“Childhood Cartoon Faces”: An Exercise of Myth and Memory

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2010 by SOULFIRE Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Childhood Cartoon Faces”: An Exercise of Myth and Memory

By John Kim

For the last several weeks “Childhood Cartoon Faces” encouraged Facebook denizens to combat violence against children by asking them to change their profile picture to a favorite cartoon character. The campaign is very popular even at a cursory glance with a lot of Facebook profiles having heeded the call. “Childhood Cartoon Faces” has for the moment become the top news on the Internet.

The campaign’s detractors have levied that this project is only a symbolic gesture that does not move people towards action – and that is a fair critique. While I can’t say it is going to make an immediate quantitative impact – I do believe this campaign will raise awareness and that is the first step towards building or reinforcing any movement.

In my opinion the campaign is actually effective in its simplicity and may have longer-term effects than realized. If we can all learn an important lesson from this seemingly simple activity it is that we can never underestimate the power of historical memory rooted in mythology.

The mission of the “Campaign to End Violence Against Children” Facebook page proclaims, “Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday [Dec. 6], there should be no human faces on Facebook but an invasion of memories.”

Cartoons: “An Invasion of Memories”

Psychologically speaking, “memory is an organism’s ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences.” As humans we learn first and foremost through stories and in our capitalist society much of children’s mythologies are consumed through the animated form of cartoons, though they run the spectrum of genre narratives. Through the power of iconic representation, cartoons have a profound transformative effect on our experiential (historical) memory and activity as children.

Scott McCloud, author of “Understanding Comics” explains, “The cartoon is a vacuum into which our identity and awareness are pulled … an empty shell that we inhabit which enables us to travel in another realm. We don’t just observe the cartoon we become it!” Young children live vicariously through their favorite cartoon characters and it creates an utterly transformative experience in which the historical memory is stored as children mature.

Corporations, aware of this power are able to market all types of products to kids by using associative techniques that many deem deceptive. Cartoons are utilized to influence kids to influence their parents – by any means necessary – to buy them the must-have product! By associating the “transformed identity” to products and services, children are often conditioned for impulsive consumption. Fortunately such powerful tools can be used to educate children and adults as well, as this Facebook campaign illustrates!

“Childhood Cartoon Faces” utilizes the very same associative techniques on a largely adult audience by asking us to use our power of memory and experience. They want us to remember our childhood exuberance and magic experienced through our favorite cartoons. It is potentially a profoundly cathartic moment of transformation for one to engage in this activity and that is one of the prime reasons that I believe as to why this is such a popular campaign.

We all have so many seminal memories of play and wonder associated with childhood cartoons. Tapping into our most favorite cartoons unleashes an “invasion of memories” from time gone by residing within us. By allowing us to relive our childhood memories, this “invasion of memory” can be used via association to bring awareness to many about the rise of violence towards children and reinforcing an emotional bond with this issue.

Some critics want to see this campaign translating into immediate action, but that is not how associative techniques necessarily work. Through the use of historical memory rooted in myth we can help create the long term conditions for change.

Now that violence towards children is on the minds of millions, sincere organizations fighting child abuse should learn from this campaign and configure ways to capitalize on the success of this Facebook campaign. The seeds have been planted.

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2 Responses to ““Childhood Cartoon Faces”: An Exercise of Myth and Memory”

  1. great post.
    I do think campaigns like this help push minds in the direction necessary to divert them into more meaningful actions…the sophistication of movement organizations to both engage in these types of campaigns and to take coordinate with the work of others is key for us to see real indicators of impact and success.

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