By Casey Wilson
If you aren’t as involved in the geeky web series side of the internet as I am, you may have missed the debut of Written by a Kid over on internet maven and all-around geek queen Felicia Day’s YouTube channel Geek and Sundry. The premise is simple, according to the playlist tagline: “Original Stories By Kids Directed By Adults!” And, indeed, that is how it goes down. A child tells a story, with some prodding by an enthusiastic adult audience, and various animators and actors bring it to life on screen. The premiere episode starred none other than Joss Whedon:
The videos are cute, and they take on a wide variety of styles as different creative teams come on board. What I find interesting about the series, though, is that it still wraps itself up in that age-old children’s literature question of exactly what role the child has to play in its development. Because I can’t help but think, the more of these videos that I watch, that the stories aren’t entirely written by the kids themselves. (Leaving aside the fact that they aren’t written in the first place.)
As the kids tell their story, they are asked questions. Sometimes it’s for clarification, sometimes it’s to expand upon a particular point, and sometimes it’s to make the story fit a more accepted narrative shape. And throughout the video, the story is being mediated through adult representations, whether it’s actors or animation or some combination therein. So the stories the kids tell, from beginning to end, do not belong to them even as they are originating from them.
It’s a complex situation, and one where I in no way begrudge the creators of the series for their choices and presentation. The videos are cute, amusing, and creative — but they aren’t written (entirely, or even mostly) by the kids.
Casey is a PhD student.