Post by Caroline Ferris Leader, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Payne Fund studies of the 1920s and 1930s attempted to discover—with questionable scientific rigor—whether attending the movies was emotionally and physically harmful to children. Was it the case that disturbing scenes and sensory reactions to light and sound caused children to become nervous, agitated, and upset? Although the Payne studies were controversial and inconclusive, they reflected a general concern about the effect of films on children’s well-being that would influence media regulation and discourse for years to come. Many popular and academic conversations about kids and media are still dominated by the belief that children are vulnerable, developing bodies in need of constant oversight. David Buckingham famously defined these discourses as pedagogical and protectionist, and argued that they can limit the study of kids’ media. Like Buckingham, we see potential pitfalls with the pedagogical and protectionist approaches, including regressive views of audiences; arbitrary boundaries between adult and child cultures; and a neglect of formal analysis and historical inquiry. Significant work has been done in a number of disciplines that seeks to address these challenges and concerns, but there is more to add to the film and media studies conversation that recognizes the complexity of children’s media and the cultures surrounding them.
For this issue, The Velvet Light Trap seeks historical and contemporary studies of kids’ media: that is, media aimed exclusively at kids, media produced with kids in mind as part of the larger audience, or media made by kids themselves. Submissions should add to the study of kids’ media as a creative, social, and cultural phenomenon by moving beyond the protectionist and pedagogical binary. We welcome topics that reflect the agency of young people, acknowledge the complexity of these media texts, and expand film and media histories. We will consider papers that concern people under the age of 18—teens, tweens, “young adults,” infants, and everyone in between—and topics with a national, regional, or international scope. The following subjects offer some topic areas, though submissions are not limited to the following:
- Issues of gender, race, and the queering of childhood
- Children as producers of content, online and in film or TV narratives
- New research methodologies: issues when studying kids or using kids as co-researchers
- Merchandising, toy culture, franchising, and paratexts of kids’ media
- Traditional kids’ media forms and genres—fairy tales, animation, fantasy, etc.—and their boundaries and hybridity
- Child stars and the stars of children’s shows or films
- Sites of kid fandom and kids’ fan culture
- Age and age differentiation within the realm of kids’ media
- Texts with crossover appeal to multiple age demographics
- Industrial studies of kid-focused networks, studios, websites, etc.
- Children’s film festivals and other sites of exhibition
- Historiographic inquiries into the conditions affecting children’s media: technological change, taste cultures, distribution and exhibition practices, external censorship, self-regulation, etc.
- Institutional and educational media
Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. The entire essay, including block quotations and notes, should be double-spaced. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Photocopies of illustrations are sufficient for initial review, but authors should be prepared to supply camera-ready photographs on request. Illustrations will be sized by the publisher. Permissions are the responsibility of the author.
Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are due September 5, 2015.