3 February 2014
A Toy-less Christmas Carol – Not for Children!
In analyzing two writings and titles: the novel of Dickens “A Christmas Carol” and the article of Barthes’ “Toys”, I’ve come across a connection in both: they are not for children, they are for adults. One might think of how these relate to children and might expect these passages to reach out to them – for them. I don’t believe any of these writings is for children because in my close readings of them, they seem to reach out to adults in the aspect that they (the writings) call out for change about the way adults are either behaving: A Christmas Carol, or interfering with a child’s imagination: Toys.
Ever wonder who was the target audience for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? I have. In this novel, there is a man named Ebenezer Scrooge who goes about his life day in and day out being absolutely mean, stiff, rude and stingy with everyone he encounters because he is cheap. The author describes that even the very features of his face represents that of his hardened character. Scrooge is visited by four ghosts, the first of who is his deceased business partner Jacob Marley who warns him of the next three. The first ghost of Christmas is the Ghost of Christmas Past; the second, The Ghost of Christmas Present; the third, The Ghost of Christmas Future. The Christmas ghosts came to show Scrooge images of himself throughout different time periods of his life in the hopes that he would change his way of being before meeting the fate of eternal punishment by being tortured to carry his chains of bondages while seeing people he could’ve helped, but cannot after his destiny has come to meet him. The last visitation was what scared Scrooge the most because he wound up being dead, alone, and plundered. In the end, Scrooge becomes a totally new character and shares his wealth which ultimately saves a little boy’s life, and spares some of the poor he knew from poverty (but not from despair for the poor in this novel was internally content and happy at Christmas despite their lowly situations).
In “Toys” by Roland Barthes, the French author writes concerning the difference between natural toys like wooden ones that allows much room for children to be completely creative verses plastic and metal toys that are pre-created to shape children for adulthood by subtly implementing a grown-ups way of living. He claims “French toys always mean something, and this something is always entirely socialized, constituted by the myths or the techniques of modern adult life: the Army, Broadcasting, the Post Office, Medicine…, School, Hair-Styling…, the Air Force…” (27). He goes on to describe that even the different materials used in making the toys, like chemically-enhanced plastic and sharp, cold metal pre-shape the way toys are handled by children and how it doesn’t allow much room for creativeness verses the touch of naturally soft and hard wood – which allows the child to freely invent and create their own ideas about what they should do with the toys.
Scrooge, in the novel, believes Christmas is, “a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ‘em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you” (36). His nephew disagrees and says, “But I’m sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time…” (36). Even during Dickens’ narration in the story where he mentions how children are connected to Christmas, “But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at Forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself” (89), still portrays the adults playing these home games: Forfeit; Blind-man’s Bluff; How, When, and Where; and Yes and No, not children playing with toys (90).
The only place I found where children were associated with toys was in stave two where Scrooge’s ex-girlfriend’s husband walks in the home and all their children rushes to their father who comes in “with Christmas toys and presents” (67). As in Toys, which speak of wooden toys verses plastic and metal toys, there is a paragraph that even has the description of toy which is a wooden platter with a fictitious turkey glued onto it (68)!
In the like of this novel and article seeming to be about children, there are many cartoons that also have subliminal messages that are adult content and really not for children although one may think they are for them. Take SpongeBob for example, this cartoon has many scripts and jokes and clips of scenes that are not for children. Some examples are when in one episode, Patrick climbed on Sandy’s boob, and when he reached the top of SpongeBob, there was great satisfaction of him having is butt on SpongeBob’s head that he even makes a laughing moan! Another is when SpongeBob is rowing a boat and singing a love song – the content of that song goes, “From your pickle to your buns…”! There are many others like this in SpongeBob cartoon alone.
I don’t like subliminal messages that are adult content and being forced into a child’s mind unconsciously. I do believe after a while the child’s mind will start resurfacing these messages and parents won’t even know where they come from. Now-a-days, most stories that are meant to be for children are staining their innocence. The advisory scale we have now only covers content that are obviously not for children. I think adult content should be noted on publications that say they are meant, or seem to be, or even readapted for children, but are not. That way parents can ponder and look for the reason why something that seems to be for children may have an advisory warning them of subliminal messages (which can be subliminal even if it sounds like something other than what is being portrayed)– but then who would make a sell if they do, huh?
Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings. Ed. Michael Slater, London: Penguin Books, 2003.
Barthe, Roland. “Toys”, Reading Pop Culture. Ed. Jeff Osborne. New York: Beford/St. Martin’s, 2013. (25-29) Print.
Dr. Subliminal. YouTube: Subliminal Messages in SpongeBob Squarepants. Uploaded December 31, 2008.
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