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Explain how visual representations of children are informed by particular discourses of childhood.

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TMA01 Option 2 "Explain how visual representations of children are informed by particular discourses of childhood". In order to fully answer this question, I will be firstly be interpreting what makes a child a child and how discourses of childhood shape the way we do this in society. In modern day culture we have an endless supply of media available to us in which children and childhood are portrayed. These images use the differing discourses in order to shape the way we view children. The way in which childhood is portrayed also varies from culture to culture, and so how one culture may view children as vulnerable and dependant on adults, another may view them as joining in with gathering food on a hunt with the male adults of a village. When we think about what makes a child a child, people tend to think of a small human being, someone who relies on adults to clothe and feed them and provide them with their daily needs. Western Society is exposed to images of children portrayed in this way and yet there is a cross over stage for children where they reach a certain age in which they want to be treated like an adult and yet do not yet have the ability to fully behave like one. Generally, Western Culture describes a child as someone from birth to around the age of 16, whereby, they can still be considered to be an adult but are used under the term "young adult". ...read more.


The art work he used for his thesis used the Puritan discourse when showing children as 'smaller adults' showing them as toned and muscular. This could be seen as adults not having love for children that they deserved and needed, and yet with the high infant mortality rates that existed at the time they were painted, every child would have been treasured and cared for in the best possible way. Yet, Aries theories are still used to this day as a key place to start when looking at the social constructionist's view of childhood. In modern Western Culture there is now a third discourse which comes into play, this is the tabula rasa discourse; this see children as needing to be shaped during their childhood and are not born either good or bad. Tabula Rasa is translated as 'blank slate'. Philosopher John Locke came up with this discourse and used it to say in his writings that "the child is born with a potential" (Pg 64, Understanding Childhood). This discourse is used when a child performs an 'evil' act and is said to have done so not because they themselves are evil or bad but because they have not had the right upbringing. The best way to say that visual representations are used to display what we consider to base this upon the advertising we see everyday when aid agencies use images of helpless starving children in order to gain funds to help them, this is pulling at ...read more.


Her character does not have a passive role in her childhood but has an active role in how she chooses to be; Matilda therefore does not conform to any recognised formula as to what childhood should be. Another movie with which we can gain evidence from is American beauty; this shows a young teenager as more of a sexual object, particularly in the eyes of Kevin Spaceys character. It depicts the young teenager as being provocative and delves into the notion of how men can view teenage girls as a sexual object and yet how they can also be vulnerable and childlike in their ways. In movies then, there are no set 'rules' as to how childhood and children should be portrayed, it is only guided by what the director wants us to learn about the characters themselves and in doing so, does not necessarily follow the social constructed ideas of childhood. In conclusion, how we as a society create and shape children's lives has a major part in how childhood is portrayed and in reality, children's lives explore how we think about childhood. Children and childhood are socially constructed and the many varying visual representations around us can depict how we build these ideals; more over, unknowingly sometimes, we group these everyday images into the Romantic and Puritan discourses. Reference List: Understanding Childhood, an interdisciplinary approach. Woodhead, M. and Montgomery H. Page 55. Understanding Childhood, an interdisciplinary approach. Woodhead, M. And Montgomery, H. Page 64. ...read more.

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