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Off topic: Propaganda in children's programmes, films and books
Thread poster: Jack Doughty

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:44
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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Dec 13, 2005

A question in the Russian-English pair recently brought to my mind (by a rather tortuous route) the children’s cartoon series “The Wombles of Wimbledon Common”. This very popular programme of the 1970s featured mythical furry creatures living in Wimbledon Common and surviving by making ingenious use of all the litter they found. “Wombling” was picking up litter. As a cartoon series it was a great success, but as propaganda a total failure. The generation that grew up with “The Wombles” seems to be even less conscious of the problem of litter than its predecessor, and this problem is probably worse in Britain than in any other European country.
Another topical example of this is C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” series of novels (topical because a film of the first of them, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, has just been released here and in the USA). The stories carry a Christian message, but most children just read them as the excellent children’s novels they are, ignoring or being totally unaware of the Christian aspect.
But books which are good stories and don’t preach can still have an effect. I think the “Biggles” books by Capt. W.E. Johns (the adventures of Major James Bigglesworth in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, and later in the Second World War) may have influenced my own decision to sign on in the RAF for 14 years. I can imagine that the Russian novels “Two Captains” and “Story of a Real Man” might have done something in the same way in recruiting for the Soviet Air Force.
I think blatant propaganda is just going to be ignored and won’t make a good programme or novel anyway, subtle propaganda may be missed altogether, and yet some books, films etc. do have an effect. Does anyone have any opinions on this or examples of how they have been influenced by anything of this sort?


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Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:44
Member (2005)
English to Italian
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Enid Blyton Dec 13, 2005

You make me think of all those Enid Blyton books I read as a child. I thoroughly enjoyed them from Noddy to the Famous Five to all those boarding school series, despite the fact that I now believe they were a little biased and misleading.

It's good to be young enough not to perceive the subtle propaganda in some books or programmes. Children nowadays may be less interested in flying away with their imagination and more focused on computer games or high-tech. Or they are probably more aware of things and less inclined to fantasy, but how I miss the times when I just couldn't put the book down because I just HAD to know how it was going to end!
I guess that without Enid Blyton's books I would not have had such a passion for reading and for words.



---
BBC article on Enid Blyton, recurring themes and criticism:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/a779781



[Edited at 2005-12-13 11:16]

[Edited at 2005-12-13 11:26]


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Cristina Chaplin
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:44
English to Romanian
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Propaganda Dec 13, 2005

As Mr Jack said, many books, cartoons and movies for children carry hidden sometimes even subliminal messages but most children are blissfully unaware of them at the time.

Even adults that have a clear understanding of the hidden messages and of the between the lines hints sometimes can be carried away by the beauty of the story.

That happened to me while watching yesterday "The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe" by CS Lewis ... The movie was really good. Although I was aware of it's hidden hints to christianity and some of it's most sacred symbols as well as to witchcraft and other pagan practices of yore, when I was watching the movie I was absolutely mesmerised... They make you forget, that is maybe the very purpose and the very beauty of the story... to bring you in a different world, much more different that the real one we live in.

Maybe that is why I am such a big admirer and amator of children stories and good cartoons


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:44
German to English
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The myth of neutrality in values Dec 13, 2005

Everybody who writes anything that is worth reading has some message to get across. Sometimes the values are concepts which fit into almost everybody's consensus (things like friendliness, mutual respect etc.). Sometimes the values are openly aligned with a certain philosophy of life (e.g. your example of Narnia with its Christian background).

Sometimes people claim that certain books are free of propaganda. What nonsense! Every book conveys attitudes to people, attitudes to authority, sexuality, communication, society, politics, religion, philosophy, psychology, property or something along those lines. And so it should - a book without a message is just a big yawn. There is no such thing as neutrality - it ain't humanly possible.

So as readers, we always need to be aware of the values of what we read, and decide whether we choose to agree with them. And we need to be doubly critical if a book claims to be neutral, scientific or propaganda-free - it is sure to have a hidden agenda somewhere.

The same principle also applies to children's books, so parents need to be aware the books their kids read and get alongside the kids (as far as is possible/realistic) and help them to digest them in a way appropriate to their age.

For the record, I enjoy the books of C.S. Lewis (including Narnia) because of the combination of good writing and an ***openly admitted*** Christian message. (Won't go further along that path, because it involves values and beliefs which go beyond the scope of ProZ).


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:44
Dutch to English
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Terry Pratchett Dec 13, 2005

My son (15) is addicted to Terry Pratchett novels and if you have read some of his work, you can easily recognise him in what my son says. His whole mindset is also being influenced. Quite funny really. Having said this, he also likes Orwell. Who says young people are only interested in computers? My son reads a book a week on average. His imagination is very active. He also likes his computer games and such and his artwork is coming up a treat because it is a combination of both his reading and his computer games. He does have some "innate" talent for art though (this is completely biased of course since I'm his mum).

Personally I could never understand why C.S. Lewis was regarded as such a good author. I found his books incredibly boring and obvious. Did nothing for my imagination. I much preferred reading the Russian and French classics when I was a teenager (in English).


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:44
English to Spanish
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The Wombles aren't the problem Dec 13, 2005

Jack Doughty wrote:

A question in the Russian-English pair recently brought to my mind (by a rather tortuous route) the children’s cartoon series “The Wombles of Wimbledon Common”. This very popular programme of the 1970s featured mythical furry creatures living in Wimbledon Common and surviving by making ingenious use of all the litter they found. “Wombling” was picking up litter. As a cartoon series it was a great success, but as propaganda a total failure. The generation that grew up with “The Wombles” seems to be even less conscious of the problem of litter than its predecessor, and this problem is probably worse in Britain than in any other European country.


Hi Jack,

You hurt my feelings! Now 37, I grew up with the Wombles and loved them! Even now, I can remember most of the theme song and have even sung (and explained!) it to my little boy, aged 4. However, the Wombles were not my only source of respect for the environment, but I was also taught it by my family, at my school, I even distinctly remember the pictures on every crisp packet and sweet wrapper, along with the 'Keep Britain tidy' slogan.

Perhaps it is not so much that people of my generation did not learn not to litter, but that we've fogotten our own children's education. One of the pitfalls of many contemporary parents seems to be that they expect that television, videogames - even school teachers - will educate their kids for them (while they're busy trying to make loadsamoney). When a parent's own role in a child's education is relinquished, no outcome can be surprising.

On the subject of litter, ever since my kid was very, very young, I made a point with him not to litter. Very recently, in fact only last weekend, we went together to a story-telling festival. We were in a wide open square with hundreds of kids wandering around and, if you've ever been in Spain, you can imagine the place wasn't exactly spick and span. Well at one point my kid had stopped playing and was suddenly walking around the square looking lost. When I went to ask him the problem, he showed me a sweet wrapper and sadly said "There isn't a litter bin". Was I a proud father.

Oh and by the way, few regions in Spain are dirtier than the Canary Islands and few countries I know are dirtier than Spain. In comparison the UK is so clean, I could almost lick the ground!

Sorry, have I drifted from the subject?

Yours tidily,

Álvaro ))


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:44
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Wombling away from the subject Dec 13, 2005

No, you're more on subject than I was when this first came to mind. Someone translated a Russian term as "underground and above-ground", and I got to thinking why not underground and overground, and came to the conclusion that while underground is unambiguous, overground is not, as it could mean on the surface or above the surface. From which point the Wombles' theme song kept running through my brain.

"Underground, overground, wombling free,
"The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we..."

That was the only example I could think of in which underground and overground were used in the same sentence.


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cello  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
Spanish to English
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Proud indeed, Alvaro Dec 14, 2005

Álvaro Blanch wrote:


On the subject of litter, ever since my kid was very, very young, I made a point with him not to litter. Very recently, in fact only last weekend, we went together to a story-telling festival. We were in a wide open square with hundreds of kids wandering around and, if you've ever been in Spain, you can imagine the place wasn't exactly spick and span. Well at one point my kid had stopped playing and was suddenly walking around the square looking lost. When I went to ask him the problem, he showed me a sweet wrapper and sadly said "There isn't a litter bin". Was I a proud father.




Yours tidily,

Álvaro ))


Exactly the same thing happened to me the other day with my son, only I was a proud mum and the scene was my son's school playground...

To get back to the subject of propaganda, I'm a BIG Narnia fan and have been since I was first read the books at school when I was about 7, although the Wombles were not my thing.

I think that the thing about great children's literature /comics /cartoons is that obviously they express the values of the culture that they are written for and to some degree reflect that society, after all they are "instruments of socialisation" - if that's the correct term in English - others might call it propaganda.

Each generation has its heros and contexts or situations that capture the imagination of the generation they are written for -truly great literature (etc) passes from one generation to the next and captures the imagination of successive generations and passes over cultural/national boundaries too. Whilst I'm no great fan of Enid Blyton, I know that her books are still popular, and I suppose that makes her a "great" or a "classic". Unfortunately for the litter problem, the Wombles do not fall into that category (!)

As a parent, one's responsibility is to "guide" your child towards the appropriate values. A case in point is the cartoons "problem". Who wants their five+ year olds watching the Simpons, Beavis and Butthead, or Shin Shan or other cartoons that are readily available on TV? The values expressed in many non pay per view cartoons are far more "dangerous" than the propaganda that can be found in books that have managed to get into print, and are readily available on national TV (OK, here in Spain)

I will now get off my responsible parenting soap box

Linda


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:44
English to Spanish
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Linda, can I borrow your soap-box? Dec 14, 2005

Jack Doughty wrote:
The stories carry a Christian message, but most children just read them as the excellent children’s novels they are, ignoring or being totally unaware of the Christian aspect.


Hi Jack,

This is precisely the true power of propaganda - to instill thoughts and values inadvertently. In general terms however, nowadays the propagandistic powers of literature have been far surpassed, by simple exposure, by those of television.

It is thus that we have come to being, above all else, a consumer society - through the unnoticed way in which the values of consumerism that have been pumped into us via TV advertising, especially since the 1960's or 70's, creating material values and needs without our noticing. As much as we'd like to think we are, we definitely are not immune.

Proof of this is how material values have climbed the ladder of priorities and how more immaterial aspects, such as time (free-time), family life or 'social capital' have been relegated. More information on the decline of 'social capital' can be found by paying a quick visit to www.bowlingalone.com - based on 25 years of reserach and over half a million interviews, it's well worth a minute or two of your time.

Linda points out the values of certain cartoons which, incidentally, are of obvious adult or adolescent content and are nevertheless screened at infant viewing times. As negative as they may be however, I doubt any of them go as far towards shaping adult values as the endless hours of ads kids are exposed to.

From a 'TV child's' earliest years up to adulthood, hundreds of thousands of ads will have passed before his or her eyes and through his/her brain. As an adult, all of these messages will have come together to form a picture of reality, based largely on consumer needs.

Books on the other hand are, on the whole, advertising-free. Moreover, parents choose children's books for their children, whereas many will happily leave them to watch whatever is on TV or play with whichever videogame, regardless of content. God knows why.

While books may contain values which we may consider or not to be ideal, they seem to me to be a far more useful tool for value-building, even if merely because we actually tend to look more closely at a book before giving it to our children than at a video game or TV show, and for the fact that they spare us from the head-on assault of advertising.

Oh well, enough from me...

Take care,

Álvaro


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beshraq
Local time: 00:14
English to Persian (Farsi)
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propagand Feb 4, 2006

As mr jack said there are some hidden messages in children's books and movies.i think it depends upon the readers' view to get the messeges or not and ,these propagandas mostly created in fantasy books and movies.Most of the time the children do not aware of them because they focus on the fantastical aspect or a heroic character, but sometimes these propagandas have strong effect on people and especially children and young dults, we should make our young generation aware.

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