Children’s book author Erica S. Perl has a gallery in Slate about books for early readers featuring superheroes from PG-13 movies like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man and even the very violent and disturbing Dark Knight. Perl reports that
at many chain bookstores there is now a specifically labeled “At the Movies” tier on the early-reader rack. This isn’t the first time brand extensions have shown up in early readers–books starring SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer have been around for several years now. But there’s something more unsettling about books aimed at preschoolers and kindergartners featuring PG-13 movie characters, and they pose a tricky question for parents. Books like A Hero Called the Hulk and The Dark Knight: I Am Batman practically beg to be plucked by small hands.
Perl says that some of these books are educationally sound, while others are not.
I Am Iron Man!, one of the best of the bunch, blithely ignores much of the plot of the movie my husband called “the loudest film ever made,” and Guido Guidi’s drawings of Iron Man’s suit convey the undeniable excitement of a snazzy magic flying costume. As important, his pictures provide a good jumping-off point for kids who want to make up their own stories about gaining the power to soar through the skies. Other movie-based early readers, however, present problems. A Hero Called the Hulk, seen here, provides none of the educational scaffolding beginning readers need.
Pedagogical value aside, I think it is wrong to use these books to market characters and movies to kids who are too young for them. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission urged the Motion Picture Association of America to reconsider guidelines that allow some PG-13 movies to be marketed to young children, following a complaint by an advocacy group that the blockbuster film “Transformers” was inappropriately advertised to children as young as 2. It also urged toy manufacturers, fast-food chains and retailers to review how they sell movie-based toys to young children. These books are essentially ads for movies that are inappropriate for children and the Federal Trade Commission and the MPAA should prohibit this kind of licensing for products intended for those who are too young to see the movie.
FTC contact: Mary Engle, Director of the Division of Advertising Practices
* Online:secure complaint form
* Phone: Toll-free helpline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357);
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Or complain to the publisher:
Carolyn Kroll Reidy
CEO, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Director of the Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film at San Diego State University, has released a new report on the representation of women among film critics. I live in the Washington D.C. area, where the Washington Post buy-outs of 100 of its once-900 newsroom staff eliminated two film critic positions, leaving Ann Hornaday as the only full-time critic on staff. The movie critic for the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, USA Today, is Claudia Puig (pictured), now that long-time critic Mike Clark is concentrating on DVDs. And most movie features for USA Today are written by Susan Wloszczyna.
But Dr. Lauzen’s research shows:
Contrary to the myriad prognostications of media observers and writers, film criticism is not dead. It is, however, hurtling into a new era in which professional critics share space with amateurs, and credentialed journalists find multiple platforms for their reviews. Through web sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, formerly print-only film critics and writers now supplement their traditional audience with a whole new generation of on-line readers….
Of the newspapers featuring film reviews in the fall of 2007, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers. Overall, 70% of the individuals reviewing theatrical film releases in Fall 2007 were male and 30% were female. In addition, men wrote significantly more film reviews than women. Men wrote an average of 14 film reviews. Women wrote an average of 9 film reviews.
These imbalances may be slightly tempered by the fact that women critics, writers, and freelancers wrote for newspapers with marginally higher circulations. The average circulation size of newspapers with women writing reviews was 348,530. The average circulation size of newspapers with men writing reviews was 294,760….
Overall, these findings suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the heavy male dominance behind the scenes and on screen in the film industry.
FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, who will be casting the deciding vote in the proposed merger of satellite radio stations Sirius and XM, has been opposed to the merger in the past, but has agreed to vote in favor with some important conditions. The companies must agree to a six-year price cap and make one-quarter of their satellite capacity available for public interest and minority programming. The Associated Press reports that Adelstein commented, “It’s critical that if we’re going to allow a monopoly, that we put in adequate consumer protections and make sure they’re enforced.” AP reports that:
The companies have faced a tough challenge in gaining approval because the FCC, in creating the satellite radio industry in 1997, prohibited the only two licensees from merging. In an effort to prove the combination is in the public interest, lawyers for the companies volunteered to submit to a number of conditions, including a three-year price cap, a time frame Adelstein would like to see doubled….Adelstein is seeking 25 percent of the companies’ satellite capacity for public interest programming — 10 percent for noncommercial programming and 15 percent for minority programming. That potentially would work out to about 75 channels.
Adelstein is also asking for additional changes to encourage competition and public interest programming and an enforcement scheme instead of the voluntary approach currently proposed.
Those who want to comment on the merger or on Adelstein’s proposal can do so on the FCC’s website.
The real-life story of a group of MIT math whiz kids who won millions playing blackjack gets the glossy Hollywood treatment here — a poor but worthy son of a single mother who needs money for med school tuition makes a better movie than a bunch of smart alecks who just want to make some big money.
The result may not be real, but it is solidly entertaining. If it were a hand at blackjack, call it an 18. Jim Sturgess (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Across the Universe”) is enormously appealing as Ben, the honest, shy, hard-working kid with the brain of a supercomputer who finds himself a high roller in one of the world’s most glamorous settings. Kevin Spacey, who also produced the film, is the charismatic but enigmatic professor with the system. Blackjack is the only game in Las Vegas that can be reliably beaten. The trick is card-counting, which requires memorizing both every single card that is played by any player and doing constant calculations according to a meticulous formula. The group improved their chances by working together, which required the use of various signals and disguises. But casino owners do not like card counters, and since they have the authority to ban any individual from playing, the real gamble for the MIT hotshots was winning enough to make it worthwhile but keeping a low enough profile to be able to come back.