Saturday, March 17, 2012

Childrens Movie Critique

This film presents a story about an orphaned baby boy, Tarzan, who is discovered and rescued by a female gorilla, Kala. The story takes place in Africa amongst a jungle setting focusing mainly on the gorillas and other animal’s lifestyle. This made it difficult to analyze for racism being as animal dynamics are far different that human dynamics. The main message that comes across in the family dynamics of the gorilla’s relationship towards Tarzan was the rejection of Tarzan being someone “different”. Tarzan’s position can be portrayed as a situation someone in a minority group may struggle with.

Tarzan constantly is searching from approval from Kurtchak, the dominant male gorilla of the pack and his adoptive father. Tarzan tries desperately to find his place in the pack by proving his skills to Kerchak. Kerchak is a darker, dominant gorilla that also is more aggressive than any of the other gorillas; this can show that darker people are mean. He becomes softer throughout the film and you come to understand that his aggressiveness was out of protection and he accepts and apologizes to Tarzan before he dies. Kerchak and Kala’s interaction with one and other is very sexist being as Kerchak is always the dominant one in the relationship, yet Kala shows forms of independence by keeping Tarzan even though he doesn’t want him and ignoring his commands or insults towards Tarzan.

When the humans, Jane, Professor Porter, and Clayton come into the jungle and new problem comes about in the form of separation. Now let’s remember this is a film about animal and human interaction; there will always be boundaries. Some people may say that the fact that the gorillas want nothing to do with the humans and avoid them is a form of segregation; however I don’t see it that way. I simply see it as humans being something foreign and scary to the gorillas so they want to maintain a distance. And in the end they learn to accept the humans anyways. This article:  speaks about how there are no African Americans in this film, yet it is set in Africa; and according to Bertram Rothschild the gorillas take the place of African Americans in this film. Rothschild writes about the caging of the gorillas and how that symbolizes the capture of African Americans for slavery; which is a reasonable observation. I view this film a little less intentional than that. Capturing of gorillas is a realistic scenario, and the only reason why the gorillas speak and have humanistic actions is because it’s an animated Disney film. Everyone has their own perception and views on this matter; I just disagree with Rothschild’s view.
Jane is an interesting character in this film because when she makes her first appearance she embodies and proper English woman who is unsuited for the jungle. And the males are leading the group while she struggles behind them which is a sexist undertone.

Yet she learns the ways of the jungle life and he shows her the beauty of the jungle which in the end shifts her towards becoming less of a stereotypical proper woman. Her personality changes as she learns more, and she ends up staying in the jungle with Tarzan because it makes her happy.

The struggle Tarzan has trying to find his identity once the humans enter the jungle becomes the main focus. He takes time learning through pictures how humans act and the human cultures; and he starts to mimic them. This is showing him trying to change and fit in with people like him and he starts to lose the values and traits of being a “gorilla”. Ultimately Tarzan is faced with the decision to choose one or the other, he finds a compromise with maintaining the things he has learned from Jane and the professor while remaining in the jungle with his gorilla pack. Parts of this struggle can be perceived as Jane and the professor trying to erase Tarzans “culture” to have him become a human and be where he belongs. Even as a child I picked up on that from watching this movie.

Along with his struggle of finding his identity his adoptive mother, Kala, tries to instill a very important message when she discovers him looking at himself in the water and hitting his reflection, then covering himself in mud. Tarzan says “Why am I so different?” Kala responds “Look at me, and do you know what I see? Two eyes, two ears, a nose and two hands…”
Tarzan notices the difference and becomes discouraged. Kala then says “Forget what you see, what do you feel?” And places his hand on his chest, Tarzan says “My heart”. Then she lifts him to her chest and has his listen to her heart “your heart” he says. This comforts Tarzan and makes him feel accepted and alike with Kala and the other gorillas. This shows equality in the form of being a living thing with a heartbeat, no matter how different you may be on the outside.  

 This is the most important part of the movie to me, and it focuses on these important messages for most of the movie. What I think children take away from this film, is humor with the funny characters, male dominance with Kerchak, cultural differences and the struggle between them, and an overall lesson of learning to find yourself; whether it be Jane discovering she is happy with Tarzan in the jungle, or Tarzan finding that he is happy being a human in a gorillas world. When my sister and I watched this movie when we were younger, we loved the scenes with Kala and Tarzan and still to this day those are our favorite parts. I hope most children look past the racial and sexist undertones and take away the message the film presents with being loved for who you are no matter how different you may be.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Freckleface Strawberry

Freckleface Strawberry

By: Julianne Moore

Illustrated By: LeUyan Pham

Published: 2007

This book is about a seven year old girl who has a hard time excepting something about herself; her freckles. She tries anything she can think to get rid of her freckles, including becoming the “new” kid at school. Yet in the end she accepts and learns to love her freckles.

Are characters "outside the mainstream culture" depicted as individuals or as caricatures?
After observing the illustrations I saw that each character in the book is a unique individual, even the children Freckleface Strawberry interacts with are individuals. The only thing that can be interpreted as a caricature feature is Freckleface Strawberries freckles. They stand out in all the illustrations and she is the only one in which they are extremely noticeable, and even compared to a giraffes spots at one point.

Does their representation include significant specific cultural information? Or does it follow stereotypes?
This book doesn’t give any insight into why people have freckles or red hair; it mainly follows stereotypes for redheaded freckled people. The main stereotype that is pointed out is that there aren’t many people with freckles and red hair; shown by all the children asking and teasing Freckleface Strawberry about her freckles because they aren’t familiar with them. However, this is also somewhat of a fact given that red hair is a recessive gene and only occur in 1-2% of the human population.

Who has the power in this story? What is the nature of their power, and how do they use it?
I think the power starts with the children at school. They tease Freckleface Strawberry and make her feel uncomfortable about her freckles and their comments lead her to want to change herself. Then the power moves to the freckles; which make Freckleface Strawberry feel different than everyone else. She tries to overcome them by scrubbing them, covering them in lemon juice, coloring over them with markers, and then finally wearing clothes that cover them to make them disappear. And lastly the power moves back to the children at school when they miss Freckleface Strawberry and make her feel accepted once they see her again. The children unknowingly bring Freckleface Strawberry down to a level of hating her freckles and then also manage raising her up by missing her and still wanting to play with her, even though she has freckles.

Who has wisdom? What is the nature of their wisdom, and how do they use it?
The mother at the park has the wisdom. She approaches Freckleface Strawberry and sympathizes with her struggle with freckles. The mother says “I know how you feel, I’m covered in them.” Freckleface Strawberry replies “I can’t see any”, the mother then says “I know, mine kind of went away when I grew up, I bet yours will too”. This shows Freckleface Strawberry that she isn’t the only one with freckles and that they could change when she gets older.

What are the consequences of certain behaviors? What behaviors or traits are rewarded, and how? What behaviors are punished, and how?
There are many conflicts and consequences of certain behaviors throughout this story so I will try my best to cover the important ones. . I think the main behavior the goes unnoticed (which is somewhat like rewarding it) is when the students tease Freckleface Strawberry. She doesn’t talk to an adult about it, she simply tries to “solve the problem” by herself. This could come off to other children as they shouldn’t talk to anyone about someone teasing them at school. The children’s comments do get a consequence though, which is missing Freckleface Strawberry at school when she hides under the ski mask. Another thing that’s interesting is to see how her family reacts to her wanting to change. They react like she is being strange when she tries to scrub her freckles off and make them disappear with lemon juice, and her mother even gets upset when she tries to cover them with marker. This hints towards avoiding trying to change yourself.

How is language used to create images of people of a particular group? How are artistic elements used to create those images?
Freckleface Strawberry is illustrated as a unique little girl that stands out among her friends, and her language shows her being a spitfire having a spunky personality. Her friends at school each look different and react in their own ways to her freckles with show diversity among her peers.

Who has written this story? Who has illustrated it? Are they inside or outside the groups they are presenting? What are they in a position to know? What do they claim to know?
Julianne Moore wrote this book and has a personal connection to the main character being as she has red hair and freckles and her nickname growing up was Freckleface Strawberry. It’s almost as if she is taking her own experiences and building a story off of them, which I find to be a wonderful quality to the book.

LeUyen Pham illustrated this book, yet she has no real connection to any groups within the story; or at least none that was talked about in her short bio.

Whose voices are heard? Whose are missing?
The children’s voices are the main voices being heard. Freckleface Strawberry speaks some, however most of the information we hear come from the narrator. The voices I felt were missing the most were her families, especially her mother and father. It would have been interesting to see their explanation if she came to them asking why she has freckles. That could have led to more insight and background on how people develop or are born with freckles.

What do this narrative and these pictures say about race? Class? Culture? Gender? Age? Resistance to the status quo?

Mainly this book focuses on self acceptance and loving your differences. Yet there are also some components of racism, mainly when Freckleface Strawberry is being teased and asked about her freckles. This shows that children react to people’s differences, sometimes in a bad way, and can make that individual feel badly about those differences.

Analyze the illustrations for stereotypes. What are people doing that may create or perpetuate a stereotype?
One silly stereotype I saw was when one of Freackleface Strawberries peers was asking about her freckles; he was depicted as a stereotypical “nerd” or “geeky” boy. He has a laser gun in one hand, has glasses and buck teeth, and when he asks about her freckles he says “Can I smell them?”

Analyze the storyline. How are problems presented and resolved?

Within the storyline there are problems presented, in the form of her freckles and feeling different than her peers. And in the end she and her friends learn that they really don’t care about her freckles, they like her for who she is and they miss her when she hides; therefore the problem becomes resolved

Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?
I would recommend this book, not only because it is a fun original story, but also because it has a good overall message for children to love themselves and their differences.