Thursday, December 2, 2010


Yesterday, I was surprised to see that most of my facebook friends' profile pictures was morphed into quirky cartoon characters.  At first, it was enjoyable to see characters that once invaded my childhood. Indeed, a blast from the past crossed my digital space. However, despite everyone's engagement in the new meme, I was appalled to post a shout out. I said, "Somehow I don't get the connection between changing your profile picture to a cartoon and advocacy for violence against children. Is this the logic of late capitalism?"
As I read through, the changing of the profile picture into a cartoon character was accompanied with a shout out invitation says: "Change your Facebook profile to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday, there should be no human faces on Facebook, but a stash of memories. This is for eliminating violence against children."

My friends commented in my shout out. They we're all encouraging me to change my profile picture into a colorful and fictitious icon. Some says it's fun, a way to loosen up. Some of my friends even suggested which character I might want pasting. And as what the campaign says, putting your favorite cartoon character on your virtual private space is a positive action to not only bring back your sweet childhood memories, but also in advocacy of fighting or eliminating violence against children. Unfortunately, I declined any invitation and didn't change my profile picture. Instead, I set my childhood picture as a lead.

I started researching about the newest meme, the virus that has captured users of the social media. I found out that the new social media game is not even endorsed by any organizations that advocate children rights. However, as one of my friends commented in my Facebook wall, there is a possibility that garnering a massive response by putting a cartoon character as a profile picture could initiate in calling certain organizations or leaders to address the issue of violence inflicted on children. To me, the concept of cartoon characters does not properly complement the advocacy for some reasons.

Before, there were other memes that advocate certain social issues. Remember the time when girls posted "colors" in their status? Soon, we found out that it was an advocacy for breast cancer. On one hand, some causes spread awareness through emblems and ribbons. As I see such previous sample, the current cartoon approach calls for more scrutiny. A highly ideological and commercially constructed icon is used as a platform to address an issue that roots from society's injustices.

Cartoons are part of me, my childhood. They just make me creative and adventurous. In a way, they're part of who I am today. They influenced and shaped my identity. Our identities are made by them. I enjoyed Batibot while some outgrew time with Sesame Street. From this point, the social media activity captures our dependence. Such dependence leads to further analysis.

 Changing a profile picture to a cartoon character as an initial awareness acttion to eliminate violence against children is simply controversial. Don't hate me for this. And don't look down on people who choose not to jump into the bandwagon and brand them as pathetic or "kill joy" to the cause. Putting in context, there are logical ways on how to look on this new social activity especially on showing the power of mass media constructs or outputs to divide, dictate and unite people.

You might think that I'm too hard on myself especially talking about a subject that should be taken as light and for fun. Apparently, in my opinion,  should we anchor a social cause in any forms of communication strategy, we should be more critical and sensitive. Have you ever wondered, why put a cartoon character instead of simply pasting your best and happy childhood photo? Or how about, attaching a ribbon or the emblem of the cause? The options may be explored yet a commercial and escapist icon was adapted. As I'm writing this and as Facebook users change thier profile pictures, the street is filled with kids who are hungry and in pain who may (will) never have the luxury to access social media or even the sheer status of convenience.

The logic of late capitalism is upfront through the utilization of products that determine and divide class, a subtle violence that are mostly seeped through forms of entertainment. In the world of the middle class and rich people, cartoon characters are great reminders of the good and fortunate lives. It is a symbol of a life lived with convenience and so much joy.  Kids in these social classes have time to watch television because they're fed with what they need from day until night. However, for those who are less fortunate, a cartoon character could be symbol of a deprived happiness that they can only consume in a nearby house's television set. These kids do not have time to watch television because they have to work at a very young age in order to survive or perhaps feed tehir family. In the context of capitalism's logic, our lives and identities are determined by what we consume.

You may ask, what is the connection of enjoying a cartoon character, as articulated in the class perspective, to violence on children? The consumption of the images speaks for themselves. While violence on children can run across different races or classes, violence is manifested in the dividing factor of these profit-oriented products. Violence does not delve on physical abuse,  in the areas of mental pain, it may also be read in the realm of access and consumption. Not everyone has the access to these cartoons. These characters are housed inside various technologies such as in television. And just like in online media, only those have access can participate in the social ball game. Bottom line, the placement of a cartoon character does not only show the childhood memories, it is a representation how some children are tortured with their lack of access to forms of entertainment or convenience that leads to deprivation and generates suffering.

On one hand, haven't we also think how violent some cartoon shows are? While there is the presence of the protagonist and the antagonist, some showcase fight scenes as defracted projections of an adult's subliminal literature. Characters are not made by children. They are crafted by writers/ producers whose subjectivity reflect in their work. As kids consume each character, we may never know, influences come to the viewers. But of course, you can argue that its unreasonable to say that a child becomes violent after watching a cartoon show that is full of kicking and punching. In the context of communication, be reminded that while some shows educate, some are simply deviant. Believe me, we won't fund and conduct researches on the impacts of television shows or cartoon shows to kids if we know from the very start that such shows do not pose threat on behavior.

Participation in a social cause is what we need to call the attention of the various people or organization to address issues and make change happen. However, without a clear and well-thought research foundations on each strategy, social causes may fall in a ravine of consumerism.  With the cartoon character invading social media, escapism and division may just bury down the long held nature of violence that goes beyond the physical.

As participants or consumers of the media, we should think first before saying yes. Especially at this era where social media dictates and validates identities and truths, let us be open minded yet critical in our actions. Not because everyone is doing it and its fun, then we should also go. Relatively, it is scary to realize that consensus sometimes topples sound perspectives in exchange for being cool and fun, as what social media has institutionalized since its inception.

Seriously, there is more than putting Mojacko, Care Bears, Bioman or even the whole gang of Baranggay Pugad Baboy in our profile picture to identify and solve the issues on violence against children. While this may call awareness, the imagery of the cartoons and the escapist childhood happiness outshines the hidden texts of violence on children that waves from the physical to mental conditions. Spreading awareness is not only about popularization. It's about generating new knowledge through a foundation of studies and analysis.

Yes. I love cartoons. I hate violence. I just don't get the connection. Explain it to me.


  1. hi earvs,

    actually i don't see the connection too..and it's surprising that like you i posted my childhood picture that night before facebook turned into disneyland/universal studios-ish concept with all those cartoon characters invading every profile pages of my contacts :)

  2. Hi Pam! Thanks for your comment. Mas childhood picture na lang sana kung advocacy man ito.

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