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.




Chris McGee

ENGL 380-01

Response 1


            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 textbook  And 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.     







            The book George and Martha (as well as all of the other books in the series), by James Marshall, 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 Black Castle.  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. Bell 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.



South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” is a true depiction of carnivalesque imagery. 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 “South Park” 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.  South Park” 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.

            South Park 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, “South Park: 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 “South Park” 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 “South Park” challenges what we deem as a stereotypical normal children’s film and proves to be progressive.  In addition, “South Park” 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 “South Park” 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, “South Park” is extremely progressive by challenging and defying the ideas of a stereotypical normal children’s movie.

            Much like the “South Park” 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, Flanders 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 Flanders has given everyone a Christmas gift.  He therefore begins to plan on how he will buy everyone a car to exceed Flanders act of generosity.  However, Lisa stops her dad and explains, “Dad you don’t have to out-do Flanders.  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 “South Park,” “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 “South Park” 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.

            South Park,” “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 United States, 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 Halloween Town, 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 theme, this could be a way of enforcing a common assumption about childhood- that they symbolize “adult” issues that children should not have to deal with. They could also represent the antithesis of an adult in an adult-centered text- they are called “heartless” because they are not capable of being caring, just, or anything that an adult is supposed to be. Then again, the Heartless could also represent a more child-centered view- that children have the ability to resist evil. Sora wields the Keyblade, which is the only weapon that can truly stop the Heartless, and he gains it by resisting the darkness. Meanwhile, Riku, who is a few years older than Sora and therefore less childlike, willingly joins the Heartless. Also, the adults who indulge in the evil perpetrated by the Heartless end up being defeated, or worse, completely swallowed by the darkness. However, the game makes it clear that it is not childlike innocence that allows Sora, Donald and Goofy to effectively fight the Heartless- as a child-centered theme, the Heartless represent a false sense of maturity and power that can only be overcome by a strong sense of right and wrong, friendship, and courageousness, which the trio have gained by working together. Riku also realizes this after being used by the Heartless, and therefore he also gains the ability to fight them.

            While Kingdom Hearts features didactic lessons and a conservative storyline, the focus of the game lies with the childlike characters. Sora has only enlisted himself in the fight against the Heartless because he hopes it will lead him to his friends. The Disney characters he meets throughout his journey act more childlike than he does, and even Mickey Mouse, the central authority figure of the game, is childlike. While there are some adult-centric ideas present in Kingdom Hearts, the game is mostly a child-centered text because the children and childlike characters act with a great amount of agency and deal with things that are typically not associated with common assumptions about childhood, while adult figures are either powerless, bad, or flawed and complicated themselves.



Assumptions of Children’s Literature as Seen in Tumble Tower

            Anne Tyler’s first children’s book, Tumble Tower, fits several classic assumptions about children’s literature while it breaks down others.  The simple story relates an incident of a flood that enables Princess Molly the Messy, a member of a tidy and neat royal family, to rescue her them through her messiness, and ultimately shows the value of her individuality.  With its bright, quirky pictures by Mitra Modarressi, the story’s look and length fit the typical case prototype of a children’s book easily. However, examining Tumble Tower using Perry Nodelman’s findings on typical expectations of children’s literature reveals that the story bucks several norms. 

            The main area where Tyler strays from classic patterns involves the message of the story.  Molly’s messiness ends up being a comfort to her fastidiously clean family when a flood forces them up to her “Tumble Tower” (Tyler 15), seeking a dry refuge.  By the end of tale, Molly’s room is neither condemned nor cleaned; Molly is also never directly praised for her messiness, but the other family members loosen up their own neatness standards by the book’s close.  Nodelman’s compilation of classic expectations for children’s literature reveals that most people feel stories “should teach valuable lessons about life” (Nodelman 73), yet Tyler’s message of messiness is hardly valued in our culture. 

Through Tyler’s text and Modarressi’s artwork, Molly is presented as an able individual because of her untidy ways, a huge difference between herself and the other family members.  In fact, Tyler even suggests that messiness may not only come in handy, but it could also be a means of rescue.  Tyler’s portrayal of messiness hardly establishes an example of generally “acceptable behavior” (Nodelman 73), and instead, shows negative behavior “that…children might choose to imitate” (Nodelman 73).  Clearly Nodelman’s research argues that most people associate positive values and behaviors with children’s literature. Unkempt behavior is certainly not an upheld value in our society, thus Tyler shows a turning-away from the format of a typically didactic child’s book. 

            However, parts of the story do embody typical ideas about children’s literature (though sometimes with a twist).  One such twist relates to the belief that “children are innocent by nature, blissfully naïve and inherently good” (Nodelman 73).  In Tumble Tower, Molly’s parents and brother refer to her messy behavior in a way that shows their personal disapproval of it, but they never ask her to make a change or clean her room.  Thus, Molly never disobeys her parents because a specific request, which she could obey, is never present.  Furthermore, as the book progresses, each manifestation of Molly’s clutter finds glorification in the eyes of friends and her family.  Molly’s playmate considers the jumble a treasure-trove of riches.  Her old, outgrown clothes on the floor warm her little brother, her dirty dishes and leftovers feed her hungry parents and the books in bed are at arm’s reach for story time (14, 21-24).  In essence, Tyler portrays Molly as innocent and kindhearted, sharing her space and using all she has for good, even though her disorderly ways would typically be naughty behavior.  Tyler spins a web of opposites, showing innocence in a slovenly room.

            Tyler’s story also fits the mold of a typical children’s book when she plots a tale that “children […] can relate to: [a story] about typical childhood experiences” (Nodelman 72).  Clearly, a messy room relates almost universally to all children who might enjoy a tale about this quality.  However, Tyler treats messiness much differently than many parents would by showing its benefits, not its repulsiveness.  Also, Nodelman supposes that most adults think of  children [as] egocentric…and they aren’t interested in matters outside their own immediate experience” (73), a thought which Tyler follows, too.  Most children posses messiness seemingly inherently and would revel in a book about their way of life.  On the other hand, some children are especially clean and neat and may relate to Molly’s brother or parents, neat-nicks by nature.  Tyler provides a character to identify with, no matter who the young reader is. 

            Tumble Tower represents an interesting blend of standard formats and counter-culture messages.  Though the story is didactic, its message teaches the individuality of personality in children.  By the book’s close, the parents and uptight brother learn from Molly’s example and laid-back attitude, a quality of a child-centered text, used to show Molly’s agency.  The book is simple, and it seems to fit a typical-case prototype’s mold at first glance.  However, though the point Tyler communicates is hidden amidst silliness, the plotline ultimately retains its own individuality in the realm of children’s literature and sets the story apart from common assumptions about children’s literature.     



A Closer Look into “Mary Poppins


            The classic Disney movie “Mary Poppins” is a wonderful story of how a stereotypical, upper class family in London has their world turned upside down by their new nanny.  Even though the movie is one of the most popular Disney films it shows some underlying examples of interpellation.  There are also some issues of agency that display the intricate way that Mary Poppins changes the degree of agency in the household.

            When watching the film and trying to figure out who has agency over whom it seemed difficult because of the fact that there are several characters that are involved.  When the film begins everything seems to be typical when it comes to agency.  Mr. Banks is the man of the house and tells everyone what to do and everyone in return obeys him.  The first song Mr. Banks sings is about how proud he was of how orderly his life was.  He felt that it was his duty to give commands and do everything in the exact order that they were supposed to be done in a stereotypical sense.  It seemed that all was in order and that order was given by Mr. Banks alone.  The minute that Mary Poppins comes into their door the agency is taken away from Mr. Banks immediately.  Even though he has no idea that he no longer has power because of the fact that Mary Poppins is wise enough to know that if she lets him think that he tells her what to do and that he comes up with all of the ideas then he will never know.  This does create a slight fight for power between Mr. Banks and Mary Poppins because Mary always has to stay one step ahead of Mr. Banks and he is always a very close step behind her.  When the dynamics of the household become so happy and seemingly perfect Mr. Banks is angry because he can almost feel himself losing his power which is what causes him to become so bossy.  When things involve Jane and Michael they are not directly given any agency but seems to be able to take some of the agency away in certain circumstances.  Anytime they seemed to disobey an adult it was either a misunderstanding or they were quickly turned around.  The only obvious time that agency was displayed by the children was when Michael was at the bank and he was adamant that his money go to feeding the birds instead of in the bank.  When Mary, Bert and the children jumped into the picture they were able to go out on their own for awhile without supervision but that would be the person with the agency allowing them to have a little leeway.  Mary gave them chances to be their own judge but she was always there to pull them back and take over when things were out of hand.  She allowed agency to be taken when there was a lesson to be taught in letting them go.  After Mary has accomplished what she came to do, which would be to show the family how to be a family and how to have fun and take the time they have and cherish it, she allowed the agency to be taken back by Mr. Banks.  It was very interesting to see how manipulative Mary could be when dealing with people and getting her way; it was apparent that she was an expert at stealing agency from others. 

            This film drips with interpellation even though it is not always obvious.  The first example that comes up is the fact that Mr. Banks has the final say in everything and that is played out as if it should be that way.  I found it ironic that the spunk Mrs. Banks had when Mr. Banks was not around was astounding but that changed as soon as he enters the picture.  She is introduced in the film as a women’s rights activist and how she protests all the time and is incredibly active in things that could easily get her arrested; when Mr. Banks is home she is extremely submissive.  For example when she is leaving the house to go to a protest Mr. Banks runs into her at the door and tells her to sit down and start taking notes and immediately she then replies “yes dear” with a smile and obeys.  Though there may be some sarcasm meant by the writers of the film it still says to society that it is okay to have your own opinions as a women but when it comes to her husband she better be obedient and believe what he says.  Mrs. Banks opinions are totally contradictory to things that Mr. Banks says but when she talks to him she agrees with everything he says.  Something else that was interesting is that Mary Poppins is continuously viewed as being “practically perfect in every way” which makes people believe that she is the ideal women.  Her description is rosy cheeks, never cross or cheery disposition, she is thin, and this is what most would consider very ladylike as well; this all points to what women are continuously told to be.  When Mary, Bert and the children are in the painting and they get on Merry-go-round horses Mary rode the lavender one with a smug ladylike look on its face, Jane rode the pink one with long eyelashes, Michael rode the blue one with slit eyes and Bert rode the orange one.  Even though this was a small detail of the movie it still displays what girls and boys should be like and what colors they should wear.  When the children went to the bank with their father the whole trip was centered on Michael, even though Jane went along he was the one that was supposed to invest his money and see what his dad does.  The thought of Jane investing her money in the bank was never even thought of or even the idea that she had any money.  Men are supposed to take care of all the money and be the ones that earn it and that is what the whole bank trip reinforced.  Michael always seems to be the one taking the action, in the end when they go fly a kite Michael is the one flying it with his father and Jane and Mrs. Banks are in the background watching.  And when the children run from the bank and Bert grabs Jane she is the one that’s helpless and Michael is trying to get him off.  The film interpellates us to think that the men are supposed to be the ones acting on their feelings and saving people and even thinking.  The only dominant role that a women plays in the film are the cook, maid and nanny; Mary Poppins is a controversial character because of her ability to do as she pleases even around men but she still plays right into the stereotype that the male should be in the dominant seat. The film does seem to have a hint of sarcasm about the role of the women as stated earlier but in the end it seems to be just a bit of humor that does not disprove the interpellation. 

            In the end everything is “as is should be” says Mary Poppins as she leaves.  Apparently “as it should be” means that the father is back in a domineering role although he is a bit more relaxed and the mother is still beneath him.  Things seem to all fall into the stereotypical place that society likes for them to be in both in terms of agency and interpellation.  It seems as if in this case interpellation coincides with agency which seems to put the happy ending to the movie.



In Disney and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, there are many characters that attempt to gain agency by resisting interpellation—in both its ideological and repressive forms.  The movie is about a colony of ants that spends most of its time gathering grain for the grasshoppers, who intimidate and frighten them into doing it.  It leaves the ants little time to gather food for themselves before the rainy season begins, but it is a part of their culture, and so they continue to repeat the tradition year after year.  In the beginning of the movie, the ants are preparing their yearly offering when it is ruined by Flik, an ant in the colony.  The grasshoppers are very angry and demand that they gather twice the amount of food before the last leaf falls.  Flik decides to travel to the “city” to find “warrior” bugs to help fight off the grasshoppers.  He finds what he thinks are warrior bugs, but are actually circus bugs, who in turn think that Flik is a talent scout.  They travel back with him to the colony, impress everyone, and then discover their real purpose for being there.  They end up staying however, and the ants come up with a plan to keep away the grasshoppers—they make a bird to scare them.  They all work together, but in the end their plan is foiled.  Flik, however, stands up for the colony, the grasshoppers are scared away, and the head grasshopper, Hopper, gets eaten by a bird.  In the end the ants no longer have to gather food for the grasshoppers—only themselves. 

The first character I wanted to talk about that demonstrates resistance of interpellation is Flik.  Flik is like the black sheep of the ants, but only because he’s trying to help out but ends up making things worse.  The main problem is that through trying to make things better for the colony, he brings in new ideas that the colony is not willing to accept.  They are so stuck in their old ways/traditions, that anything new seems threatening or bad.  For example, at the beginning of the movie, Flik comes up with an invention that will cut down grain stalks, so that it’s easier to gather the grain, instead of having to crawl up the stalk and get each grain piece by piece.  The problem is, the invention isn’t perfect at first and almost injures Princess Atta.  One of Atta’s advisors gets angry with Flik and says to him, “. . . You wanna help us build this thing, then get rid of that machine, get back in line, and pick grain like everyone else!”  The advisor is essentially telling Flik that he needs to fit in with the rest of the colony—be interpellated—in order to help the colony.  He is almost repressively interpellated, in that the other ants try to force him to act like everyone else.  Another advisor (a bit older than the first) even says, “We’ve harvested the same way since I was a pupae.”  This provides the viewer with the information that almost every ant but Flik is dedicated to preserving their culture and traditions—everyone else is ideologically interpellated—they all want to work hard just like they feel they are supposed to.  An example of this is while the ants are in line to deposit their grains onto the pile; a leaf falls on the path of the line, and the ant it falls in front of freaks out.  All of the other ants know so firmly what is expected of them that when anything different is expected, they can’t handle it—they are interpellated to do exactly as every other ant does.  When that is impossible, they flip out. 

Flik resists interpellation, which also provides him with agency.  There are several examples of this throughout the movie, one of which is the way that he stands up to Hopper.  In the beginning of the movie, he tells Hopper to leave Dot (Princess Atta’s sister) alone, and then at the end of the movie he gets beaten up by Hopper because he admits that the making of the bird was his idea.  He tells Hopper that ants aren’t meant to serve grasshoppers and are a lot stronger because they are so numerous.  In this way, Flik gains agency because he acts on behalf of himself and admits that he resisted interpellation purposefully.

Another example of Flik gaining agency is when he left the colony.  He thinks that he’s leaving of his own will, but in actuality the princess and her counsel were going to probably kick him out, due to his resistance of interpellation.  The colony did not like that someone tried to be different than what was expected of them, and were willing to punish Flik because of it—another example of how their interpellation is repressive.  Flik, however, decides to go off on his own to try (again) to help his colony.  He acts as a free agent in that sense—it was his idea to leave, although he did have to get permission.

Another resister of interpellation is the ladybug.  The ladybug is actually a male, but is constantly being hit on by males and assumed to be den mother to the Blueberries (Dot’s scout group).  He usually gets pretty angry when this happens, and tries to inform the other bugs that he is a male and being a ladybug does not necessarily make him a lady.  In the end, however, he becomes more feminine, due to his affiliation with the Blueberries.  In contrast is Heimlich, the caterpillar who desperately wants to fit in with his species by growing wings and becoming a butterfly.  He mentions this several times during the movie, and finally at the end we see him fall out of his cocoon with teeny wings on his back, which, because he is so fat, can’t help him to fly.  However, he is incredibly happy because as a caterpillar, he wanted so badly to go through the same transformation that other caterpillars go through—due to ideological interpellation.  In this way, Heimlich is a foil for the ladybug—they represent opposing desires and goals.

Additionally, Dot is a marked contrast to her sister, Atta.  Dot is younger and likes Flik because he is different, while Atta is older and more worrisome, and she doesn’t like Flik because he makes her look bad.  As leader of the colony, everything is Atta’s responsibility, including things that go wrong (Hopper informs her of this).  Dot is very rebellious and attempts to gain agency in a few ways, the first of which is trying to use her wings to fly before they were fully grown.  She knows that she’s not supposed to, but she tries anyways because she is a free-spirit.  However, her desire to fly could also be attributed to interpellation—she wants to be able to do what everyone else is able to.  But Dot also demonstrates agency by leading the Blueberries into hiding from the grasshoppers when they come to collect their grain at the end of the season.  She goes on her own to find Flik to bring him back and help the rest of the colony—and this time she is able to fly.  Her ability to fly and the complete growth of her wings can be interpreted as a symbol of her independence and power.  When she finds Flik, she gives him a rock (to represent a seed) to remind him of what he told her in the beginning of the movie: she may be just a small seed, but she will one day grow into a big, strong tree and be able to do anything.  So Dot, the little girl, teaches Flik, the young man, a lesson, which helps her to gain agency. 

In contrast is Princess Atta, who tries throughout the movie to follow successfully in her mother’s footsteps.  Atta is ideologically interpellated to believe that she must be infallible in order to govern the colony.  She seems very rule-oriented and unable to function unless she knows what it is she is expected to do.  She seems to be unable to simply observe a situation and come up with an answer—she has to know what was done in the past, what her mother did, etc.  In this way, Princess Atta is deeply interpellated; she can’t even think outside of what is expected of her.  However, by the end of the movie, Atta gains agency, in that she is crowned as Queen by her mother, who apparently decides that she is ready.  Atta also resists interpellation—she saves Flik by grabbing him and flying off with him.  He tells her to fly away from the ant hill while it is raining (which is very dangerous for the ants), and she responds that the ant hill is the other way.  It would be in her nature to return to the ant hill in a time of danger, but she resists and listens to Flik, who leads her and Hopper (who is following them) to a bird’s nest, and the bird eats Hopper. 

Some of the characters in the movie resisted interpellation in a healthy way, and some were interpellated in a healthy way, but some were also interpellated in an unhealthy way.  Heimlich’s following was healthy because it made him very happy to become a butterfly; Dot, Atta, and Flik were all happier after representing their individualism and gaining agency; and the colony were interpellated to such an extent that they could not function if anything changed.  In the end, however, everyone recognized that change was good, because everyone started using Flik’s invention and relaxing a bit more—they had no more grasshoppers to gather for, only themselves, and they had plenty of time, as Flik’s invention sped up the process.



Meta-textual sources call attention to themselves as a created thing by being self-referential, breaking the fourth wall or defamiliarizing their audience.  This causes the source, whether it is television, movies or books to recognize itself as what it is, and for the audience to also realize that they are indeed only an audience and are not actually a part of what they are witnessing.  Meta-textual sources do not offer the experience in which one gets lost in what they are watching or reading, instead it causes the audience to do the opposite and remember exactly what it is that they are doing.  This paper will reflect some of these meta-textual ideas by giving examples of ways these ideas can be portrayed.

            When watching Full House as a kid I felt as if I was right there on stage with DJ, Stephanie and Michelle.  I loved the close nit family that they shared and when watching it nearly every night on television after school, I began to feel a part of it as well.  Those girls were my sisters and the experiences they went through seemed to always be exactly what I was feeling as well.  Sitting in the middle of my living room floor I would be completely engrossed in what was happening on TV that I would not even remember where I actually was.  The final episode was tragic because it seemed like my family was leaving me forever; however, that alone was not enough but the editor of the series probably made the biggest mistake it ever could.  Once the episode was over, without any commercial interruptions, the cast lined up across the kitchen floor and took a bow and I heard the roar of an audience.  The camera paneled up, through the fourth wall of the set and showed me what I never knew had existed, because there, giving a standing ovation, were tons of fans of the show watching as the cast took their final bow.  Not once in any episode had I ever wondered why I had never seen that fourth wall of the kitchen, bedroom, living room or garage, instead it seemed like I was actually there in the midst of it all with the fourth wall behind me.  Finding out that Full House was actually a television show and that Michelle, Stephanie and DJ were all actors and were not related to each other or me in any way completely broke my heart, and I still have not forgotten that feeling to this day.  Breaking the fourth wall completely ruins the feeling of getting lost in the episode, and takes away all closeness the audience ever shared with the cast.

            In the movie Monty-Python and the Holy Grail, the cast chooses to act without the use of many props, or the ones that you would typically expect, and also the plot and scene location is oddly chosen; yet, the movie gives off the appearance that all of this is taking place during medieval times.  The main character is acting as if he is the King, and goes throughout the countryside, not on horseback but followed by his sidekick with clinking coconuts, claiming that he needs to find the Holy Grail.  Watching throughout the entire movie the audience is thinking that they have been taken back in time, until the very end when cop cars pull up to the actors, get out and start arresting them.  The director closes the scene and all of the extra characters in the background take a knee and rest while the cops are asking what is going on.  The main character claims that they are just filming a movie, however the cops still shut down their attempts anyway.  This is a prime example of a movie being self-referential because it dedicated an entire scene to show the audience that they are not back in medieval times, but are actually in the rural countryside of modern day Europe. 

            The first scary movie that I ever saw was Scream when I was about eleven years old.  I had never been more terrified in my life, and the first time I saw little through cracked fingers over my face.  But as I continued to watch it, literally over ten times, and as the sequels came out they became my favorite and always promised a good scare.  Then during the first few years of high school, stupid comedies began to be the biggest blockbuster hits and with these came the release of Scary Movie.  At first it did not seem appealing to me, but eventually I was dragged by one of my friends and this comedy brought about an entire new meaning to my favorite scary movie series.  Seeing that goofy looking scream mask with the tongue sticking out, and watching the horrible acting of a girl running from the killer completely defamiliarized me to the movies that I loved most.  After seeing this new series of “scary movies” I got together with a group of friends to actually watch the real Scream series, and we could barely make it through the first half of the first movie before we were laughing our heads off.  I wish I had never seen those movies because then I would still be able to sit down and watch them and get a good scare every now and then.

            In conclusion, I feel as though meta-textual texts are an entity of their own and are capable of providing entertainment if that is what the audience is in the mood for; however, if the audience is not expecting it and it is not planned properly, as I feel in the Full House situation, it can ruin the audience’s experience and their connection that they once shared with the show.  If one knows that what they are going to be seeing is funny, fictional and is established in order to provide them with a good laugh, then I feel that meta-textual sources are capable of providing great entertainment for the people that experience it.



            In Shel Silverstein’s picture book, The Giving Tree, many of Nodelman’s common assumptions are reinforced and challenged throughout.  The book does have an emotionally powerful story that shows a tree sacrificing itself over the years to make the boy happy. In many ways the tree is like the boys mother, who would sacrifice anything for their child just to bring them happiness.  The tree having human qualities, such as speech and the ability to feel emotions, gives the book a fantasy aspect which is one of the common assumptions found by Nodelman.  This factor does make the book more appealing to children by appealing to the imagination but uses this to bring about more serious themes which many wouldn’t assume to be in a children’s book.

            The tree being represented as a mother figure is used to challenge many of the common assumptions.  The tree starts out loving the boy for no apparent reason besides he is there like a mother would love a newborn baby. As a child the boy plays all the time with the tree and as he grows up he begins to only come to the tree when he wants something.  The tree acts as an old woman being visited by her son in a retirement home, asking the boy to spend time with it by climbing up the trunk and swinging from the vines, only to have him wanting material objects.  Instead of money and the old family house, the boy takes the trees precious apples and the majority of the trees body to build a house and a boat.  The ending is bittersweet for the tree which gets what it wanted all along, to just be with the boy, but the tree has been reduced to an old stump because of him.  The tree is like an old woman who sacrificed her medication money for their son and is dying because of it, but still feels happiness to have that same son come and visit them.  Such an ending does go against the common assumption of having a happy ending, because the mother figure in the story is taken advantage of and the son of the story doesn’t learn a lesson at the end which leaves the reader with an ambiguous ending.

            The ambiguous ending does challenge the assumption of teaching valuable lessons about life in a fun way.  It is true that the valuable lesson in this book could be interpreted as to never take advantage of a mothers love, but there is nothing funny about the mother figure in the book being used up at the end and the so called “boy” as an old man near death. It could be seen that the old man came to the tree to die; he says that he needs “just a quiet place to sit and rest.  I am very tired.”  The boys’ tiredness would probably not be seen as being near death in most children’s minds, but parents should notice the subtleties.  The image of the only human character in the book being shown right before death is definitely not a typical happily ever after ending. 

            The two characters in The Giving Tree rely on each for different things.  The Tree relies on the boy for his happiness and company, while the Boy relies on the Tree for the different objects it can provide him.  The two are on common grounds at the end when the only thing the Tree can offer the boy is a seat and its company, and all the boy wants is a place to sit.  But throughout the story the Boy and the Tree aren’t the most positive of role models which challenges one of the common assumptions about children’s literature.  The Boy doesn’t realize that he is hurting the Tree and cares only about himself, asking it to sacrifice itself for his own good.  The Boy does love the tree, but smiles while carving his name into the tree which would hurt a living emotional creature such as the tree.  The trees desperation for love seems rather pathetic as it willing gives up its body to him, also the fact that everything it gives up was its own idea and not the Boys adds to her desperation.  A positive role model would be confident and show dignity, which are two qualities that neither of these characters posses.

            At the start of the story when the Boy is actually a boy, he seems like more of a role model possessing innocent qualities much like the children reading the book would contain.  As the story the progresses the boy’s age drastically changes from child to teenager to adult to elder to a frail dying old man.  Such a variety of ages couldn’t possibly be related to by a child of any age and thus goes against the common assumption that children only like books they can relate to.  The child innocence the boy possessed is the only stage of the Boys life any child could truly understand.  The desires for a wife and a home are things which children never desire.   But they are aware of these things from interacting with the adults in their life, just not able to fully comprehend the need for such grown up things. A child could most likely understand the Tree and its need to make the Boy happy since many children would do anything to make their parents happy.

            One of the most disturbing ways that the Tree tries to make the boy happy is when it tells him to cut it down so he can make a boat out of it.   This leaves the tree as nothing more but a stump, which is what is left of a tree after it was chopped down and killed.  But the tree remains alive and says how it isn’t really happy when in the past it has been happy to sacrifice itself for the Boy.  This makes the image of the Boy carrying away the tree seem frightening because its true that the branches and the apples could be seen as part of its body but taking away its trunk seems like taking away its whole body, leaving its soul in the stump.  This challenges the common assumption that frightening images can’t be shown in children’s stories.  It’s true that the cutting down of the tree is not nearly as grotesque as cutting an actual person in half, but the tree is a character in the book with emotional resonance with the reader.  So, cutting the tree down is the emotional equivalent of cutting a character in half and could be a frightening image to many children.  

            In Shel Silverstein’s picture book, The Giving Tree, many of Nodelman’s common assumptions are reinforced and challenged throughout.  The book does challenge more than reinforce many of Nodelman’s listed common assumption or typical case prototypes.  The story starts out more accustomed to children’s common assumptions, but drifts into more of an emotion heavy story that challenges many of the prototypes in order to get the theme across.  The story maintains its status as a children’s book because of the human qualities associated with the tree and the pictures, even though they are not bright.  The theme is evident in the story and should be realized by most children after multiple readings and talks with their parents.



            When I was little, there was no public library where I lived. A service was started when I was five years old called The Bookmobile that would come to our county every three weeks. It would park at specific sights and people could come and check out books or read magazines. To this day, I vividly remember the first book I ever checked out—Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. I was absolutely fascinated by the book. I remember how shiny and new it was compared to the Bible story books and fairy tale books that I had, and how it was filled with wild and wacky looking creatures. I read it over and over and tried my best to see how fast and far I could read the different sections without taking a breath. If I could read the last section starting with, “Say! I like green eggs and ham!” all the way to the end where it said “Thank you Sam-I-Am” (59-62) without taking a breath, I considered it a victory worthy of the title “World Rhyme Reading Without Taking a Breath Distance Champ.”

            Of course at that time I wasn’t concerned with whether anyone thought this was an appropriate book for children, I just knew that I liked reading it. However, if you were searching for a book that reinforced the typical case prototype which Perry Nodelman wrote about, then this book could be the poster child for this type of book. For example, one of the assumptions Nodelman points out is the belief that children’s books should have simple texts. In this book, if you count the hyphenated name of the character Sam-I-Am, there are only two words in the entire book that are larger than five letters long. The other word is anywhere, which like Sam-I-Am, can be separated into words of less than five letters. It’s almost as if the goal from the start was, “Let me see if I can write a book for kids with words no bigger than five letters so I know they can understand and read it. I’ll make an exception for anywhere because it stresses the importance of the idea of eating what we’re given, and it can be broken down into words a child can understand.”

            Not only the words are simple, but the illustrations are simple, being a few steps above a line drawing. There are only six different colors used in the entire book, which makes it visually simple—almost like a children’s carton of the 1950’s and 60’s, which is when the book was written. The creatures are extremely imaginative, but even though they are fantastic, they are not in any way threatening, for threatening and scary creatures are a no-no in the typical case prototype.  

The very nature of the rhyming, as in, “I would not, could not, in a box. I could not, would not, with a fox.” (34), is also indicative of the assumption that is sometimes made that children’s poetry should rhyme or they will not understand or enjoy it. It also reinforces the assumptions that children have short attention spans and learning must be made fun. For instance, while the book itself is fairly long for a picture book, most of the pages contain little text. Also the rhyming, rhythmic nature of the words encourages young readers to make a game of the rhymes, just as I did as a child. The premise is that this will keep the children from being bored and will “trick” them into continuing to read even when the pages contain more text. 

            Green Eggs and Ham also supports the contention that books should teach a lesson or moral. While it is not didactic to the point that it specifically says, “Eat whatever your parents tell you to eat or whatever they give you,” that lesson is made perfectly clear when the unnamed main character eats the green eggs and ham and is rewarded by having something new that is good to eat. This lesson is also not given as a directive that should be obeyed without question. Rather the lesson is you shouldn’t be stubborn. You should be reasonable—“Try them! And you may (like them).” (53) I think this aspect of the book, despite the simple words and pictures, makes the book very adult centered. It is also very adult centered in that the book has a happy ending. In the beginning of the book, the unnamed character very specifically states, “I do not like that Sam-I-Am” ( 9) and “I do not like green eggs and ham.” However, by the end of the book he has tried them and discovered that green eggs and ham “are so good, so good, you see!”, and he and Sam-I-Am are now friends. This friendship is evidenced by a change in attitude and body language, and most obviously by his putting his arm around Sam-I-Am at the end of the book (62).

It does deviate, however, from the traditional child and adult roles in some ways. One way it does this is in the characteristics of the two main characters. Although the smaller, child-sized character of Sam-I-Am keeps asking “Would you…?” much like a child tends to ask “Why?,” he is obviously in the role of the nagging adult who keeps trying to get the larger, newspaper reading character to eat the green eggs and ham. The larger character is also childlike because of his very stubbornness, which in the assumptions Nodelman wrote about could be considered the opposite of maturity and adulthood. It is possible this role reversal was done as a devise to stress how unreasonable it is to act in this way. Being stubborn and unreasonable is the opposite of how an adult would act, so therefore this type of behavior is shown to be even more undesirable and incorrect and children should strive to behave like Sam-I-Am.

While this book is in most ways a typical case prototype, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Every child is different, with different reading levels, interests, and levels of maturity. To say that only one style of book is good for children and should be read by children is to limit them and possibly foster bad connotations with reading. I know that this is not what Nodelman is advocating; rather he is attempting to point out that there is a lack of logic and consistency in these assumptions. I loved this book as a child and still love it now. Green Eggs and Ham gave me an opportunity to play with and enjoy reading at a level I was comfortable with at that time. It also encouraged me to try and make up my own rhymes and fantastic creatures.  There is a very important place for this type of children’s book, just as there is an important place for books which challenge children and make them think about sometimes difficult subjects. I know that I loved this book as a child and I still love it now. All of my boys loved it and my ten year old still takes it out sometimes just to have the fun of reading, listening, or playing with the rhymes. I’m sure they will probably read it to their children one day, but I know I’m still the “World Rhyme Reading Without Taking a Breath Distance Champ,” –at least in my family.



         Of all the books we will read in class this semester, perhaps none challenge the typical case prototype quite like The Bad Beginning from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  It practically spits in the face of nearly all common assumptions what children’s books and childhood in general should be.  Many, certainly most, children’s books are based upon at least some of the notions of childhood that we’ve discussed: children’s books should be colorful, simple, and cheery to keep the attention of the simple-minded, easily distracted child.  They should not tell of death, violence, or evil, nor should they present scary or threatening situations because children do not really understand what “evil” is, and they may try to imitate the bad behavior which they encounter.  Kids need to have good examples set for them so that they will grow into good, clear-thinking adults, and they need to have these lessons taught to them in a fun way because children, as a rule, don’t like to learn or be taught.
But the Lemony Snicket books clearly do not hold the listed assumptions as truth, instead presenting the strong, smart Baudelaire children to prove each generalization false.  Right from the first line – “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.” – we know that this is not your typical children’s book.  It opens with a death, features the children in uncomfortable and miserable situations, and describes only darkness and pain.  In a more traditional children’s book, few, if any, of these events would take place, and if they did occur then it would be made clear that there is an overwhelming goodness that will eventually provide for a happy ending.  
       The characters are not what one would expect either.  Violet is a fourteen-year-old inventor, Klaus is twelve and a brilliant reader, and even the infant Sunny is very bright but has trouble saying what she means with only baby-talk.  Adult characters are either evil geniuses or bumbling fools who refuse to take the orphans seriously.  The Baudelaire orphans cannot turn to a trusted adult for help in their hardships; they must rely on their own intellect and cunning to save themselves.  Indeed, it is the adults that they are most often fighting against.  This is also quite uncommon.  Usually, grown-ups are there to help and guide the children; it is still quite controversial for an adult to be portrayed in such a negative light.  Furthermore, children are conventionally shown to need help and guidance, but here the Baudelaires prove themselves to be remarkably self-sufficient.  The children are intelligent, eager to learn, and able to think about and react to the situation at hand.
       Another relatively uncommon feature of this book is that it is not didactic in any traditional sense.  The adults in the story are certainly not role models, and they do not display behavior that a parent would wish their child to imitate.  There is no moral, no happy ending, and no clear “good path” to take.  The children succeed because they are different from the adults, not because they have been assimilated into miniature versions of them.  Typically this sort of writing makes some parents nervous that their children will learn to be rebellious, but really the author is depicting these children’s mental autonomy and ability to make their own decisions and forge their own path.
       Because it is so vastly different from the typical case prototype of a children’s book, The Bad Beginning helps the reader to question some of the common assumptions about children, mainly that they are simple-minded and cannot understand complex situations.  This is most readily shown when Mr. Poe comes to the shore to tell the Baudelaire children that their parents have died: “‘Your parents,’ Mr. Poe said, ‘have perished in a terrible fire…‘Perished’ means ‘killed.’”  Here we have these brilliant children faced with the horrible death of their parents, and all Mr. Poe can think is that he might be using words that are too big for them.  “‘We know what the word ‘perished’ means,’ Klaus said crossly.”  The children are fully aware of what is happening to them; furthermore they realize that Mr. Poe is being condescending, and they don’t appreciate his looking down on them.  
       But this is what the children are used to dealing with.  In fact, they are unsure of how to act around the friendly Justice Strauss because they “were not used to kindness from adults, and weren’t sure if they were expected to do anything back.”  Far from being as “childish” as the adults seem to think, the Baudelaire orphans work themselves out of situations that seem way beyond their control, using their wits and superior intellect to rescue each other time and time again from the evil plans of Count Olaf.
By challenging the common assumptions about what a children’s book should be and what childhood should be, The Bad Beginning proves itself to be a very progressive text.  It distances itself from the conventional cheery brightness of so many “fluffy” books and actually acknowledges that children aren’t always happy and playful.  Much of children’s literature seems to overlook the fact that kids can hurt and feel pain; the Lemony Snicket books seem to revel in it.  But rather than being the simple creatures that we are used to seeing in so many children’s books, the Baudelaires are fighters and not easily defeated.  And rather than struggling against a dragon or monster, they fight against the adults who try to take advantage of them.
The Bad Beginning goes counter to every traditional assumption listed in the beginning of this paper.  It’s dark, dreary, child-centered, and full of dangerous adults – everything that many people think a children’s book should avoid.   And yet, the Series of Unfortunate Events has become one of the most popular and highly-regarded series around.  By producing a body of work so fresh and different, Lemony Snicket has created a world that draws readers in and provides a much broader look at childhood and the children’s book than stories such as The Littlest Elf ™ could ever hope to do.



            “Boy Meets World” episode 1-6 Boys II Mensa, is didactic in the sense that we learn a lesson from the experiences and mistakes of young Cory Matthews. From the opening scene through the end of the show the viewer witnesses Cory’s attempts to please and impress the adults in his life. His admiration of grown-ups, along with his character’s portrayal of the stereotypical “imperfect child,” makes this a very adult-centered text.

The first character displayed in the opening scene is that of Cory’s intelligent teacher, Mr. Feeney. He is passing out book reports, showing his superiority by dressing in a suit and standing tall, requiring the sitting students, whose papers he just evaluated, to look up to him. The viewer then sees Cory putting on a clown nose and making silly faces. His behavior is quite a contradiction to the composed and dignified teacher in the scene, leaving the audience with an impression that adults are more perfect than children. Mr. Feeney does not punish Cory for misbehaving in class, but instead, in a disappointed tone, says, “Mr. Matthews,” which demonstrates his respect for the child and reminds Cory of his adult presence. This presence is intended to correct the child’s fallacy and get him back on track. The “track” is a pathway to a more perfect world, the adult world.

As Mr. Feeney continues to pass out the book reports he congratulates a student, named Rick, for his efforts. He then returns Cory’s paper, saying that the report was not one of his better efforts. This causes a sudden change in Cory’s expression. He is no longer smiling and appears confused. Cory glances at Rick’s paper and discovers that they both received the same grade. Still wearing the clown nose, Cory tells Mr. Feeney, “Hey this isn’t fair. Rick and I both got C’s. How come you tell him he did good work and you tell me it wasn’t one of my better efforts?” With this statement the child is desperately seeking the adult’s approval and praise. He appears frantic and upset that his teacher isn’t satisfied with him, which gives the adult the power role in the story line. Mr. Feeney, who unlike Cory, is very collected in his appearance, thoughts, and behavior informs Cory that Rick worked hard for his C and Mr. Feeney respects him for it. The teacher then looks down at Cory still wearing his large red foam nose and suggests that he not waste his time being the class clown. Cory’s concern with Mr. Feeney’s opinion of him will later cause the child to do anything, even misbehave, in attempt to impress the adults in his life.

In this episode Shawn, Cory’s best friend, finds an IQ test in the trashcan after both boys finish their detention sentence. Then, a janitor walks by the misbehaving boys, bringing an adult presence to the scene which symbolically reminds the boys that they are “doing wrong.” When Shaun sees the adult, he hides the paper behind his back and smiles in attempt to depict “the innocent child.” As though reciting what an adult had once told him, Cory objects to the idea of reading answers to a test that he will soon be taking. He then contradicts himself, by looking at the test, because he wants Mr. Feeney to think that he is a genius. He knows the “right thing” to do, but demonstrates his stereotypical inability to make a wise decision, probably because the choice was not assisted by an adult.

            The scene then changes to Cory’s home. His mom and younger sister, Morgan, are discussing when Morgan can get a Halloween costume. The mom tells Morgan that she is very busy with work but that Eric, the oldest son, will take her shopping. Eric enters the room and asks Morgan, “Want to learn how to be a big girl?” Morgan with great excitement answers, “Yeah!” This sends the message to the children viewing the show that being a “big girl” or grown-up is more desirable than being a child. Eric responds to her excitement by saying, “Because big girls know how to take out the trash so their brothers don’t have to.” Morgan knows better than to fall for this, but the scene exemplifies interpellation in the sense that Eric has been given a typical male job. Morgan becomes impatient and again announces her desire for a Halloween costume. Eric agrees to help but can not do it unassisted. He still needs his mom to take them to the store and his dad, when he gets off from work, to then pick them up.

Morgan returns home with a costume of a Zombie. Because of her interpellations of what little girls should be, Morgan’s mother is somewhat upset that she didn’t choose a princess costume. She looks at Eric, giving blame to her older son, and announces that she wanted Morgan to pick out her own costume. This is giving the child agency and allowing her to express and expand her own imagination. Later in the episode the mother is asked why her daughter’s clothes do not match. She explains that Morgan picks out her own clothes because they like to give her freedom of expression. The question contains illocutionary intent that if an adult had picked out Morgan’s wardrobe then it would be considered more perfect than the child’s attempt. This is another example of interpellation, because whoever decided clothes have to match or what should be considered a match? With Morgan’s costume, the parents are upset that Eric influenced Morgan, though it is never proven that she did not choose the zombie costume herself. It is through the parents’ and our own gender interpellations that we assume that Morgan, if left alone to decide, would have chosen a princess costume, the more typical “girl-costume.” Morgan then announces that she choose the costume because, “The undead are cool.” The audience assumes this is the child parroting what her older brother said in the store showing an inability to create her own ideas, but it is quite possible that she is expressing an early rebellion of social interpellations. Though the parents do not seem to approve of the child having a scary costume, the Dad says, “Oooh nice hanging eyeball,” while smiling and playing with her. It seems as though they are trying to protect her from the messages of disappointment that they are sending to their older son Eric. The director, in this scene, displays an agreement with the common assumption that children are innocent and need to be protected.

            We then return to Cory’s school, the results from the IQ test have been determined and Cory is, by score, a genius. Mr. Feeney congratulates him verbally but appears doubtful through his facial expressions. Cory is worried that Mr. Feeney knows he cheated and that he will tell his parents. He announces that he does not like lying to his parents. Shawn attempts to reduce Cory’s fear and convince him that they are both “innocent victims.” He concludes that if adults had not have given them detention, then they never would have found the test and everything following that moment would not have occurred. However, they fail to realize that it was their initial mistake that caused the adult to give the detention sentence. Following “We’re innocent victims,” Cory exclaims, “It’s good to be a kid.” Cory is not expected to be perfect. He knows that adults assume that he is fallible and will love and take care of him despite his mistakes.

            The bell then rings and Mr. Feeney announces that he wants to talk to Cory. The student looks nervous and gets out of his seat slowly, as though he is about to meet his death. This is an example of how an adult’s opinion is so highly valued to the child. Cory looks as though he is going to be physically hurt, though he knows Mr. Feeney is only going to talk to him about his high IQ score. He asks Shawn to tell his mom that “He went out like a man.” Cory, through interpellation, considers men as strong and brave in tough or violent situations. This quote also reinforces his admiration of adults because he is associating Mr. Feeney’s poor opinion of him with dying. Cory’s final request before dying is to insure that his mother (again an adult figure) has a positive perception of him.

            Mr. Feeney sits down with Cory and asks if there is anything he wants to share. He explains that Cory will be transferred to an advanced school where the school is committed to giving children all that they deserve. Mr. Feeney then says, “I think you deserve everything you are going to get.” He stresses the word “get” to add an empowering tone and ensure that Cory realizes that the child’s secret is known. Cory is aware that his parents and teacher know that he cheated on the IQ test. The “all-knowing” adults guide the child to tell the truth instead of punishing him by making it evident through their tone, as opposed to diction, that they are aware he cheated. They give him this agency to allow for Cory’s personal growth, feeling that Cory will learn his lesson more thoroughly if he admits to his own mistake.

            Before finally admitting to his parents that he found the answers to the IQ test, Cory takes a second intelligence test. This test reveals that he has the IQ of an average sixth grader. Cory proudly says, “Yep, that’s me. The lights are on but nobody’s home.” By saying “nobody’s home,” the writer indicates that someone of sixth grade intelligence is brainless. It is this common assumption that adds to the adult-centeredness of the episode because adults like Mr. Feeney are portrayed with high intelligence, while the child is not corrected when calling himself a moron.

            At the end of the episode Cory tells his parents and teacher the truth; which gains him the respect he so desired from his teacher. The episode is didactic because Cory has learned that he should tell adults the truth and he should never cheat. He accepts the fact that he is inferior to adults, a point which I do not like about the episode, but a typical adult-centered characteristic. Cory is grounded for his actions, but being the “good parents” that they are, Cory’s grounding begins the day after Halloween and under the condition that he no longer cheats. This positive portrayal of parents makes it impossible for the viewer to be mad at the adults for punishing Cory, especially since Cory realizes that he deserves punishment, and therefore, is not upset. Though Cory makes mistakes, he is a “good child.” Everyone, including the audience, is happy at the end of the episode, all problems were solved through adult guidance, and a lesson was learned, stereotypically making this episode a very adult-centered text.



The fairy tale, The Little Mermaid was story that I could not go to sleep without hearing. I was about six years old when I first heard this story and it allowed my imagination to meander into the world of mermaids. Whether I was at the beach swimming like a mermaid in the ocean or simply reading the story over and over, I was fascinated by the mermaid world under sea. I was nearly obsessed with mermaids and wished I could be one of them. This story created the magic in my imagination; however, as I read the story more and more, I came to see the practicality in it. Maybe I was convinced that there really were mermaids out there so the story became practical to me? Also, maybe I related her death to reality and relating the daughters of the air to the mermaid’s kind of heaven? Most children have seen Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid, and although it is one of my favorites, it does not give the original version of Hans Christian Andersen’s justice.

 Typically, the elements in a fairy tale are similar to the type case prototype of children’s books. When I think of children’s books, the first few things that come to mind are fantasy adventures, good triumphing over evil, and, of course, happy endings. The tale describes the youngest sister as “a curious child, silent and thoughtful” (Andersen 31). To illustrate, The Little Mermaid portrays a young mermaid with these typical characteristics, but Andersen takes it a step further. The mermaids in each version of the story differ greatly, especially the reasons behind each mermaid's wish to go to land with the people. Andersen's mermaid wants to be a human being so she can have an eternal soul after she dies. While I was young reading this story, I thought that the little mermaid was risking her life to gain the prince’s affection; however, my take on this story has changed. After reading it again, I realize that it is a story about the mermaid’s lack of soul, and how by falling in love she was able to gain one. As the story tells, the little mermaid “would give a whole three hundred years I have to live, to become for one day a human being and then share in that heavenly world” (Andersen 53). She is driven to become a human. The little mermaid “longed for their [humans] company. Their world seemed to her to be much larger than her own. There was so much that she would have liked to know” (50). Indeed, the little mermaid’s main purpose of becoming a human was to gain an eternal soul.

Disney made The Little Mermaid a traditional fairy tale, because Andersen's ideas could not be translated into a modern cartoon that was socially accepted for children. So Disney used the classic battle between good and evil, which is typically understood everywhere, instead of the mermaid's battle within herself as Andersen wrote. In my mind, fairy tales represent the good conquering over the evil after a significant challenge. In contrast, Andersen displays the sea witch winning the battle. The little mermaid does not look back on her life under the sea, but looks forward to her chance to attain an eternal soul. Although, for example, I found it odd that the sea witch exclaimed, “How stupid of you! Still, you shall have your way, and it’ll bring into you misfortune, my lovely Princess” (Andersen 58). Why would the sea witch say such a thing that might change the little mermaids mind about becoming a human? I assume that the reasons for this line may be to enforce the adult figure in the story. The sea witch is older; therefore, she is wise and guides the young mermaid. Another large difference between Disney’s version and Andersen’s that is definitely not a typical case prototype of children’s stories is the fact that the sea witch cuts the little mermaid’s tongue out instead of stealing her voice through a shell like in the movie. To illustrate, the sea witch states, “Put out your little tongue and let me cut it off in payment; then you shall be given the potent mixture” (Andersen 59). Moreover, the ending portrays evil winning because of the little mermaid’s death.

 Andersen’s version of The Little Mermaid does not follow the traditional case prototype of children’s books because of its shocking ending of the little mermaid not marrying the Prince. For example, Disney reveals the story to have a happy ending in that the little mermaid and the Prince marry. One could conceive the ending to have different meanings. For instance, the Prince cries about his new Princess to be the one who “rescued me, when I was laying half-dead on the shore. Oh, I’m too happy!” (Andersen 69). For this purpose, the little mermaid “kissed his hand, and already she felt her heart was breaking. The morrow of his wedding would mean death to her to foam on the sea” (69). The little mermaid had failed and evil had won. However, this tale is much deeper and suggests that the main theme is the mermaid’s internal struggle with herself to gain an eternal soul, not to marry the Prince. Although this was not a huge theme in the story, it definitely helps to prove that Andersen’s style is not that of a traditional fairy tale author.

In the original Andersen story, The Little Mermaid, she does not marry the Prince, which is what seems to be what she should do. Still, she learned to love unconditionally, and did not turn into sea foam, as mermaids do. She ascended and obtained a human soul from entering the daughters of air. The daughters of air are portrayed to be a spiritual movement. When I read this story as a child, I can see why I related the daughters of air to heaven. For example, the narrator describes the moment as a “voice of melody, yet so spiritual that no human ear could hear it, just as no earthly eye could see them. They had no wings, but their own lightness bore them up as they floated through the air” (Andersen 74). Finally, by losing her life, she wins the hope of immortality because of her 300 years of good deeds. Specifically, the little mermaid’s decision not to kill the Prince and his new bride was what, I believe, rewarded her with an eternal soul. It is almost like viewing death as a reward in this story because she in fact did win and gain her immortal soul.

In contrast to many fairy tales, Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid ended unhappily, as well as presented gruesome events that are also not typical prototypes in a children’s text as discussed in class. After reading the story at age nineteen, what really struck me was how the little mermaid did not get what she thought she wanted, but ended up with something much more important or valuable: her immortality. As a result, I have discovered that this tale is not just about the selfless love of a mermaid who endures every suffering for the sake of her beloved Prince, but more importantly, the little mermaid’s endless desire to obtain an immortal soul.




Many of today’s children’s books fit the typical case prototype of a book.  This means that they fit what we would assign to children (right or not).  Some qualities include being didactic, easily relatable to children, it’s not frightening, and the books are bright and colorful with happy endings. This, among other terms, will be used to weigh through the book Giraffes? Giraffes! By Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey to assess how it relates to other books.

On absolute first glance, this book is the perfect example of the typical case prototype children’s book.  It fits the look of an educational book.  What I mean by this is that when I think of an educational book, I associate lots of photographs, small amounts of text (simply to explain the background information or captions to pictures), and a particular layout for their pages.  This vision of a particular educational book is founded in the strictly educational, typical case prototype books I used to read as I was younger; the Eyewitness book series used to be my absolute favorite book to read for the very same reasons listed above.  They disguised learning to be fun and painless.  To continue on, this book has a very similar layout to that series.  Part of a series itself, the authors and designers purposely tried to model the visual presentation of an Eyewitness look in this satiric series, as to help create its ambiance. On every single page there is at least one photograph in which the surrounding text pertains.  The diagrams or drawings are all clearly labeled, as well as the photographs, to keep things clear.  Moreover, there is a pocket on the back inside cover of the book where they provide several activities to complete.  These activities are representative of ones that someone might find in a Chick-fil-A kid’s meal (small, educational, and fun activities).  Each diagram has a specific purpose; this purpose is to support the text, and bring it clarity.


More importantly than the pictures or layout of the book, is the actual text.  As mentioned earlier, at first glance the book looks like it set the standards for the typical case prototype book.  When one reads the text, however, they are shocked from the lack of validity, completely crushing any thought of this book fitting the typical case prototype.  I believe this is true, because the text of a book is far more important than the pictures.  The book goes out of its way to make fun of all educational writing.  Every situation presented in the book is presented as fact, no matter how farfetched it is.  It is as if the book is telling joke after joke, and keeping a straight face the whole time.  The text is comprised only fictional scenarios or facts, while the pictures and layout design lead you to believe otherwise.  One of my favorite paragraphs from the whole book is in reference to a giraffe’s legs; I think that this proves it’s absurdity very nicely.  “The legs of a giraffe are filled with various types of fruit juice.  You see, giraffes love drinking fruit juices…but their bodies have no real use for fruit juice, so it all trickles down to their legs where it stays and squishes around.  This should have been obvious to you” (pg 9).  This is only one example of how the book is so unbelievable; on every single page, there are multiple examples of such ridiculous statements.

The mere appearance of the book is shockingly similar to those I have read as a tool to induce learning.  Instead of being completely false, the book Giraffes? Giraffes! Does contain a small amount of educational material in it.  For instance, on page 48, there are two diagrams of fish; one of the colored pictures labels the outside organs of the fish, while the other informatively labels some of the inside organs.  This does not have much to do with that page’s text (it does, however, pertain the slightest bit) but it accurately labels the fish.  The same case occurs on pages 6, 9, 13, 38, and 43. A child reading this book would be able to sort out that this piece of information is correct, compared to the extremely farfetched text of the story.  Because the whole rest of the book is in outfield, learning about the fish is somewhat disguised.  Even if the reader has some negative stigma towards learning, they will not realize what is happening.  The reader is subconsciously focused on not believing anything about the giraffes.  When they see information that is true, they do not remember that they are learning.  These comparatively small diagrams in the book are a very good reference for information. 

For this reason, I feel that the book has both typical and atypical case traits.  The appearance of the book and hidden learning tools are created for children to induce learning.  The ridiculous text, however, completely bashes any hope of it fitting into the typical case mold.  The book is just too progressive and turns how we would normally react to a story from natural to unnatural.  The readers have to be conscious to how they respond to such material, as opposed to a conservative book that reinforces old ideas or beliefs.  For these reasons, the text outweighs the visual presentation, meaning that the book does not fit the typical case prototype of a children’s book. 

Because this book fits so strongly (in a visual sense only) the typical children’s book, but yet so strongly and more importantly disproves itself as one with it’s text, it makes us look at educational books in a different perspective.  This defamiliarization causes us to challenge all that we have known to be true about educational books.  Going back to the example of the Eyewitness books, it made me think of how naïve of a reader I used to be.  When I read those books, I would never give a second thought to whether or not what I was reading was true.  I would completely trust the narrator and authors.  After reading a book that tricks you to believe that it might be true, I will never be able to read an Eyewitness book in the same light.  That is the heart of defamialization; it permanently causes something to be looked at differently.

One tool that the author uses to defamiliarize the readers is metafiction. To work through the term metafiction, we’ll use the same quote about fruit juice from earlier, it is also a good example of how the narrator does too much of his job.  “This should have been obvious to you”, is not something a narrator typically says.  The irony in this quote, is that what the authors are claiming is so absurd, that there is no way it would be obvious to anyone.  No one would know to think that, because it is not based on any hint of truth.  The narrator defiantly steps over the line of what is considered appropriate for a reader/narrator relationship.  This concept is one of several that help explain the term metafiction.  In metafiction, not only does the narrator do too much or too little, the lines between the fictional world and the real world are blurred.  The book is doing something, whether it is a quote, picture, etc., to draw attention to itself as an artifact and make the reader think about the content.  After reading the above mentioned quote on page 9, and also looking at pages 7 and 13, it becomes clear that the author is drawing attention to the absurdity of the text.  This tool is used to heighten the satiric nature of the book.

To work from this same quote, (because I feel it encompasses many of the book’s themes in this one quote) the sheer statement, “this should be obvious to you”, makes the reader second guess whether what you are reading is true or not.  From pure common sense, we know what the text claims is not true (about fruit juices); such claims have no scientific standing.  We, as readers, have grown to trust the narrator so much in stories, that when he says something like “you should have already known and believe this completely false fact”, we second guess ourselves.  When the author also jokes later in the book about personifying words, we have to second guess that as well.  On page 20, the author once again blurs reality by saying (referring here to words), “…they cannot be printed here.  (They were not dirty words, they simply cannot be printed here because they are currently vacationing in Miami)”.  This silly statement about words calls attention to the fact that the reader is actually reading.  It is something used to make the readers rethink how they are conditioned to react to books. 

This challenge is seen as progressive, and breaking the mold.  Essentially, Giraffes? Giraffes! is a very unordinary book, and should be taken in as something trite.




A children’s film that strongly demonstrates the concepts of being adult and child-centered and also displays agency is the 1990 movie Home Alone. This film illustrates the main character, an eight-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister, as a mischievous yet sincere child who when left alone in his house, discovers that family relationships are a crucial part of growing up. Home Alone also showcases many stereotypes of children that coincide with the typical case prototypes discussed in class. Metatextual concepts are featured in this movie as well, which help to involve the child audience. These concepts, as well as the character of Kevin, discover the underlying meaning of the movie. I believe the center of Home Alone is the consistent change noted in Kevin’s behavior and attitude. He not only breaks free of the typical child roles and standards, he is able to use the thought of them to his advantage when confronted with two burglars attempting to break into his home. By Kevin saving his house, he realizes he is much older than he thinks and begins to appreciate his life and what is in it, mostly his family. This interpretation of Home Alone presents more than it just being a humorous movie about a boy and two robbers.

            Once his family leaves for a Christmas vacation in Paris and he is left all alone in his house, Kevin McCallister gains total agency in this film. He no longer has any parents to tell him what and what not to do. Before his family left, Kevin was punished because he was fighting with his older brother and was getting in everyone’s way. Now, Kevin can run around the house and jump on beds, while having no one to tell him to stop. He also takes his brother Buzz’s toy rifle from his room and plays with it, something that would have been totally forbidden if Buzz were there. A perfect example of Kevin displaying agency is when he makes a total mess in the kitchen, eats a huge amount of junk food and ice cream and watches a movie that is not appropriate for him. Kevin knows what he is doing is wrong and calls to his parents just in case they are still in the house, “I’m eating junk and watching rubbish, you better come out and stop me.” Now that Kevin is no longer under control of adults, he has the freedom to act on his behalf. The roles of child and adult are also reversed. Although Kevin is doing all these things that would normally get him in trouble, his parents are portrayed as the irresponsible ones for leaving their child alone in the house.

Home Alone does a great deal of displaying typical child case prototypes throughout the film. Adult perceptions of children are especially construed through the two burglars, Marv and Harry. The two men are completely confident that they can break into the McCallister home because Kevin is the only one there. Marv repeatedly says to Harry, “He’s a kid. Kids are stupid,” “Kids are scared of the dark” and “He’s only a kid. We can take him.” These stereotypes relate to the ones discussed in class, characterizing children as innocent and not yet civilized. The perception that children do not know anything is clearly demolished by Kevin, because he is able to exceed the burglar’s expectations and not only deliver them to the police, but send them through many traps and painful excursions along the way. Marv and Harry finally realize this as Harry says, “I think we’re getting scammed by a kindergartener.” This aspect in the movie demonstrates that children are smarter and more intuitive than adults, even when faced with danger. Kevin was completely aware of the situation but still continued to fight the burglars because he knew he had to defend his house. Protecting himself and his house became more important to Kevin than doing what stereotypical children do and run away.

In one particular scene, there is a reference made that does go against these typical case prototypes, which is also one we have discussed in class. While Kevin’s mother is riding home with a traveling polka band, the lead singer played by John Candy is talking to the mother about how she left Kevin all alone for Christmas. He then tells her a story of how he left his child alone one day at a funeral parlor. He makes a joke about how his child was impaired for a few weeks after but then says, “Kids get over things, they’re resilient like that.” This is a great comment to show how children can go against stereotypes. This character was implying that children are not permanently damaged by certain experiences and I think this is an incredibly important feature of the movie as a whole. If his family leaving him alone for days had negatively affected Kevin, then he would not have recovered and would not have learned the lessons he did by being put in that situation.

The less obvious element of Home Alone is the metatextual concept. Throughout this film, Kevin is constantly talking to the audience, because no other characters are around him. The narrator-like characteristic Kevin has in this movie makes the audience aware that he is talking directly to them, letting the viewers know what is going on and what Kevin is doing. There is one moment where Kevin actually does speak directly to the audience, looking straight into the camera. After Kevin learns that his family is not in the house and no one to be found, he says out loud “I made my family disappear,” with a concerned and nervous edge in his tone. Then, contemplating all the possibilities he now has with being home alone, he looks right into the camera and repeats the line “I made my family disappear,” this time with a conniving tone and devilish grin. Kevin breaking the fourth wall and creating this metatextual moment in the movie lets the audience in on the upcoming events as if it were a secret between them and the narrator.

Another concept I noted is the deus ex machina role. In the film, this role is played by the elderly neighbor, who Kevin is afraid of for the majority of the movie. However, after talking and the old man admits that he has become a different person because of lost relationships in his life, Kevin provides him with advice as well as takes it himself. Kevin becomes aware that he needs his family and does not want to lose them like the old man lost his. So the two agree to change and do something about their unfortunate situations. After this conversation, Kevin returns home but once he has used up all of his traps to mislead the two burglars, he runs next door to call the police. The men are aware of his game this time and catch him before he is able to. Then, when it looks like there is no escape for Kevin, the old neighbor hits both burglars and saves Kevin, taking him out of the house and away from danger. The adult character coming in at the end to save the child is typical of many children’s texts and also relates to the child and adult centered notion also featured in this film.

            Throughout Home Alone, Kevin embraces being a kid with no parents to listen to and no roles to follow. However, over the days he is left by himself, he demonstrates a great amount of change. At first he is scared of Marv and Harry trying to break into his house. But later he states, “I can’t be a wimp. I’m the man of the house” and overcomes his fear of the burglars as well as his fear of less important matters, like his basement. Kevin recognizes that he must take some control of the situation, because riding sleds down the stairs and turning the whole house upside down is unacceptable behavior when there are criminals trying to break into his house. Kevin begins to take on typical adult roles, including going grocery shopping, doing laundry and washing dishes. These are not chores most eight-year-olds complete on a daily basis. Kevin is forced to become more mature throughout the story and does so by not only outsmarting burglars, but also by accepting the fact that his family is important to him and wanting them to come back.

            Even though Kevin McCallister displays a great deal of agency, I do believe Home Alone is more adult-centered than child-centered. His family is the center of the story and is the element that is continuously referred to. Kevin is given total freedom to do whatever he wants and although he does use this to his advantage in the beginning, after awhile he begins to miss his family and regret ever saying he could live without them. His family becomes more important to him than the ability to do whatever he wants and he even makes it his Christmas wish saying, “Instead of presents, I just want my family back.” While watching this movie, I could not help but compare it to Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In that book, the main character Max wants to be away from his mother and not have to obey her as an authority figure. While living with the wild things though, Max takes on an adult role, much like the one of his mother. He also begins to miss his mother and miss the idea of being a kid.

This is exactly the change Kevin reaches in Home Alone. Although he enjoys having a break from parents and rules, he does long for his old life where although there were some hardships, he was surrounded by people who love and care about him. Children need family relationships and in these particular texts, the children only discover this when those relationships are deterred from. Although I stated earlier that Kevin matured throughout the film, I also think he became more vulnerable at the same time. Accepting such a dramatic change in their lives leaves the children in these texts very sad and distressed. So as much as children can go against their own stereotypes, they can still manage to “act like a child.” I do not think Home Alone is predominantly didactic, but I do believe there is a very subtle lesson to be learned from this movie and that is to be careful what you wish for. Fortunately for Kevin, his situation was temporary, but for children watching it could stand as a lesson to cherish and respect the relationships in your life, particularly with your family, because you never know when they can be taken away.



In fifth grade Officer Brown, my D.A.R.E. instructor, asked my class to draw a picture representing the physical characteristics of a typical drug dealer.  I drew an evil looking man with snake like eyes.  He was wearing dark black clothing, and he was standing on a grungy street corner in front of an abandon warehouse.  The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that anyone could be a drug dealer.  A drug dealer could be a sweet Suburban soccer mom who bakes homemade cookies for her children, or a drug dealer could be that evil looking guy wearing black clothing on the street corner.  Officer Brown explained that as a society, we tend to associate negative characteristics with drug dealers because the media depicts drug dealers in this manner.  As a result, this negative imagine of drug dealers have been imbedded into our minds at a very young age.

            Disney movies have been instrumental in influencing children’s views of good versus evil.  The movies place great emphasis on the characters’ physical appearance.  For example, In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is beautiful and skinny.  She has long flowing red hair, big bright blue eyes, perfectly full red lips, and she seems to have a glow about her.  She is very feminine, and her voice is high pitch but pleasing to the ear.  The males in The Little Mermaid are strapping and handsome.  They have big bulging muscles that can aid them to rescue mermaids if they get into trouble.  The men also have a full head of hair that always says in place.  The “good” characters in Disney movies are always portrayed with good characteristics.  In fact it is as if they are perfect.  On the other hand, the “evil” characters are described as perfectly repulsive.  Ursula, a sea witch, in The Little Mermaid is an ugly dark looking creature with a long pointy noses, and long fingers.  She has monster sharp teeth and a gruff manly voice.  Ursula does not possess one positive quality.  Like other “evil” characters, Ursula is on the other end of the continuum compared to Ariel. 

            The environment is also use to depict differences between the “good” and “evil” in Disney movies.  For example, in The Little Mermaid, Ariel lives in a well-maintained golden castle.   The water surrounding the castle is crystal clear.  On the floor of the sea, there is green seaweed and bright colored flowers.  There are also various forms of life swimming around the castle.  The fishes, shrimps, crabs, and other animals are bright vibrant colors.  Ursula on the other hand, lives in a dark dreary cave.  During parts of the movie, the water surrounding the cave is black, and at other times, the water is dark blue.  Ursula’s cave is unkempt, and it is full of dieing souls and skeletons.  The only form of life near the cave is Ursula’s assistances, eels.  The eels are black with slanted snake like eyes that glow a yellowish-green color.  The floor of Ursula’s cave is not made of grass.  Instead the floor is made of dirt and rocks.  The entire atmosphere surrounding the castle represents death.

            In the pervious paragraphs it was alluded that the use of color also helps distinguish between “good” and evil.  Scenes involving the “good” characters contained an abundant amount of color.  There are mostly bright vibrant colors, such as yellows, reds, oranges, purples, and blues. For example Flounder, Ariel’s friend, is bight yellow with a mixture of dark and light blue strips.  Most of the fish in the sea are a mixture of two colors.  The fishes are either red with yellow fins, purple with yellow fins, blue with red fins, and blue with purple fins.  Other animals are red and orange.  There is also some pink mixed among the animals.  The scenes involving the “evil” characters lack color almost entirely.  The little color that is use is cold and dark.  The most abundant color representing Ursula is black.  Ursula herself is a dark purple, and there are some dark blues and greens.  There is also the yellowish-green glow that comes out of the eels’ eyes.

            Officer Brown was on to something when he stated that the media influences our opinion.  It may not be obvious to children as they watch The Little Mermaid or another Disney movie, but that movie is influencing their opinion.  The movie gives children a template as to how  good” individuals should look, how they should act, and even what they should possess.  Of course, the movies also give children a template for “evil” individuals.  The template teaches children that “evil” individuals should look, act a certain way.  It also teaches them that evil people should not possess certain items.  For example, in The Little Mermaid Ariel lives in a castle, but Ursula was not even good enough to have a house.  Instead she lived in a damp dreary cave.  As they grew, children take these images of “good” and “evil” and adopt them as their own beliefs.  Louis Althusser coined the term interpellation, the idea that as individuals we tend to accept society’s norms as our own.  Therefore in the beginning of the paper when I described my picture of a drug dealer in the fifth grade, it could be conjectured that I obtain those images from society, and not from reality.  In reality there is no such concept as a “typical” drug dealer.  As officer Brown stated, anyone could be a drug dealer.



In a way, I revisited my childhood over the weekend. Growing up, I read Freaky Friday over and over. In fact, I still have that same paperback copy of the book—the cover is half torn off, passages are penciled, its got the little grease spots where I ate potato chips while I read it, and there is even a stain where I spilled some Pepsi. Coming back as an adult, over twenty-five years later, and re-reading this very book and physically seeing the remnants of my thought process was eye-opening. As a child immersed in the story, I was enthralled with the idea of a kid  becoming an adult overnight, and of your mother changing bodies with you. This book took the idea of switching bodies, which is not uncommon, and made it a little different by making it cross a generation. This helps to show the lesson that is being handed down by the mother, Ellen Andrews, who is very frustrated with her daughter, Annabelle. So often, in the mother-daughter relationship, there is a battle between opposing sides and ideas, and it is difficult for each side to see the whole picture from the other’s perspective…unless you can magically change bodies with your daughter to teach her a lesson. That is what gives this book its subtle, yet overwhelming, adult undertone, and it is clearly defined from the first chapter of the book.

            Annabelle Andrews, the narrator of the story, is thirteen, and thirteen is an awkward time in life. She describes herself in a nondescript way on pages two and three with “…brown hair, brown eyes, brown fingernails. (That’s a joke—actually, I take a lot baths.) “ she goes on to say that she doesn’t know what she weighs but she’s “watching it” and that she’s not “completely mature” in her figure yet. She then goes on to describe her parents and her brother. She complains that her mother is overly protective and strict, or “stricter” as Annabelle says (4) and effectively doles out examples of her mother’s unfairness, such as Ellen wanting Annabelle to clean her room, make good grades, and be nice to her brother. As a mother, she wants to protect her daughter and does not allow her in Central Park alone or even with a friend, which is a sore point for Annabelle, who firmly feels that  …I’m old enough to be given more than I’m getting” (5) and then laments that she did not get to go to a boy-girl party because it was not properly chaperoned. Additionally, Annabelle is in love with Boris, but because her mother made her get those ugly, nasty braces, Boris will never get past who she was in the past and take notice of her. The list of wrongs that her mother has heaped upon her, such as keeping her hair neat and nails trimmed, wearing what she wants, going where she wants, and keeping that room clean only prove to Annabelle that her mother is just unfair (6).

 All of these injustices build up and Annabelle finally has it out with her mother and says: “You are not letting me have any fun and I am sick of it. You are always pushing me around and telling me what to do. How come nobody ever gets to tell you what to do, huh? Tell me that!”.  Now, I remember having this conversation with my own mother, and her response was something similar to Ellen Andrews’ reply of “…when you’re grown up people don’t tell you what to do; you have to tell yourself, which is sometimes more difficult” (6) and it really never answered the question satisfactorily then for me, and in this instance, neither did it do so for Annabelle. The argument ends with Ellen marching out of the room after Annabelle says she just wants to be responsible for herself and her mother responds “We’ll just see about that!” (7).

And then, Annabelle wakes up and she is her mother. The inability for Annabelle to see things from her mother’s perspective propels the switch and reveals the adult centered theme of this book. As Annabelle begins to see things from an adult’s perspective, her own, immature and childlike perspective begins to recede. But first, Annabelle is thrilled with the change! She has nice teeth, a good body, and enjoys putting lots of makeup on ‘their’ face (8-9). She fakes her way through breakfast, gets dressed up, pushes the kids off to school (and notices an Annabelle appears to have not changed at all) and suggests that she and her father/husband go to see an X-Rated flick; obviously, Annabelle is still a child because she does not think of the consequences that type of outing could bring (not to mention the emotional scars for life!), and then, after a round of boardgames with Boris, Annabelle fires the maid (46). But, then things the take a turn and the day is no longer fun. The situation becomes more than her thirteen year old mind can handle. In this way, the inability of Annabelle to cope with adult situations and problems, shows that there is a clearly defined line between adulthood and childhood. Annabelle is still a child, but as her mother, she has to tackle some adult responsibilities, and Annabelle is clearly not at that point in life where can do so without further confusing things.

            While the story remains funny and page-turning, it is easy to see what is going to occur here. It is obvious that this “switch” has taken place to teach Annabelle’s a lesson. Also, Annabelle’s bad attitude is to blame for this mind boggling turn of events, so as in all adult centered texts, the strong, caring, and superhuman adult has distributed knowledge and punishment in a justifiable manner. As Annabelle’s day progresses, she begins to see that life is not easy for her mother and that she is not prepared to be an adult. As the book continues on, Annabelle begins to see herself as other people in her life see her; for example, the cleaning lady refers to Annabelle as “a little pig” who’s “got no discipline” who will be “on drugs before you know it.” Annabelle is angered by this statement and  takes this time to fire Mrs. Schmauss (46). Before the incident with Mrs. Schmauss, Boris comes downstairs to return a colander, and it is during this time that we learn, in no uncertain terms, the Boris hates Annabelle (which is too bad for Annabelle because she is totally in love with Boris!). She also is embarrassed by her room (the same room which propelled the argument with her mother and caused the switcheroo to occur) and tells Boris that it is her brother Ben’s (ApeFace’s) room—canopy and all (30). We learn that Annabelle four years earlier had cut open Boris’ head with a tin shovel (31) and that Boris thinks that Annabelle is “a bad seed” (31). This continues throughout the book, but it happens the most predominantly during the conference at school with Annabelle’s teachers and her principal and learns what her teachers really think about her as they criticize her at the conference.

            This is the turning point in the book, Annabelle’s catharsis. It is also when we see the author handing out a lesson about studying hard and handing work in on time. This is drilled into the reader throughout the conference, and the fact that Annabelle is not doing it really hits her hard. When she finds out that she had flunked English, she goes numb (86) and discovers that she is wasting everyone’s time. She discovers that she has a very high IQ, higher than “a college freshman’s” (86) and that her English teacher, Miss McGuirk blames herself for Annabelle’s failure as a student. This opens Annabelle’s eyes to see her teacher in a very different, more compassionate manner (87) an by the end of the meeting, Annabelle has realized that her behavior has been bad, and that she needs to start doing better. She promises the educators at the meeting that “on Monday morning I’m sure you will see a completely different Annabelle,” to which the school psychologist replies  Let’s not get our hopes up too high… we can’t expect her to change overnight” (95-96).  She leaves the meeting, looking for herself—literally.

            Annabelle has learned many lessons today and has heard how everyone in her life feels about her. It is a humbling experience, especially when she realizes that the person who loves her the most is the person she treats the worst, her brother (56). When she realizes that he’s not half bad, her attitude towards him begins to change, and she begins to change as well. It is an event concerning Ben which really makes her see that she is not ready to be an adult, and that she wants to go back to her own body. Her brother gets kidnapped.  Well, not really. But, Annabelle thinks that Ben has been kidnapped. She comes home from the meeting to find that her brother was taken away by  beautiful chick” (100), described by Boris. Now, as the reader, I knew all along that it was Annabelle’s mother in Annabelle’s body who came and took Ben away for ice cream, but in Annabelle’s state of panic, the thought never occurred to her. Mainly because in her thirteen mind, she had contemplated all the different people her mother may have chosen to be that day, and Annabelle was uncertain if her mother would even want to be Annabelle. Therefore, when Ben comes up missing, Annabelle freaks out and  calls the police, and ends up almost having her mother committed for being crazy after she breaks down and says that her mother switched bodies their minds into each others bodies. Of course, these officers do not believe her, and think they have a “fruitcake” on the line (12). Boris takes charge, reveals his love for Mrs. Andrews, and Annabelle thinks “what a waste” (114) because he is love with Annabelle but not Annabelle. Confusing, yes, but not if you read the book. Actually, the entire exchange is very funny, and it shows that some adults are silly, but it does not change the overall tone that reveals this is an adult centered book, and the theme again emerges when Annabelle just gives up and tells the police the truth, that she is “only thirteen. I’m just a little girl who has been turned into her mother” (113). Annabelle has had enough and is ready to just go ahead and give up. She doesn’t want to do this anymore, she is overwhelmed, and her brother is missing. In her moment of greatest need, she is in her mother’s room, lying on the bed, and admitting her mother was right. “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? You wanted to teach me a terrific lesson? O.K. I learned a terrific lesson.” (119). And poof! Mom’s back. And, Annabelle has learned her lessons. She even became a beautiful chick (131-133), because Mom was finally able to go and get the braces off, get Annabelle’s hair cut, and buy new clothes. Annabelle’s transformation is complete—from old Annabelle to Mom to new Annabelle. Her attitude is different, and she has learned that perhaps she should clean her room-to impress Boris.

            At the beginning of the book, Annabelle wanted to be in charge of her own life, and wanted to know why nobody told her mother what to do, and that she wanted the same rights. So, Annabelle’s mother switched them to teach Annabelle a lesson, so that Annabelle could understand exactly what she was saying, and to learn for herself how Annabelle is wrong about adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it.  Many things are revealed to her as she learns through the interchange with her father, that Annabelle is a constant source of irritation between the two of them, and as the book progresses, she becomes more aware of the way people view her, and it is not very good. Annabelle is learning a hard lesson, she is hearing what people say about her, how they feel about her, and she first reacts in anger by firing the maid and then eventually, changing her inside appearance while her mother changes Annabelle’s outside appearance. Interestingly enough, the physical changes her mother makes result in Annabelle becoming a more attractive person, but at the beginning of the book, she just wanted to be left alone to grow her own hair and chew her own fingernails. And, in an odd twist of fate, Annabelle becomes worried that her mother is not in her body, and that careless Annabelle is dead under a number 7 bus somewhere (99). Annabelle had nagged her mother for freedom, to go to the park, to not be told what to do. Ellen had always denied Annabelle these privileges because she feared for Annabelle’s safety; when Annabelle realizes just how irresponsible she actually is, she becomes worried for her own safety. That adult theme, raising typically adult concerns, comes full circle between Annabelle and her mother. Situations arise, and eventually Mom comes back and saves day and returns everything to normal—except now the two of them have a better, stronger relationship build on mutual respect and understanding. And, the fact that Mother knows best.


In the Japanese animated television series Inuyasha, a fifteen-year-old high school student named Kagome is attacked by a monster in an old well on her family’s property. She falls into the well and reemerges to find herself five hundred years in the past where magic and demons are everyday occurrences. Kagome learns that the demon in the well attacked her because she is the reincarnation of a priestess who died guarding a powerful jewel that gave demons immense power, and that she is now the keeper of the jewel. When more demons appear to try and steal the jewel, Kagome unseals a half-demon, half-human boy named Inuyasha and enlists his help to battle the monsters. During one of these battles, however, the jewel is shattered and its pieces are scattered throughout the country, and Inuyasha and Kagome decide to team up and locate all of the shards before they can fall into the wrong hands. However, their quest becomes a backdrop to their budding relationship and the issues they face. Inuyasha, for example, deals with prejudice and isolation because of his heritage. Kagome must fulfill her obligation of protecting the magical jewel from those who would abuse its power in the past, but at the same time she has to keep up with her schoolwork in the present. While many of the major and reoccurring characters are teenagers, and one of major focuses of the series is the interaction between Inuyasha and Kagome, the series is more of a soap opera than a young adult text. While there are some instances of progressive themes in Inuyasha, the show mostly falls back on the teenage mystique.

At the beginning of the series, Inuyasha is very much the definition of the teenager as a potential problem. When Kagome first unseals him, he actually tries to attack her like the rest of the demons in order to steal the jewel for himself, and is at first reluctant to help Kagome recover all of the jewel shards. He wants the jewel in order to use it to become a full demon, claiming that he desires the power a full-blooded demon has. Inuyasha seems to resent his human blood because it makes him weaker than other demons, and takes offense to being mocked for his heritage. One of Inuyasha and Kagome’s traveling companions, Miroku, is also depicted stereotypically as a potential problem. Miroku is eighteen and a Buddhist monk, but his behavior is extremely atypical of his profession. Before joining Inuyasha and Kagome, he used his status as a priest to con people, and even after joining them, he gets food and shelter for their group through manipulation. Miroku is also extremely lecherous. Almost every time he meets a woman, he pleads with her to bear his children, and usually ends up groping her. While his sexual behavior is usually a source of comic relief, he often gets himself and the others in trouble due to it. However, Inuyasha and Miroku’s troublesome behavior changes over the course of the series. Miroku develops feelings for another member of their group, Sango, and even eventually proposes to her though he still gropes her on occasion. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Inuyasha resents his human side not only because it makes him weak, but because of the discrimination he has faced because of his mixed blood. He also begins to consider using the magic jewel to become fully human instead of demon, or even destroying it entirely so that it can never be misused.
The series also enforces the theme of adolescence as a temporary stage before adulthood. This is very predominant in Kagome’s development throughout the story. At first, traveling with Inuyasha is a necessity for her because of her naivety and unfamiliarity with the world she finds herself in, but as the series progresses, Kagome learns to better defend herself and even battles demons without Inuyasha’s help. While her experiences in the past make her more self-reliant, however, she is forced to become more mature much faster than normally. During her brief returns to the present to make up for her absences in school, viewers get to see Kagome interacting with her friends. At first, Kagome is still as boy crazy as her girlfriends are, and often comes to them for relationship advice when she and Inuyasha are having problems (though she remains vague about who and what he actually is). However, Kagome begins to become distanced from her friends at school as they remain flighty and she grows more serious. The show does not seem to view this as a necessarily bad thing, however- Kagome’s maturity is a positive aspect of her character, despite that she may be growing apart from her friends in school as a result.

The relationship between Kagome and Inuyasha is also an example of the emphasis on the development from adolescence to adulthood, since as they mature, so does their love for one another. Many of the initial obstacles their relationship faces are due to stereotypical portrayals of teenaged boys and teenaged relationships in general. Inuyasha is portrayed as extremely stubborn about his feelings and flat out refuses to acknowledge them for most of the series, though it is clear that he develops feelings for Kagome and is obviously confused about what to do about it. Both he and Kagome are also extremely jealous and overreact whenever someone or something else comes between them. Kagome, for example, will angrily retreat to the present time when Inuyasha does not return her feelings and complain to her mother and her friends, leaving Inuyasha to sit and brood. Inuyasha, on the other hand, becomes extremely agitated if another man tries to woo Kagome, and will even overexert himself in battle to prove that he is more desirable. However, these more stereotypical aspects of their relationship become less apparent as the series progresses and they mature, and when they do arise, it becomes mostly for comic relief. Another interesting point to note is that Inuyasha and Kagome’s relationship blossoms despite never becoming sexual- the most sexual experience that they have together is accidentally seeing one another naked during baths.

Adults in the series are typically absent or used as comic relief, and very few of them have a positive impact on the teenaged characters. Inuyasha’s parents are both deceased, and Kagome’s father is rarely mentioned and it is never stated whether or not he is alive. Their travel companions also have deceased parents, all of which died in traumatic ways. Two adult characters that do appear regularly are Myoga and Jaken, both of which are in subservient roles to younger characters and are often the source of comic relief. Myoga is a flea demon that was once the retainer to Inuyasha’s father, a powerful demon lord, and now acts as a retainer to Inuyasha himself. Despite this, however, Myoga is a coward and often runs from battle much to the annoyance of Inuyasha and his companions. Jaken is much like Myoga, though he acts a servant to Inuyasha’s half-brother, Sesshomaru. Jaken, despite being thousands of years older than Sesshomaru, is in such awe of his lord that his adoration becomes ridiculous. He is also a bit of a coward, but he tries not to show it in order to impress his lord. Two adults that are shown in a positive light are Kagome’s mother and Kaede, an elderly priestess in the past. While Kagome’s mother does not play a very large role in the show (she isn’t even given a name), she is very supportive of her daughter’s obligations in the past as well as her relationship with Inuyasha, and she also offers Kagome advice whenever she and Inuyasha have been arguing. Meanwhile, Kaede is definitely a mentor figure, dispensing wisdom to the younger characters and especially Kagome, who also has spiritual priestess powers due to being a reincarnation of one. Despite her age, Kaede has occasionally fought alongside the teenaged characters and is shown as being as powerful and competent as they are.
In Inuyasha, adults are mostly absent, or used as comic relief, and teenaged characters display troublesome behavior. Kagome’s maturity is viewed as a positive thing, even though she is distanced from her friends in the present as a result. In general, the show rewards the development of teenaged characters from adolescence into adulthood. While Inuyasha has some progressive themes, it is mostly enforcing stereotypes associated with teens.



In children’s film Anastasia (which is not a Disney movie) there are a lot of forms of interpellation, which I have never noticed before. Interpellation is when a film or book works to make certain social values more important. These can be values of race, gender, class, or any other values society thinks are important. In the video “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” they look at how Disney tries to portray values within their films. Some watch this and can’t believe they did not see it before but that is why interpellation is so important, it is mostly done unconsciously.

Anya is a strong willed, brave, and intelligent girl. Through out the film she is learning to become Russian royalty, all the character surrounding her expect her to become the Princess Anastasia. Dimitri and Vladimir have their own selfish reason for trying to trick the Empress Marie that Anya is her long lost granddaughter Anastasia; they will receive a large sum of money from her. Anya has always wanted a family and the only clue to any is a necklace that says “together in Paris.” She can not get to Paris on her own and when Dimitri finds her and see how much she looks like the Princess Anastasia he uses her want for a family against her. Rasputin knows that she is the lost princess and so through the movie he tries to complete his curse on the Romanov family by killing her. After Sophie tests her with only questions Anastasia would know, she joins the group in trying to get her to become the princess. Anya is surrounded by pressure to become the Princess Anastasia.

Even as a little girl I loved history. The film Anastasia has always been one of my favorite movies because it not only has rich Russian history but it is also about “a rumor,
a legend, a mystery” that is Anastasia’s story. One way society can use interpellation is through there portrayal of history. Most children’s movies “dumb down” history because the believe children cannot handle the violence that actually occurred. In Anastasia they don’t necessarily change history, but rather don’t tell the whole story. The Romanovs were killed but it was not because Rasputin but a curse on them. Rasputin did not have magical powers but was with the Romanov because of his influence over
Tsarina Alexandra whom he became a personal advisor and confidant to. Also the Romanovs were killed because Nicholas II was not a good czar and the military took over. This is sort of shown in the movie, but Nicholas II is portrayed as good czar. It is much like in Pocahontas when the Europeans and Indians think each other are savages, then they realize there is nothing wrong with each other and the Europeans go home; it never mentions the genocide of the Indians!

One of the most common was a movie uses interpellations is through gender. Child’s movies portray females as the weaker sex and males as the stronger. When Dimitri, Vladimir, and Anastasia are traveling to Paris on a train there is an explosion and Dimirti goes out to investigate and tells Anastasia to stay where it is safe. This is saying that it is the male’s job to protect the female and make sure she is safe. There are two events in which Dimitri comes to Anastasia’s rescue. Once is when she is sleep walking and almost jumps off a ship. When he wakes her up she runs into his arms and cries. The other time is when Rasputin attacks Anastasia and she is about to fall into the river. This is saying that a women needs a man to come to her aid, she cannot save herself. Another way to just gender is that females should act in a particular way. There is always the idea that all girls want to be a princess and that a princess should act a certain way. At one point Vladimir says, “she certainly has a mind of her own,” in which Dimitri responds “yeah. I hate that in a woman.”  This gives that idea that if a woman wants an attractive man like Dimitri, a female should not have a mind of her own. In the song “Learn To Do It” some of the lyrics say, “Now, shoulders back and stand up straight/ And do not walk, but try to float/ You give a bow/ Your hand receives a kiss/ Now, elbows in and sit up straight/ And never slurp the stroganoff.” These lyrics are telling Anastasia how she should act to become a proper lady, a lady of royalty. At certain times in the movie Anya dresses up in beautiful dress, hair done perfectly and lovely jewelry. At all these times when Dimirti becomes either nervous around Anastasia, gives her a compliment or is total shock at her beauty. This tells little girls that it is ok to use your body to get a man’s attention instead of using your intelligence.

The story of Anastasia is about a Russian girl with Russian men, Dimirti and Vladimir. Then why doesn’t Anastasia and Dimitri look Russian! Both of the main characters look more English or American then they do Russian. This unconsciously shows that the United States and Britain are more important then other countries. When the main characters get to Sophie’s house there is a maid who is dressed up in an extremely sexy maid outfit. This is a stereotype that shows French maids are all sexy and wear skimpy clothes. The characters go showing in Paris before they go to the play, where they sing a song called “Paris Holds The Key To Your Heart.” During the song there show many stereotypes against the French. For example most of the people on the streets are in love and when they go into a bar, there are Can-Can dancers. Not everyone in Paris is in love or a Can-Can dancer! The lyrics for the song also confirm that all French people must be in love, “There’s love in the air/ The French have it down to an art/ When your heart says don’t/ The French say do!”

Another form of interpellation is the idea of class, which I believe is used a lot in the movie. When Dimitri and Anastasia care children, Anastasia who is rich is polite and listens to her father whereas Dimitri who is poor is causing mischief and stealing apples. In another part a poor man sings “I got this from the palace/ It’s line with real fur” this is saying that all poor people steal, which is not true. When Anastasia is “poor” she is in rags and has her hair hidden in a hat but when Dimitri gives her a new dress she comes out looks gorgeous with a tight fitting blue dress and her hair brushed and in a bow, saying that the rich are cleaner and better then the poor. At one point Dimitri, who has fallen in love with Anastasia says, “princesses don’t marry kitchen boys.” This is society’s idea that a princesses or someone with money should only marry someone within their social class. At the end of the movie, everyone dressed in elegant clothes and go the ballet. Anastasia is dressed in a beautiful purple dress with sparkling diamonds. She not only gets “check out” by Dimitri but it says that only the rich go to the ballet. I find it rather interesting that the ballet they are watching is Cinderella, which in some ways mirrors Anastasia’s life. Cinderella had a harsh life with her stepmother and stepsisters but eventually founds her place with Prince Charming. Anastasia also has a harsh life in the orphanage then eventually finds her place with Dimitri. I also find it interesting that both Anastasia and her grandmother are wearing purple with is the color of royalty.

Anastasia is different then a lot of the Disney princesses because she has a lot of agency over her life. She does dangerous things throughout the movie which some would believe a woman should not do. At the end of the movie Dimitri saves her, but after he saves her, she stands up to Rasputin and it is her who kills him. Throughout the movie Anastasia is under great pressure to become the lost princess. At the end of the movie she chooses not to be the princess but instead to be with Dimitri. This could be taken in two ways. One that she is giving up her agency to be with a man, much like in Mulan when at the end of the movie after taking on the role of a man she once again takes on the woman’s expected role of getting married. The other way to view this is that she took her own agency in not becoming the typical princess but being without her love because he is from a lower social status.



Interpellation is a process in which individuals take in and “soak up” ideas without first thinking about how those ideas may affect their lives.  These ideas are presented in a manner by which the individual acts as a human sponge and absorbs the information without thinking about it.  This process is a part of every day life, and is deeply imbedded into children’s literature.  This is a way for authors to pass on their ideals without observably stating the idea they wish to pass on.  This is how many children learn and eventually form opinions of their own concerning various topics and how the world works.  This can be done through books, movies, and the mass media in general.  Interpellation affects how individuals view gender, race, and social or class status of themselves as well as those around them. 

Text Chosen:

            The Black Cauldron is a Walt Disney film based on the first two books in the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander.  The movie was released in 1985 and was met with much criticism.  The story is about a young man, Taran, and his quest to keep a powerful, magical cauldron from coming into the possession of the evil Horned King.  The story is set in the mystical land of Prydain during what appears to be the Dark Ages.  This is where Taran works as an assistant pig keeper under the supervision of an older gentleman named Dallben.  There is never any mention of Taran’s parents, and so Dallben takes on a fatherly role for him.  Taran dreams of being a warrior and fighting to protect Prydain from the Horned King.  When Taran discovers that Hen Wen, the big he tends to, is an oracular pig, he is pushed to take on a new role.  In some ways he gets his wish, but he has to prove to himself that he is capable before he can fulfill his role.  He is give much more responsibility and has to learn to believe in himself before others will. 

            Early on in the film, Taran is set up to be the hero of the story.  He starts his journey as an anxious young pig keeper, and has to work hard to keep the cauldron from falling into the hands of the Horned King.  When the kind discovers that Hen Wen can reveal the secret location of the cauldron, Taran is told to take the pig and keep her safe.  He alone can keep her away from the king, and has terrible odds to work against.  Dallben orders Taran to take the pig to a cottage in the forest to keep her safe.  As Taran leaves, Dallben makes a comment concerning the responsibility Taran has taken on by stating, “so much, so soon…to rest on his young shoulders.”  This is where Taran accepts the role as hero and protector.  This responsibility gives him agency over the situation at hand. 

            When Hen Wen is captured by the Horned King, Taran is forced to show him where the cauldron is to save both his life and the pig’s.  he helps Hen Wen escape and is locked in the dungeon of the King’s castle.  He vows to find the cauldron before the Horned King does so that Prydain will be safe.  While locked away in the king’s dungeon he meets Eilonwy, a princess who was also captured to find information about the cauldron.  Upon meeting Taran, who is frustrated because he has fialed Dallben, she asks, “are you a lord? Or a warrior?”  Taran answers, stating, “uh…no.  I’m an assistant pig keeper.”  Eilonwy responds to this with some degree of sorrow, “oh…What a pity.  I was so hoping for someone who could help me escape.”  The princess assumes that because he is just a pig keeper, he is not capable of helping her to escape from the king’s dungeon.  This also leads the audience to believe that she cannot escape on her own.  She is using the princess role and being interpellated into the idea that she has to be rescued.  Later on, she does just that, she is rescued by Taran after he has found a magic sword and he and Eilonwy have met another prisoner, a minstrel by the name of Fflewddur Fflam.  As the three of them are being chased by the Horned King’s henchmen, Taran looks to Eilonwy and says, “I am going to get you out of here.”  This is the point where he accepts his role as her hero and she as the damsel in distress.

            The three escape from the castle and set out to find the cauldron.  Taran finds Hen Wen with the Fairfolk and one of the fairies, Doli, lead the three of them to the last known location of the cauldron.  Once they arrive there, they are “greeted” by three witches.  One of them tries to seduce Fflewddur.  She is a larger woman, but by far the prettiest of the three. She has rosy cheeks, long red hair, large breasts, and on of the warts that her sisters possess.  Taran strikes a deal with the sisters to trade his sword for the cauldron.  Once they have received the cauldron, the witches inform Taran and his companions that the only way to stop the evil magic of the cauldron is for someone to willingly climb into the cauldron and give their life.  Before they can decide what to do, the three are again captured by the Horned King.  He takes the cauldron and raises his army of dead soldiers.  Taran, Eilonwy, and Fflewddur are rescued by Gurgi, a rambunctious, childlike creature who befriended Taran in the woods during his original quest to keep Hen Wen safe.  Taran decides to sacrifice himself to the cauldron to save Eilonwy and Fflewddur.  However, before he can, Gurgi jumps into the cauldron himself and reverses its evil magic.  Taran rescues Eilonwy and Fflewddur again and gets them out of the castle again before it collapses. 

            In the end, the witches return, wanting the powerless cauldron back.  Taran bargains with them again and asks that Gurgi be returned to them from the cauldron.  His demands are granted but only once he tells the witches that they can keep his sword.  Taran has saved the day again and become the hero after all.  He has given in to his role as a hero and a rescuer.  Eilonwy, however strong-willed and outspoken she may be, has also been interpellated into her role as a damsel in need of a rescuer.  They leave the forest together….

and live happily ever after…


            I found several examples of gender interpellation as I was watching the movie.  Most of these observations are of Eilonwy and the way she is portrayed and treated throughout the film.  There are few female characters at all in the movie- Eilonwy, Hen Wen, a fairy, and the witches- this is keeping in mind that Hen Wen is a pig with a relatively small, however important, part.

            First of all, I have to comment on the clothing of the characters.  All of the males (Taran, Fflewddur, Dallben, etc.) are dressed in dull earthy tones.  Taran wears a dark green, whereas Eilonwy is wearing a pale purple dress.  One of the fairfolk, a young female fairy, is dressed in pinks of various shades while all the boys are wearing greens and blues and oranges.  During one point in the film, Eilonwy crawls out of a dusty tunnel into a dusty room and takes the time to wipe the dirt off of her dress, knowing that she is going to get just as dirty all over again.

            Next is the role of Princess Eilonwy.  She is the only major female role in the movie.  She is the damsel in distress.  She is personally strong-willed and comes off as independent, but in the end she still needs to be saved by a male.  She is smart enough to find her way through the castle and even lead Taran out of the dungeon, but she cannot escape on her own.  She is under the impression that she has to have a warrior come and save her, and in the end she does.

            Once Taran has gotten Eilonwy and Fflewddur from the castle, we come to a scene in the forest.  Taran is playing around and swinging his sword through the air while Fflewddur plays his harp behind a group of bushes.  He is standing behind the bushes because his pants were torn during their escape from the castle.  Eilonwy is sitting on a log sewing up his pants.  This shows that she is somewhat domesticated.  The men are having a good time while she fixes Fflewddur’s pants.  Sewing is something that is stereotypically done by a woman.  Later in the woods, the three are discussing their escape.  Taran tries to take credit for their getaway, but Eilonwy points out that the sword Taran carries is enchanted, thereby transferring some of the credit to the sword.  Taran responds with a relatively sexist remark, “what does a girl know about swords?”  This is to say that girls could not know anything about swords because they are something that only boys would know about.  Eilonwy tries to defend herself and fight back, but eventually gives in to her emotions and cries.  She storms off and he follows her to apologize.  This could lead one to believe that females are fragile and overly emotional.  This assumption of emotion comes up again later when Taran doubts himself and his abilities.  She supports him and even tells him “I believe in you.”  These words would not mean the same thing if they were coming from Fflewddur.  They renew Taran’s faith in himself because they come from a caring and emotional person—a ‘woman.’

            I noticed that while there is a distinction between the classes of the main characters, none of them seem to have a problem with the fact that they are from different levels of society.  Eilonwy is a princess, this means that she is of royal blood, but she seems perfectly content to be friends with a pig keeper.  Taran is an assistant pig keeper, who becomes the princess’s rescuer.  And in between these two is Fflewddur Fflam, the minstrel.  Ordinarily, it would have been his job to entertain people of stature such as Eilonwy, but she never asks him to, or orders him to, or even suggests it.  They see each other as people, not different occupations and places or levels in life.  Their differences in status do not prevent them from befriending each other.

            I think that the film wants the audience to walk away with a feeling of possibility.  Anything is possible.  While there are several indications in the film that boys are better rescuers, and that women are just emotional and have to have the assistance of a male, I don’t feel that this is the main message of the film.  The characters went up against terrible odds; they faced the Horned King, and defeated him.   The befriended total strangers, and in the end they won out over evil.  I feel that this was the main purpose of the movie, to show that no matter what we are faced with, there is always a way.  The movie explored the land of the mystical: talking creatures, winged dragons, and magic cauldrons.  This excites the imagination of the audience, and makes all the little idiosyncrasies of the movie seem to fade away.  One gets caught up in the film, and doesn’t notice that Eilonwy’s dress is purple, or that Gurgi is childlike.  They see interesting characters who work together to conquer a magical king and save the world.