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Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gan

来源:千侠传官网 作者:千侠传 人气: 发布时间:2018-05-24
摘要:In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: The Lion and the Unicorn 26.2 (2002) 265-270 [Access article in PDF] Book Review Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830-1996 John Springha

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Lion and the Unicorn 26.2 (2002) 265-270
[Access article in PDF] Book Review Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics:
Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830-1996 John Springhall. Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830-1996. New York: St. Martin's P, 1998.

Every major extension of print or technological literacy stokes social anxiety, as new forms of cultural and technical competence threaten the established order. The advent of new communications media has proved especially threatening to visions of ideal childhood, for children's use of such media tends to be early and formative. Such early exposure challenges the mediation of parents, teachers and other authorities, and often incites adult panic. Past changes in print culture have had just such a destabilizing effect, as has the spread of broadcast media. Current changes in online culture have rebooted this cyclic pattern of panic, making the old fears once again urgent and profitable. Ours is the age of censorware, after all: Net Nanny, Cybersitter, and their ilk, promise online security at home, and, increasingly, in the workplace (with employers acting as mock-parents, as in the hype for MoM, a popular Net-tracking program for home and office). Such censorware has proliferated in the United States over the last five years, during which the Communications Decency Act has been adopted and overturned, only to be followed by the controversial Child Online Protection Act of 1998. Meanwhile, in the wake of the school-shooting pandemic, anxiety over film and video has again spiked, spurring attempts to criminalize the distribution of violent entertainment to youth.

In such a climate, parents and teachers may be forced to take a defensive stance vis-à-vis mass culture—yet in so doing they are reenacting a long-familiar, predictable and in some ways sterile pattern. This reactive pattern is the focus of John Springhall's Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics, an historical study of adult campaigns to defend youth from the alleged evils of popular media. Such campaigns are central to the history of children's culture, for such fears depend (and impinge) upon our visions of childhood, informing our very sense of what we do and why.

Springhall's is a minutely researched, provocative and long-overdue study, one I expect to use in my own teaching. The book belongs to a vital current of work concerning the neglected overlap of children's literature, print and media history, and popular culture. Such media-centered work is beginning to make, and should make, a noticeable impact on children's literature criticism. Consider, for example, the [End Page 265] sprawling Children's Culture Reader (1998), edited by media guru Henry Jenkins (reviewed in L&U 24.3); or more focused collections such as Clark & Higonnet's Girls, Boys, Books, Toys (1999) or Marsha Kinder's Kids' Media Culture (2000).

This is complex and thorny territory. The relationship between children and mass media, and how adults can or should intervene in that relationship, is one of the major fault lines in the history of childhood, so much so that, in recent years, some have implicated the media in the very erasure of childhood as a meaningful concept (Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, 1984). Confronted by the vast and overbearing machinery of pop culture, many scholars of children's literature may share the ambivalence that Jack Zipes voices in his book Happily Ever After (1997), in which Zipes acknowledges the potentially "liberating" ways in which people may use the products of commodified culture, yet also, à la Adorno and Horkheimer, registers profound distrust of the "totalitarian" culture industry and its early impact on children (6-9). Springhall's book will probably do nothing to resolve these ambivalences, but it succeeds in imposing a meaningful pattern on a long and intractable history.

The originality of Springhall's book resides not so much in conceptual novelty as in its scope. Other histories have ventured into this territory, but without the same sweep or theoretical rigor: Mark West's Children, Culture, and...

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