Christopher Hatch
Professor Renee Hobbs
COM 410: Children & Media
28 September 2012
Old Vs. New: Children’s Media
Description: File:The Invasion Front Cover.jpg
Description: File:The Invasion Front Cover.jpg
Trends, and peer pressure can be a powerful force to combat anything a parent has to say, especially if it’s of the opposite opinion. I was not planning on choosing a book for my comparison, yet as I sat here thinking to myself regarding which form of media to discuss, I simply thought of my favorite form of media as a child; and there was my answer. I loved to read, sometimes flying through a three hundred page book in a single day at only eleven or twelve years old. With that in mind, it was easy to pick out a specific title, deciding on my favorite series growing up: Animorphs.
Animorphs, written by K. A. Applegate and published by Scholastic, was a long and engaging story of six teenagers who acquire the ability to transform into any animal that they touch. Using this power, they secretly fought an alien infiltration of the planet earth. Each book was told in the first person perspective, with one character being the narrator for each title. Animorphs was definitely geared for children ages 9-13, though I started reading them when I was seven, even though the series could be rather dark at times with its themes which sometimes included war, loss, horror, murder, morality, innocence, right vs. wrong, and betrayal. For instance, in the very beginning of the series, one of the characters, Tobias, breaks the ultimate morphing rule and stays in animal form for longer than the two hour maximum. When that happens, the morpher is trapped in that animal form forever, and can never morph again. Tobias lost his human life before he was a teenager, permanently stuck as a red-tailed hawk.

Finding a series to compare to Animorphs was much easier to think of than finding the initial series to discuss. Animorphs started in 1996, when I was just six years old, and I read them all within the next five years, stopping with the last book when I was eleven, and just before I began Harry Potter. When I thought of a series, immediate Twilight came to mind. Twilight was much simpler to come up with because it is much more recent, became much more popular than Animorphs ever did or will, especially since Twilight has been turned into a five film franchise. Animorphs was briefly on Nickelodeon but never took off and only lasted a few episodes.

Description: Twilight Poster
Description: Twilight Poster
Twilight, a four part series detailing the life of Bella Swan and her first love Edward Cullen, who happens to be a vampire. This quartet details the struggles of their relationship, as well as opposition to their union from all fronts. Twilight was written for a typically female audience for readers as young as twelve. Twilight focuses a lot on issues of love, loss, death, betrayal, freedom, and making your own decisions.

So why did I choose to compare these two, I’m not exactly sure, but I’m glad I did. The first thing that I’d like to point out is the target audience. Animorphs has a very set pre-teen male audience, which in my opinion is pretty inflexible. Any younger, and the reader lacks the skills to understand the book, and any older and it’s too childish, and there are more appropriate books to take their place. Animorphs was written with a very specific age group in mind. Twilight however, geared towards female audiences as young as twelve, has a much more fluid audience range, with some reports that even forty year olds were reading the series.

This brings into question that as time has gone on, has children’s media adapted to include themes and interests much more blatantly adult than media in the same genre published before? Animorphs definitely has some heavy themes that can be on the darker side, such as when one character discovers that the mother he thought died years ago is really alive and the commanding alien of the takeover of earth. As dark as that sounds, the idea of a secret alien takeover is laughable, keeping the series in its appropriate age range. Twilight on the other hand is about vampires, an inherently adult subject. One of my favorite authors of all time is Anne Rice, a brilliant novelist that lured readers into her dark, destructive, and intensely sexual depictions of vampires. True Blood, currently a television show on HBO that is based off a series of novels still being published, that has been called “vampire soft-core porn” is another blatant example of vampires in a very adult context.

For these novels to attract such a large age range there has to be elements too young for older reader, and elements too old for younger readers. I also ask, does children’s media with adult themes make children more interested in media exclusively meant for a much older audience? For example, would a child with a laptop secretly watch True Blood online because they read and saw the Twilight?

I see a huge discrepancy with this issue of adult themes too young in my comparison of these novels published years apart. Animorphs in its time was more than likely considered violent, but left out themes of love, sex, and teen pregnancy, all which occur in Twilight. I would ask if there was a series that managed to blend the best of both worlds for children and adults, as non-offensively as possible, but I already know the answer: Harry Potter, which did a great job of keeping all ages interested but was written in a way that younger readers would see magic and good vs. evil as the main themes, but adults would catch all of the themes the kids missed. What once seemed to be age appropriate entertainment (Animorphs) has turned into a quest to gather as many readers and as much attention as possible with in my opinion, no regard for the lowest age of the intended target audience.

The media targets these two groups (young males and young females) very differently. These days you can’t even go to McDonalds and order a happy meal without having to specify which gender toy choice you’d prefer. Both of these book series take place during very important years of their main character’s lives; all of them are going through puberty. All of them are changing: emotionally, mentally, physically, and in other ways as well. Just because the readers can all relate to that, doesn’t mean that they are all marketed to in the same way. Boys going through puberty are becoming men, saving the world and being a protector are paramount. Animorphs offered young male readers the chance to save the world, and with over sixty books we were able to do it again and again. Young girls going through puberty are becoming women, and in the media are seen as needing that protection, as well as being most concerned with love. Girls reading Twilight were able to fall in love and need protecting through the eyes and mind of Bella Swan. Because of those basic urges, and premises of puberty, media producers have/had been able to relate to young viewers on an almost primal level.

As a media consumer, and hopefully as a media producer one day, I see a problem with the level of enticement that adult media plays in children’s lives. Yes, it is a parents job to protect their children and decide what is, and is not appropriate for their children, however when the two most popular options are Twilight books and movies, or Keeping up With the Kardashians…what’s a parent to do? Today’s youth are quickly growing up, and losing that once beloved childhood innocence. Where are the books and shows and games that revel in childhood, that grasp onto it and never let go. Gone are the days of Tom Hank’s Big, or Robin William’s Jack…instead we have teen pregnancy in Twilight, and much worse in other forms of media. As I begin to wonder about the loss of innocence and growing up to quickly; the question has begun forming in my mind…”Surely a child exposed to no media must be better off than a child exposed to too much (adult) media…right?”

Barbaro, A. (Director) (2008). Consuming kids: The Commercialization of Childhood [Web].

This comparison/contrast allows you to discuss gender differences between boys and girls and about the role of puberty in shaping young adult reading practices. Your opening paragraph grabs attention and you develop your thesis well, signaling these ideas by italicization. You don't use sources particularly well to support your ideas, however. There are so many cool sources of information about young adult literature. For example:

The reader is still wondering why you're comparing a series for boys 8 - 11 with a series for girls 11 - 15. You might have gotten more mileage comparing Animorphs to the work of series writer RL Stine, author of Goosebumps.