Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Learning how to watch TV

Vacation indulgence continues: Caroline is watching a lot of TV, largely so that I can grab a chance to finish reading Coetzee's Age of Iron which I started on the last beach trip, but didn't finish.

Here's the scene: because Caroline's exposure to TV has been so minimal up to now (she watches a Dan Zanes video and a fairly crappy cartoon version of Madeline in London, never more than a half hour every couple days) she simply isn't very good at watching TV. She has a great deal of trouble following story lines. She generally asks me what is going on with every scene change. I thought all her picture books would give her a sense of how to follow a visual narrative. When I read to her, I always try to point out the ways that the pictures illustrate and augment the text. But TV shows like Spongebob and the Care Bears still leave her behind. At least she is asking questions, though. She expects to process and understand what is going on, not to zone out.

There are a lot of things on these shows that are new to her, too. I did my best to explain the idea of a commercial to her. "This is not a part of the show, this part just wants you do to something that you don't have to do. Here to let you know the difference between the shows and the commecials, I will mute them." I think she got it, but when she watches TV with other family members, they don't always mute the commecials.

Also, the shows she sees now have bad guys. Evil wizards, stuff like that. All her books so far have been about family things: a dinosaur who doesn't want to go to bed, a little witch who has to learn to get along with another little witch at witch school. Dramatic tension comes from misunderstandings, and when they are resolved, everyone is friends again. (Liszka calls this the Thalian moral vision.) I'm not comfortable introducing Caroline to the idea of a bad guy, but I suppose she will have to learn about it eventually.

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