collection of articles on images of the child offers an excellent range of perspectives on an equally wide range of concerns, including advertising, girls' book series, rap music, realistic fiction, games, dolls, violence, and movies. Taken together as a book, this collection confirms the complexity of the world of childhood, and demonstrates how strongly images of the child reflect the entire culture.
To sort out who's who and what's what in the enchanting, vexing world of Barbies® and Ninja Turtles®, Tinkertoys® and teddy bears, is to begin to see what's become of childhood in America. It is this changing world, and what it unveils about our values, that Gary Cross explores in Kids' Stuff, a revealing look into the meaning of American toys through this century.
Early in the 1900s toys reflected parents' ideas about children and their futures. Erector sets introduced boys to a realm of business and technology, while baby dolls anticipated motherhood and building blocks honed the fine motor skills of the youngest children. Kids' Stuff chronicles the transformation that occurred as the interests and intentions of parents, children, and the toy industry gradually diverged--starting in the 1930s when toymakers, marketing playthings inspired by popular favorites like Shirley Temple and Buck Rogers, began to appeal directly to the young. TV advertising, blockbuster films like Star Wars®, and Saturday morning cartoons exploited their youthful audience in new and audacious ways. Meanwhile, powerful social and economic forces were transforming the nature of play in American society. Cross offers a richly textured account of a culture in which erector sets and baby dolls are no longer alone in preparing children for the future, and in which the toys that now crowd the racks are as perplexing for parents as they are beguiling for little boys and girls. Whether we want our children to be high achievers in a competitive world or playful and free from the worries of adult life, the toy store confronts us with many choices.
What does the endless array of action figures and fashion dolls mean? Are children--or parents--the dupes of the film, television, and toy industries, with their latest fads and fantasies? What does this say about our time, and what does it bode for our future? Tapping a vein of rich cultural history, Kids' Stuff exposes the serious business behind a century of playthings.
Jeffrey Hammond’s Little Big World: Collecting Louis Marx and the American Fifties is the story of a middle-aged man’s sudden compulsion to collect the toys of his childhood: specifically themed playsets produced by the Louis Marx Toy Company. Hammond never made a conscious decision to become a collector of any kind, so he was surprised when his occasional visits to web sites turned into hours spent gazing at, and then impulsively purchasing, the tiny plastic people and animals in the Civil War set, the Fort Apache set, Roy Rogers Ranch, and Happi-Time Farm—just a few of the dozens of playsets the Marx Company produced.
Hammond interweaves childhood memories with reflections on what they reveal about the culture and values of cold war America, offering an extended meditation on toys as powerful catalysts for the imagination of both children and adults. Never sentimentalizing his childhood in an effort to get his old toys back, Hammond exposes the dangers of nostalgia by casting an unsettling light on the culture of the fifties and the era’s lasting impact on those who grew up in it.
Writing in a lovably quirky voice, Hammond not only attempts to understand his personal connection to the Marx toys but also examines the psychology of his fellow eBay denizens. In this warm, funny, and contemplative work, the reader encounters an online community of serious adult collectors who, as the author suspects, are driven to obsession by middle-aged nostalgia. When Hammond questions this preoccupation with the past, he comes to realize that his own collecting has prevented him from moving forward. With this insight, he offers an insider’s take on the culture and psychology of collecting.
Since the advent of the American toy industry, children’s cultural products have attempted to teach and sell ideas of American identity. By examining cultural products geared towards teaching children American history, Playing With History highlights the changes and constancies in depictions of the American story and ideals of citizenship over the last one hundred years. This book examines political and ideological messages sold to children throughout the twentieth century, tracing the messages conveyed by racist toy banks, early governmental interventions meant to protect the toy industry, influences and pressures surrounding Cold War stories of the western frontier, the fractures visible in the American story at a mid-century history themed amusement park. The study culminates in a look at the successes and limitations of the American Girl Company empire.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs work collaboratively to connect education and research at the institutional, national, and global levels. But what role do women play in STEM? In this very timely book, Carol Colatrella responds to the under-representation of women in STEM by considering how gender inflects literary and media representations. In her analysis of fictional and cinematic texts that reference STEM, she investigates cultural tensions concerning sex roles—tensions that continue to be influential in today’s world.
Toys and Tools in Pinkanalyzes female character types that recur in fictional narratives in print, on television, and in the cinema: female criminals and detectives, mothers who practice medicine, and “babe scientists,” among others. It also investigates how narrative settings and plots both subsume and influence cultural stereotypes of gender in prescribing salient professional and personal codes of conduct in the STEM fields.
Literary and historical case studies in Toys and Tools in Pinkexamine issues of women’s abilities in, access to, and management of science and technology. These issues appear in debates among university faculty, politicians, and public policy analysts concerned about women’s participation in STEM fields. Current analyses of diverse fictions and films demonstrate a continuing interest in women’s place in science and technology and also create new, evolving understandings of femininity and masculinity that revise earlier stereotypes.